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Filtering by Tag: patience

Locke and the Benefit of Patience

Drew Trotter


The strongest of all warriors are these two: Time and Patience.  - Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace)

 I have never had much patience. When a deadline looms, even an unimportant one, I grow even more impatient than usual, stalking about, snapping at those I love. When I feel that someone is wasting my time, I am driven to distraction. Being an equal opportunity employer, I sometimes get thoroughly angry with myself, when I forget where I’ve left my keys, for example (not my phone; at least I can call it), or where I put down that item I just had in my hands a few moments ago.

I admit it’s usually about insignificant things that I lose my temper—interruptions, repetitious questions, stumbling over something left on the floor. When the circumstance is important and the pressure is on, when the stakes are high—then I focus and try to bend all my energy to solving the problem at hand. But if impatience of another kind—that born of nervousness or fear—enters in during the crisis, then the mind becomes cloudy, and I lose the ability to think clearly and well. In those times, all can easily be lost.

One of my favorite movies of this year has a lot to say about patience and the benefit it brings to making good decisions. Steven Knight’s Locke is radically different from most movies, especially in its essential formal premise: almost the entire “action” of the movie takes place inside an automobile going from Birmingham, England to London. And further: there is only one person in the car, the rapidly rising star, Tom Hardy, playing the only visible character in the film, Ivan Locke. The film’s story is revealed completely from Locke’s phone conversations with a variety of people over the course of his journey.

Many of Locke’s conversations reveal his dependence on reason and his extraordinary patience, as he tries to solve problems at work and at home, but one of them, early on, particularly sticks out as an example of how he has been able to heed the advice of Kipling to “keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs”. Locke is on the motorway at night, driving to London from Birmingham because a woman named Bethan with whom he has had a liaison is now about to give birth to their child. (We learn this very early, so this is not really a spoiler.) The classic case of a true one–night stand: Locke did not know the woman before, and he has had very little contact since the tryst. But now she is on the phone, wailing about the pain, complaining about the windows being open, not understanding his simple question of whether or not there is some sort of mechanism by which she can summon the nurses. As her questions become more and more personal (“Does your wife even know that I’m having your baby?”), Bethan becomes more and more distraught, but Ivan remains calm, cool, and collected. Repeatedly he tells her the traffic is OK, that he will be there.

Then she asks the question: “Do you love me?” Locke doesn’t get angry with her. Gently, but firmly he says, “That’s a question you are asking probably because of the pain or something. How could I love you?” Her response is to hang up.

Locke appears to have lost that round, but in fact he hasn’t. His calm, reasoned answer may have hurt Bethan initially, but by the end of the film, the truth has been able to have its place in the relationship and brings them both to a better understanding of each other. Later, Locke reaffirms his answer to her question: “How could I love you? I hardly know you. We’ve not spent any real time together. How could I love you?”

Knight has made clear that the name of his chief character is a nod to the English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704). Locke is sometimes called the “Father of Classical Liberalism”. His An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is still a staple of philosophical studies, and his view that human beings develop by experience from the tabula rasa of birth until the grave is the rock upon which much Enlightenment philosophy is built. Reason plays such an important role in Locke’s view of experience, that he could even say it leads us to the knowledge of “a certain and evident truth:” the existence of God.

But we don’t have to buy all of John Locke’s philosophy in order to believe that patient, reasonable thought is the surest way to benefit others and ourselves. Perhaps I’m stating a truism that is so obvious it is uninteresting, but in this age where speed, “passion,” and bluff are so much a part of life, I’m not so sure. Even those of us who believe in composed reflection, sometimes stray from it because of our anger. We shouldn’t. We’re not helping anyone when we do.

Building Barns and Bridges

Brenda Bliven Porter

26 Untitled

They should never have built a barn there, at all – Edward Thomas

In “The Revolt of Mother” New England wife Sarah Penn learns that husband Adoniram plans to build a barn on a piece of land set aside for a new house. Sarah speaks directly to her husband later that same day, imploring him to build the new house instead of another barn. Adoniram is unmoved by her eloquent and reasonable argument, and says several times: “I ain’t got nothin’ to say.” The issue is unresolved, and the construction of the barn takes place without further discussion.

When Adoniram is called away on an errand, Sarah takes action. She moves the entire household from the old cottage to the empty new barn. Upon his return, a shocked and then remorseful Adoniram finds Sarah and the children living quite comfortably in the barn.

In Sarah Penn, writer Mary E. Wilkins Freeman gives us a model for conflict resolution. When confronted with the knowledge that Adoniram has decided to build his barn without including her in the plans, Sarah refuses to criticize, telling her daughter, Nanny, “You hadn't ought to judge father.” There is little evidence of smoldering silences, nagging, or family discord. Sarah goes on with her work----baking, cooking, sewing, cleaning---until eventually she takes advantage of Adoniram’s absence to move the household to the barn.

What might have happened if a resentful Sarah had badgered and hectored her harried husband, and then taken over the barn? Adoniram might have set the hired hands to moving things right back to the little house, and he may have felt perfectly justified in doing so. Or what if Sarah had ignored her needs, stayed in the little house, and lived out the remaining years of their marriage in silent resentment? Think Ethan and Zeena Frome.

Sarah Penn refuses to criticize her husband, and she refuses to set aside her own real needs to languish in self-imposed unselfish silence. Refusing to rebuke Adoniram for his barn building, she effectively preserves her husband’s dignity and the dignity of their marriage. She bridges the gap between the two of them with virtuous behavior. There is no accusatory tone in Sarah’s voice when she explains the move to the barn:

"We've come here to live, an' we're goin' to live here. We've got jest as good a right here as new horses an' cows. The house wa'n't fit for us to live in any longer, an' I made up my mind I wa'n't goin' to stay there. I've done my duty by you forty year, an' I'm goin' to do it now; but I'm goin' to live here."

Finally, Adoniram understands. He yields the barn and weeps as he experiences real remorse at his own unjust action. He even agrees to build partitions and buy new furniture. I suspect he will find life in the large new house with a contented wife rather pleasant after all. If Mother ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

(Painting by Arline Kroger)

Christianity and Yarn Barf: A Yarnie's View

Brad Fruhauff

Yarn barf, in essence, is the coiled and knotted ball of nastiness that comes out of the middle of the yarn ball. A yarnie (or crafter, if you prefer) will pull out the center to find the end of the ball for a project or to wind the yarn into a more manageable size. However, though the strand was wound into the ball of yarn once, it doesn't come out as easily all the time. There are often knots, tangles, and even the occasional Gordian knot that befuddles one into believing that the continuous string is out to thwart itself.

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