Patience, Understanding, Love
In life, we need to work and love to be happy. It follows, that love of work would probably benefit us. Now the question is what would allow us to get to a place of love?
Human interaction is predicated by communication. To have a high quality connection of this sort, it must be built on honesty and transparency which build trust. To get to a place where two or more humans feel comfortable being honest and transparent we must realize the individual for who they are. This can only go on to a degree because at some point we will lose who we are in the hopes of trying to understand the other, and their unique experience. Although we can only wander part way down this path, it is one of the most important of the human endeavors, to get to know someone else for who they are. The only way we can begin to take a step down this path of understanding is with a healthy dose of patience which seems to be nothing less than drying up in this world of ever increasing speed.
Patience seems to have all but fallen away in our society centered on what many call “instant gratification.” Is there any such thing as instant gratification? The term gratification has to do with satisfaction, especially when attained through the fulfillment of a desire. What in life is part of a desire that could be filled instantly? Take something such as food, or making love. Both of these lose a large amount of gratification when we pull up to the drive-thru window and order some sad semblance of an object that at one time provided not only sustenance but a form of art. It provided not only a form of art but the time the artisan spent crafting this object was a time of great enjoyment. In the modern day, we have made all things fast; shopping, food, sexual interactions, etc. What we have lost sight of is the pleasure in the pursuit and crafting of such objects. Some will say that this is good, we have more time to pursue our “hobbies” or our “passions,” but what are those? Is watching films that others have crafted to distract us from our banal and mundane reality something of pure pleasure and deep gratification?
Patience is a part of a different term, known as “delayed gratification.” This notion is also a problematic term. The idea supposes that the future that we aim at is better than the terrible present. In many cases, as Jordan Peterson suggests, with the proper aim, in conjunction with bearing the appropriate burden, this is true. This approach ties back into the introduction, where we need both love and work to be happy. Here is where the suggestion of finding something that we enjoy, and adamantly pursuing it comes into play. We, humans, are a goal-oriented species. We take a significant amount of pleasure and pride in aiming at and achieving goals. Patience is necessary here because many people will try for a short amount of time, get feedback from the world that shows they will not meet their goals and then soon after giving up. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result echoes something like insanity. Holding ourselves to unreasonable expectations or goals is a short circuit to failure.
To illustrate the importance of patience, let us think about a high-quality wine. Such a beverage only gets better with time. Imagine if a Vinter tried to make wine as quickly as possible. Not only will the process be rushed and as a result most likely not be completed successfully, but the wine would also not be ready until some initial time has passed. Once the fermentation process has ended, the aging helps the wine to attain and refine the taste that it will provide to the one who consumes it. The same can be said for music as wisely put by Alan Watts. If the goal was to get to the end, then conductors would all play songs as quickly as possible. It would turn into a race of sorts. However, it is the process that matters and to be able to perfect a process; practice is needed. To be able to practice well, patience is a core ingredient. Training is only relevant and beneficial if it is done well. When we are trying to integrate new skills, we must interact with many humans. To learn we need to be patient with others. It is my opinion that there are two critical sets of people with whom we should practice this ability.
Perhaps there are two groups of people with whom we should be patient. First and foremost, ourselves. If we are honest, we can see how terrible and weak we are as human beings. The common thread that unites us all (besides the collective unconscious) is that of being utterly and terribly flawed. When we realize this, we can start to have patience with ourselves. If we continue to learn and understand that we are complex biological, psychological and social beings, then our understanding broadens. It can expand to the point of realizing that we have a lot less influence and ability to act as independent agents than we might at first be willing to admit. We live in a highly complex, interrelated and interdependent world. This concept mainly drives us to be who we are. Take for example biological factors. We are not just the outcome of our parent's genetics, but in fact, we are a result of the entire genetic lineage of our ancestors back many generations. These are MASSIVE influential factors that affect the way we think, act and feel daily. It is through patience that we might be able to increase our understanding.
The second group of people with whom we should be patient are others. Let us think about how much within us is dark, damaged or broken, then we can imagine that perhaps our internal landscape is the best that there is out there (highly unlikely but humor me). If our inner landscape is the best, that means that everyone around us is fighting a much harder battle than we are. We can combine this thought with the notion of not being able to have expectations for others. The only person that we can hold to a standard is ourselves. Keeping these two notions in our mind can help us to look toward others with compassion. When someone else acts in a way that seemingly betrays or hurts us, we should take a step back and question, what in their past has happened to make them act in such a way. All of us humans behave in ways in which we think we will benefit. Our brains are designed to help us survive, and one of the most critical realms for survival is the social sphere. Therefore, when someone acts in a manner that we do not approve of, we can keep in mind that they are probably not intentionally trying to hurt us, but are simply trying to protect themselves in some way, shape or form no matter how distorted, or untrue their thought patterns might be. By keeping this in mind, it helps us to get to the first step of the next term, understanding.
Both understanding and patience have two components. That is patience toward ourselves, and others. This notion is at the root, very similar to the Buddhist term Compassion. This concept is different from sympathy or empathy because there is a facet that feels for the other person, but has no pity, along with importantly having an active aspect. If we feel the need to help another with their suffering, we take a proactive approach to understanding their situation and providing relief in the form of action. If our aim is to have compassion, one key aspect is that of understanding.
If we are patient for long enough, we can begin to have an understanding. This concept in the general sense is usually related to learning. In school, we read, do exercises and take exams to increase our knowledge. In life, there are also ways of taking in information, practicing, and getting feedback. Because we as humans have been equipped with the clunky communication system known as language, we are limited in our data transfer rate. Instead of loading a program onto a flash drive, and plugging it into a computer, we must spend hours talking. Most of the time when we speak there are several layers of meaning, including body language, and terms that are abstruse at delineating the concepts at best. This inaccuracy comes from a slight variation in a definition because we each have minutely different interpretations as to what words mean. Mathematical language is often more accurate, as two plus two, generally speaking, is equal to four. However, much of our communication is relational and contextual.
Language is the primary way in which we communicate; however, there are rules on how to use words that we should keep in mind. These guidelines are rooted in psychological concepts that are paramount to understanding. These were introduced in the beginning as honesty, transparency, and trust. Being honest with ourselves and others means that we can communicate genuinely. There is no fog between who we are, and how we act. Transparency is primarily rooted in honesty. Trust is the flower that arises when we are honest with both ourselves and in our interactions with others. This cultivation requires us to be genuine and vulnerable. If we are open and honest with others, and they are not receptive, or worse yet, are closed and or conflict avoidant, then our interaction will be stifled, and unfulfilling. We cannot take this glass half full approach. As we become more honest with ourselves (a painful and challenging road) we will create a more in-depth and meaningful interaction. However, due to people’s inherent tendency toward self-deception, these genuine interactions quite possibly will not be typical (depending on with whom we surround ourselves). Taking this approach is the road of quality as opposed to quantity. Because we are terrible communicators, and so often deceive ourselves, this journey will be arduous at best.
Now, if we as humans are a psychological mess with the equivalent of a hammer to communicate, where does that leave us? To borrow a metaphor from Jordan Peterson, we each are mostly on our own island. This island is representative of what we know, our previously explored and integrated territory. The ocean of the unknown surrounds us. For some, our personal epistemology leads us to be okay with laying out a beach chair and relaxing in the sun. For others, we have built a bridge over to an adjacent island or two, but we are still okay with the small amount of explored territory that we have. For others, we spend our lives venturing out into the ocean, continually building jetties and dumping sand in an attempt to increase the diameter of our islands of understanding. Some people call these folks truth seekers. These people have a very complicated personal epistemology. That is to say, their interpretation and knowledge of truth requires a lot of searching, evidence, and experience.
The critical thing to note here is that birds of a feather flock together, so people who have a complex world view will congregate, and those with a simpler one as well. This is where understanding comes into play yet again. We should understand that none of these outlooks are better or worse, they are simply different. It is when we can take this in and realize that people are unique, different and fascinating that we can stop degrading those who are not like us (or worse yet not in “our group”). This concept is the root of unconditional love.
Now we are at the crux of the conversation and human life itself. We are still largely restrained by the blunt instrument of language (perhaps it’s just my intellectual shortcoming that leaves my tool blunt - some poets use words filled with daggers of meaning). From the outset, we should realize that to put into words what is PREDOMINANTLY emotional, is a struggle. Most of us know the feeling of love. It is the sentiment that we get when we are doing something that we thoroughly enjoy and better yet with someone that we are fond of. The presence of someone that we admire elevates the mundane everyday existence to something magical and enchanted.
At this point, we should ask, why is it that we feel this sort of elation when we are in the presence of that special other? Most would say, they make me feel good, or I’m happy when I’m around them. The reason that we have positive emotions being around others is that we like the way that they make us feel when we are in their presence. There is nothing more or less to it than this. This conception is the basis of love and human connection. This spring is the source of ease and positive feeling. When the other makes us feel good, we think highly of them.
Here is a point of departure for another nuance, the scenario when love becomes one-sided. If we feel this love when we are with someone, but we do not make them feel the same, then there can be a disconnect. It’s like being on different floors of a hotel. If I am on the upper level because I am feeling good around another, but they are two floors below, then we will not connect. The stories can be thought of as energy levels. If I feel more energy when I am with you, then you do, it will be easy for me to be more excited and enthusiastic than you. This strong response can lead to repulsion. If there is no bonding force and I am in a high energy state, then I can easily repel someone that I feel love for, but there is less or even no love coming back. The same phenomenon can be seen in physics. We can think of this as two magnets coming together. If both have the same pole, then they will repel.
Now, if we are lucky enough to find someone where we can meet on the same energetic plane, then there is another level to love. This next step is commitment. Here it is helpful to introduce the tree as a metaphor for relationship. Relationship is mentioned here, because if we are in love in any capacity, there is a relationship. So it follows, to foster love, we must nurture the relationship. When two people enjoy each others company and commit to being in some form of relationship, they commit to essentially being two trees, planted side by side. It is paramount that these two trees are planted as wholes, that they function as autonomous individuals. For this reason, it can be said, that our lives journey, is to work on ourselves enough, to be whole, to be grounded, to be integrated into our mindset sufficiently to have the capacity to love and to receive love. If a tree is not capable of this, if we are not capable of this, then when we begin to grow together with another, the sickness will rear its head in the form of codependence and dysfunction.
To continue on this path of two trees planted side by side, once we have ensured their good overall health, the commitment is to grow together. As time passes, one of two things happens. First, the trees grow together, supporting each other and remaining interested in continuing this direction. The second possibility is that they grow apart, and as a result, the relationship weakens. This concept is to say; love, like a plant, is either growing or dying. There is no in-between. From this, we can realize that love only grows with commitment and dedicated effort. It should also be noted, that this cannot be forced. This point is where the emotions, and the feelings come into play. There is little to no controlling this, much like there is little to no controlling a lousy mood. We must only go with this emotional storm, much like a sailboat amongst the ocean. There is something to be said about meditation and quieting a stormy sea, however, love is a spontaneous thing. It comes from deep within the soul. It originates from a spark, an ember. Near the ignition source deep within our soul, proper raw material must be present. If a suitable substrate cannot be found, in other words, if any of the following differ; personal epistemologies, sociodemographic, behavioral, or intrapersonal characteristics, then the connection will not prosper. Then, like a tree with no sunlight, the link will not be fostered, or will at least degrade and so will love. This unfolding is, of course, varied depending on the relationship type, but it ranges from parents to friends, to lovers. It all has to do with how we relate to one another.
There is a final yet counter intuitive topic, that of fierce love. This notion is the concept where if someone is treating us poorly, we must protect ourselves. Placing firm boundaries does a few things. First, it protects the self. We must maintain a strong sense of self if we are to have successful relationships in general. As soon as we lose the sense of self, then we either consume or become consumed by the other. By placing a boundary, we can keep functioning as a healthy, autonomous individual. A second key aspect is that by pushing back, and potentially cutting someone off, or at least telling them how their actions are harming us, can be incredibly beneficial to the other person. Some people need to be shown that what they are doing is damaging. Other folks need to lose people to have an intense or profound enough lesson that it sticks. If they had any subtler or gentler experience, perhaps they would not fully integrate what it is that they needed to learn. The most powerful tool for growth is pain. In this light, we can see that by aiding and abetting their actions we can be doing them a tremendous amount of harm.
The key here is that we are all imperfect beings, in search of giving and receiving love. It takes a tremendous amount of patience and understanding to do the internal work that will bring us to the place in our psychology where we are capable of such a feat as life is inherently traumatic and damaging. The tool of proper education (not memorization for a test, but actual learning and understanding) is of paramount importance if we want to walk toward the stone of knowledge. Learning can be combined with patience. If we are lucky, we can find our love to learn. As patience and understanding increase, love can naturally be cultivated as these are the key ingredients to growing love that is inherently like a plant. Focusing on building relationships by knowing and understanding these feelings, like a gardener, becomes one of the most beneficial things that we can do for ourselves and others.