Monday Aphorism: Patience

This past year, a Sabbatical: a year away from the ordinary of the past twenty years of teaching and bureaucratic ballyhoo, has been a study in patience.

To conceive of a task which is much larger than usual, too grandiose for conceiving in the ordinary; to prepare, to think out how to do it so it could actually come to be and to be done, requires much patience.

A task, a goal, a doing, a getting done; to begin, to prepare, to gather the task in mind in such a way that it can be broken down into the parts that can be done today before the part which must be done tomorrow; or next.  And the question of the order of the parts is never all that clear or obvious, as they may become aspects of a larger plan.

Think slow, slowly, so the learning of today is not wasted on tangential assaults; so the study of today is more toward strength than from fatigue. Withdraw, rethink, ask myself what is the task; now, knowing just a bit more, what do I need to do next; what is that for?

Do I do too much today; too little? What is the task? Days and days of detail, minute moments, doing after doing of the same thing, repetition for repetition’s sake as the task seems to become vague, and loses its vision in technique learned too early to be sustaining for its own sake.

Do it well; do it well…Do it again…Do it well!

What to keep in mind so that doing it well
Continues to make sense toward some finished…product, doing,
which retreats into the time well beyond each doing.

Each day, what can I do that needs doing and can be done? So glad that so many days are open and potentially available for these tasks and goals. Unblock today, toward a tomorrow which may hold new promise and visions toward a fulfilled completion.

A retreat from the ordinary…a study in patience.

  • “To conceive of a task which is much larger than usual, too grandiose for conceiving in the ordinary; to prepare, to think out how to do it so it could actually come to be and to be done, requires much patience.”

    Harvey, this thought keeps running through my head these days. Tell me, how does one get out of the ordinary in order to conceive– and do– bigger things?

  • Dan,

    I’m not at all clear that I can speak for anyone else. But…I shifted my career several times: math/science major, 1 year in medical school, two years in early computers (programming, analysis, military anti-missile systems), Anthropology & Linguistics to the PhD, two years doing fieldwork in Chiapas, Mexico (with spouse/cothinker, Janis and 5 month old daughter, Amy): got to study two different cultures there (Ladino and Mayan/Tzotzil), returned after two years to Cuban missile crisis. Studied others, child’s language and bodily development – several of my teachers were very broad thinkers (still “in my head”).

    I could go on…and on…early career quite successful and promising – then “got caught” in Chomskyan/Cartesian “revolution” and began to read forward and backward in philosophy. My teacher’s careers were dissed away (as was mine) – so…

    To think broadly takes – I think – some early “shifts” in…expectations,
    loss of…subject matter, some of my teachers literally “died off early” in the wake of career-destruction. And I to ask how a “very dead” philosopher could have “taken over” my career (and life?).

    I had/have to rethink what I studied and why (myself, others, bodies in interaction, politics, and got to think about how ideas “work” and the power they have/can have. And began to envision the development of ancient ideas (in Western thought – a new idea for me) – then began to wander into Amerindian culture and thinking), gradually into Western, Confucian, Hindu/Buddhist…and much contemporary ideas as the Soviet Union fell – and American politics and economy went…

    And my partner’s continuous (critical) thinking…

    Several colleagues (see: “My teachers” on website) who taught me about the University – about biology, philosophy) and several mentors at the U. of Mn.

    And I read/read ponderingly…

    Still, to imagine history in its greatest depths – it helps to have loved geology – to have entered into Nietzsche’s and Kierkegaard’s critical visionings.

    Still, one must continue to struggle to find the present…critically…to retain some sense of future visions which are better or less “cynical” than the “loss of career” years –

    To have come to “love” teaching as a dialogue, with the ideas and actual practice of being able to touch, even to inspire the future. And to attempt to envision possible futures (especially in the senses inspired by John Dewey in “Democracy and Education.)…

    My story! We each have one – how to touch others’ thinking without subscribing to their particular times and contexts. No singular path: a sense of “seriousness,” lots of “nerve” to take on what seems immense without succumbing to notions of impossibility.

    Trying to “hold” all these thinkers in my being, trying to “walk with them” more than to “memorize” what they said, in order to “remain” in my present…trying to think with them, about our futures.

    Thanks for your questions.


  • Karl Rogers

    “To conceive of a task which is much larger than usual, too grandiose for conceiving in the ordinary; to prepare, to think out how to do it so it could actually come to be and to be done, requires much patience.”

    I think that two of the main characteristics of this kind of task — an unusual, extraordinary task — is, firstly, that one cannot from the outset have any clear understanding about how to go about conducting and completing it, and, secondly, that others will inevitably be drawn to this task and undertake it in ways that one cannot foresee. Ordinary and usual tasks are undertaken with well understood means by well organised people. (Of course, this leaves us with the question of whether there are any ordinary and usual tasks at all!!!)

    The challenge of an unusual, extraordinary task is to have the strength to bring it forth and the courage to release it….

    One needs patience to embrace the future, which cannot be rushed, controlled, or even foreseen, in a complex, open ended, and changing world that does not conform to our intentions. One needs patience to stand back while others make this task their own.

    But impatience is the driving force…. the passion to bring change into this world… the desire to create, to give, to be there when something comes into being. Impatience is necessary for any task to be begun.

    It is required for one to participate within the struggle to change the workd, to make something happen in accordance with one’s own vision of what needs to be changed, to come into being.

    You need to have patience with your own impatience.