Patience is a concept we learn very early on in our lives. Kids are stereotypically impatient. They want things, and they want them now. I personally remember being extremely frustrated by the idea of waiting until I finish dinner to eat desert. I remember getting angry for having to finish the game I was playing before moving on to another one.
As a kid who was blamed with impatience and ordered to wait for certain conditions to be met to get what I wanted, I started to internalize the concept of patience as the act of waiting. That is not what patience is.
See, waiting and patience aren’t entirely unrelated. They are both about time, a concept that the human mind has struggled with since the dawn of existence. Without getting into the question of whether time is a fundamental or emergent property of existence, I will try to make a point that patience is all about how we perceive time.
We can divide our perception of time into three categories: Past, Present and Future.
Most human suffering is caused by
- not accepting the past as it is,
- not wanting to be in the present as we are and
- expecting the future to be a certain way.
All of this implies an assumption that we have control over what happens across the span of time and that events can play out in different scenarios. A key belief that is required for this frame of thinking is that the future hasn’t happened yet.
Faith is the perception of time all at once; past, present and future.
Most of us are familiar with the idea that time is the fourth dimension of space-time. This implies that even though it is hard for us to perceive the nature of time accurately, we can try to get a sense by comparing it to the other three dimensions we are comfortable with.
It is clear to us that the other three dimensions exist all at once. It is only clear because we can travel through them back and forth. What if time was the same way?
Imagine a prisoner being transferred in an armored vehicle from one prison to another. He has no control over his location in the three dimensions but that doesn’t mean that the prison he departed from doesn’t exist anymore and that the prison he is heading to doesn’t exist yet.
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
— Albert Einstein
Time could very well be our armored vehicle that takes us from moment to moment in the fourth dimension. It may be the mechanism for our souls to experience existence in a way we can digest. Instead of looking at the still frames of a movie laid out on a wall all at once, we are watching the movie frame by frame.
Yes, sometimes we can lose ourselves in the movie and suffer by the painful experience of the protagonist but the key is to remember that we are watching a movie and that even though we haven’t seen the next frame yet, it’s already there.
This way instead of expecting a certain frame to appear next, we can anticipate it with curiosity. This way we can drop our attachments to specific outcomes and enjoy the ride. This way we can watch the painful scenes and instead of suffering, allow it to carry the story forward in the elegant way that the filmmaker intended.
This way we can accept the past, present and the future as they are and live with faith. That is what patience is really about, in our perception of time and experience of existence.