You have heard it said: “Patience is a Virtue”. I never have liked this cliche, and believe it to be false morality constructed by people languishing under the illusion of determinism. The sister phrase is “Good things come to those who wait.” Bad things also come to those who wait. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. One cannot escape evil by being patient.
In addition, frequently NOTHING comes to those who wait. We look around at society, and see people who have spent their whole lives and thousands of dollars playing the lottery. They wait, convinced that if they wait long enough, they will be rich. If they instead invested those thousands of dollars into a business venture, or into an education they could make something of themselves, rather than languish in their filth. Patient people watch from the street corner, as the parade of life passes them by.
Now this is not to say that strategic waiting is without merit.
However, strategic waiting is active, not passive, and it is only waiting until the optimum time to take action presents itself. It requires the careful selection of what you are waiting for, and intelligently deciding where to wait for it, and how to position yourself for maximum effect. It requires paying attention with all of the senses heightened to their maximum cognizance waiting with great expectation and focus. However, just like with fishing, if the fish aren’t striking, it may be time to move to another spot, and try a new lure.
Consider a Tiger. The Tiger must be persistent. If a Tiger crouches, hidden in the canebrake, but doesn’t select his spot carefully, then he will likely starve to death. The Tiger must at the very minimum crouch near his prey’s use trail. However, the Tigers that actively pursue their prey eat the best, and have the most fulfillment in their hunt. If one is able watch a Tiger stalk, and stealthily pursue his prey, one will notice almost a sense of euphoria in the pursuit of some delectable treat. The satisfaction of a successful hunt is a potent reward. Like-wise to Man. Patient, timid souls never achieve greatness. Only the hungry, who know what they desire, and tirelessly seek their Macguffin truly can hope to achieve it. When luck or opportunity brings the Tiger his prey, he has the talents, energies, and means to seize upon the luscious rump, and baring his teeth and claws, tackles and shreds his quarry while ravenously devouring its flesh.
There is something existentially satisfying about knowing ones prey, and hunting it well, ending in the eventual rapacious conquest. That continuous conquest brings about a sort of meaning tied to achievement and an identity defined by hunger. Without the persistence of desire, the Tiger would starve.
Consider the Eagle. The hunter must be a visionary. The Eagle sees the landscape far above the perspective of the trout. The trout is content to frolic and flip in the babbling stream, enjoying the feel of the water upon her scales, and the sparkles of the sunshine glinting on the waves and her shimmering body. The Eagle spies his prey from afar, and after carefully planning and timing his attack while soaring on the updrafts, then turns his sharp beak toward the water and folds his wings in tight for his wind-screaming dive. The Eagle’s soft feathers make no sound as he accelerates toward the water. His eyes focused entirely on his prey’s every movement, flip, and wobble as he screeches directly toward the unassuming trout. His Goal is Everything. Nothing can shake his laser like focus. His fierce will is undeniable, His certainty of achieving his prize is resolute. BAM!! Talons outstretched, the Eagle, colliding with the breaking body of the trout, flaps his powerful wings and soars away with his dinner.
The Eagle would never feed if he had poor judgement, less courage, or lacked his keen vision that allows him the certainty of his attack. His vision and forethought allow him to plummet a thousand feet toward certain death, yet emerge victoriously with a prize, with hardly the spray of a few waves on his talons.
In both of these instances, the Impatient one exercised vision, and persistence. He willed himself to achieve. To dare greatly, to risk everything in order to achieve his prize. The prize was all that mattered. It was worth the effort, danger, thought, and planning to achieve. If the Eagle merely waited for a fish to offer itself up, it would starve. If the tiger just laid down and opened his mouth, would anyone believe that it would be fed? No.
Consider Alexander the Great. His Ambition was the perfect balance of Vision, Persistence, and Impatience. The prophecy surrounding Alexander made it apparent that he would die young, with great glory. He rose to the challenge, taking control of his fathers kingdom at age 20. Alexander won Battle of the Granicus River against Darius III of Persia at age 22. At the age of 25, he founded Alexandria.
“In the year 331 B.C. one of the greatest intellects whose influence the world has ever felt, saw, with his eagle glance, the unrivalled advantage of the spot which is now Alexandria; and conceived the mighty project of making it the point of union of two, or rather of three worlds. In a new city, named after himself, Europe, Asia, and Africa were to meet and to hold communion.”- Charles Kingsley on the founding of the city of Alexandria’s
He died at 33, after conquering the known world, and stretching his empire: “He starts in Greece, crosses over what is today Turkey, gets down into today’s Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Then he heads off into Iraq, which was just as dangerous then as it is today,” said Martin, the Jeremiah O’Connor Professor in Classics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “Not only did he get past Iraq, he got into Iran, and he kept going.”He made it as far as the Indus River, in what is now Pakistan, before his troops demanded they turn back.
He died just before age 33. One thing is clear: Alexander would have never stopped. His ambition was fueled by his vision. His unwavering stride and persistent dedication were entirely unstoppable. His impatience was borne of an acute understanding of his mortality. He could feel his sands draining through the opening into the bottom: his time running out. This impatience fueled his vision and the rapid rapacity with which he carried out his plan.
From Macedonia to India, Alexander understood exactly what he desired from life, and then he ordered his life around achieving his goals. His plans and visions were expansive, long reaching, and masterful. He would never have conquered the known world if he could not first have dreamed it, and then turned his dreams into actionable plans. That ability to see the prize in the distance and then carefully construct a plan of attack, designing a route to safely navigate the uncharted pitfalls, and unanticipated dangers are what make brilliant generals like Alexander able to achieve Greatness in a few short years.
Patience is a luxury of the immortal. To us mortal souls, only so much time has been meted out, and we must make the most of our allotment, for we spend our time at a constant rate, and no matter what we do, we cannot plug the holes in our bag: we can only run from place to place, trying to achieve and see everything we can. Like a child at Disney World in the hour before it closes, we dash around attempting to do the impossible by riding every ride in the brief time span left.
It is this profound lack Time that fuels impatience. Let me then pose this question to you: Is Patience really a virtue?