Patience has a long-term dimension to it. As well as needing patience in the moment, and patience over the course of a day, we need patience over the course of several days, weeks and months.
A name for this kind of patience is endurance. It is the skill that keeps us going on a path, when others might choose to leave it. It is the ability that keeps a carer looking after the object of their care long after they might have given up. It is also what athletes develop – there is even a category of sports called endurance sports.
THE LONG-TERM COGNITIVE DIMENSION
When we are trying to stay ‘with it’ over long periods of time, what kind of longer-term cognitive functions are at play? Perhaps there are three main types:
A sense of abiding truth
A motivation system
A SENSE OF ABIDING TRUTH
It is not enough that your philosophy is self-consistent, if you do not believe it to be true. It is better to hold to an inconvenient truth than a convenient lie.
A religion may have answers to all questions; but if a person does not have a strong sense that the religion tells the truth, then it is better that that person lets the religion go. This is important, because adhering to an untruthful religion takes up energy which could be spent elsewhere. in contrast, if you can find a sense of abiding truth in what you do, then you do not have to use up such large amounts of energy wrestling with doubt. Some people may be able to use social pressure to shore them up, but this approach is vulnerable, as others might not always be there to persuade you.
A MOTIVATION SYSTEM
If you have a consistent philosophy that you believe in, then you can begin to develop a system of inner motivation that grows from it. A long-distance runner, once they know in their heart why they are trying to run fast, will find it easier to keep themselves on track. In general, motivations need to be well suited to us as individuals. Life on Earth is short, and we do not always have time for transformations beyond what our body is naturally geared up for.
A FINAL NOTE ON HOMEOSTATIC SYSTEMS
The human body has done what it does for millions of years. We have to bear in mind that, if we are asking it to collaborate with us in being patient, then we need to understand how the body works. Otherwise, we may find our quests disrupted by the body’s attempts to defend the position it is used to. For instance, long-distance runners often have hearts that are somewhat hardened in one particular area. This is the body’s natural defence mechanism when the heart is asked to do more work than the evolved body is used to.
This means that we need to be mindful, all the time, that we are just human, living in fallible bodies. One day, our endurance will end in death. That, currently, is the deal of living. Once we have done what we can, then a part of our philosophy, to be truthful and consistent, has to comprehend our own death. If we do not do this, our own death will hit us hard. If we do this, we can face even our own death with patience.