patience

Tractor pulls hay bailsMy grandmother taught me a lot, but she used the word ‘patient’ explicitly to train my behaviour.

Since the time of waiting for cakes to bake in my grandma’s kitchen, and waiting for paint to dry in my granddad’s yard, I have of course taken advantage of the time saving advances we all rely on.

Home Internet access in the ’90s seemed like one of those advances, but for me, it added new things to my day, rather than speeding up my activities. I made friends over email. I learnt to use FTP and to write HTML. Later, I created real-world organisations – something I would never have done without the web. Now of course, I’m learning, shopping, socialising, and actually working online.

But back in those early days, while other people moaned about the time it took for pages to load and the poor quality of photographs, I thought nothing of waiting 60 seconds for the information I wanted to get to my screen. I didn’t mind that it took four hours (on a telephone modem) to upload my new website. Waiting five minutes for a Word document to download was no bother to me at all. I was excited to have material that other people had produced from their own passion and expertise.

The early Internet was both amazingly fast (email) and quite slow (World Wide Web) owing to the technical restrictions of our home modems. The slow web taught me patience again, just like my Grandma; worthwhile things took time.

I see people getting irate because a PDF takes 45 seconds to download, or because they feel their mobile’s 3G signal is weak and slow. I sympathise – I know these are people who are trying to get things done. In my day job, I design information systems that need to be fast. But I avoid all that frustration myself by having a little patience, and remembering what I can do rather than what I can’t.

People who thought 10Mbps broadband was fast now feel sorry for friends who are stuck on such ‘slow speeds’. What used to satisfy them now disgusts them.

I appreciate capabilties and I’m not frustrated by limitations. Only Tao is without limitation. Everything within Tao has its way of being, its specifications. How else could it be? The three treasures can all relate to patience, but perhaps humility is especially relevant.

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