Living in the high-speed, super-sized world of our modern culture, we are greatly influenced, both consciously and subconsciously, to move fast and think big! This has a profound effect on how we live our lives and how we see things, literally. We can find ourselves in the presence of huge, plasma screens virtually everywhere we go these days: from the living room to the gym, from the dentist’s office to even church! And, much of the content that we are exposed to, as far as video media, is extremely fast paced! Next time you watch a movie, TV program, or even a commercial, notice how fast the images, scenes, and camera angles change. Bamn! Bamn! Bamn! It’s a rapid, machine-gun pace of stimuli. The producers are trying to jam as much visual information into our minds as fast as possible. The results, while they can be entertaining and informative, are also that of a dramatic decrease in one’s attention span, which can have a HUGE negative impact on one’s life in many areas. Of course, the other extreme of gawking at tiny cell phone screens for hours and hours on end every day can have a similar effect.
As we are well aware, our American culture always seems to be in one big rush! We don’t like to wait for anything. We have in many cases been conditioned to possess very little patience. We have super high-speed internet, fast food, online banking, drive-through wedding chapels, and “instant” everything, from coffee and oatmeal to lottery tickets. What’s more, we have overnight shipping services, rush dry-cleaning, one-hour photo development, express oil change and super-fast check-out lanes at the store (ideally!) The list goes on and on. We desire immediate gratification, satisfaction, and service in all aspects of our fast and furious lives. When we ask each other how we are doing these days, the response is the same for most, “I’m busy! Soooo busy! I’m about to lose my mind!”
Learning to slow down, live in, and appreciate every moment of life is key to developing patience. Personally, I find that spending time in nature is a fantastic way to practice this virtue, as one must slow down to appreciate its great beauty. When walking at a relaxed pace through the woods, or just sitting quietly, one begins to notice the slightest, most hidden phenomenon: the pleasing, earthy scent of specific trees and plants, the sound of the dew dripping off the leaves in the early morning breeze, the symphony of songbirds and other creatures that are present, the elusive movement of wildlife, the slightest twitch of an animal’s ear, flick of a tail, or footstep, the way the light hits the foliage and intensifies certain colors, the intricate structure of rock formations and even the bark of the trees, the peaceful comfort of the sunshine and fresh air on one’s skin, etc. When one slows down, waaaaaay down, the senses become hypersensitive. Sounds are not just heard, they are felt. They radiate throughout the entire body. Sights are not just seen, they draw a response from the depths of one’s soul. The fragrance of the forest becomes intoxicatingly euphoric and evokes a hypnotizing sensation. Learning to appreciate each moment of life, in the same manner, opens up a whole new world of appreciation.
Along with learning to slow down and smell the roses, patience, like all virtues, must be practiced as well. One must willfully, consciously make the decision to not lose one’s patience in trying times…to hold on a little longer, to be a little cooler, a little more level-headed, a little more patient with whatever caused us to lose it the last time. It is indeed a process which takes time and effort, but just as the body grows stronger with exercise, virtue does as well.
To sum it up, as a wise woman once said, “Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.” ― Mother Teresa