On Wisdom: Practice: Patience, Tolerance, and Humor

Music: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor.
By J.S. Bach. Sequenced by George Pollen.

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Nicholas Gordon

1. Patience is a sign of inner peace. When one is at ease with oneself, with what one has done with one's life, and with one's approaching death, time loses its urgency and becomes more an ocean than a stream.

2. Patience allows one to listen and observe before one acts or speaks. It allows events to reach maturity, so that choice can be better informed by circumstance. It allows time for words and acts to put on weight, so as to appear abroad with sufficient dignity.

3. One is patient with what one has accepted and impatient with what one resists. One is patient with what one loves and impatient with what one resents. Thus the more one loves life and accepts death and pain, the more patient one will be.

4. If patience expands one's time, tolerance expands one's space, allowing differences to generate interest rather than conflict so that one can learn from them and live in a wider world.

5. When others can also be right, one can begin to see the world from multiple points of view, and one's field of thought becomes more like a galaxy than like the narrow mountain valley of one's birth.

6. The burden of being right contains the additional burden of proving others wrong, which together is enough weight to keep any bird from taking flight.

7. Humor, especially self-deprecating humor, allows one to step outside oneself with a light and varied heart.

8. Humor arises from incongruity, which arises from viewing something simultaneously from multiple points of view. It therefore incorporates both tolerance and patience, teaching self-knowledge through mischievous pleasure.

9. Humor is the friend of moderation and the enemy of excess, for excess is a balloon and humor a needle.

10. Patience, tolerance, and humor must be practiced in moderation, for there are circumstances in which a light heart is not appropriate, and evils that ought not be tolerated or patiently borne. But neither ought one be so consumed with evil that one becomes incapable of happiness. For life is short and evil long, and there is no need to condemn oneself to live within its prison when all around one the world is bursting with glory.


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Previous: The Practice of Wisdom: Character

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