Lesson 23: Patience

Immersive attention. Balance. Wisdom. These are just a few of the things to benefit from a little patience. Especially if you’re dead set on one goal. Your holy grail of goals.

If you’re looking to harmonise your goals and thoughts, then patience is all you need with this post. Patience and possibly a cup of tea. Take your time reading this one.

“Just because you have looked at something doesn’t mean that you have seen it”

The general ethos nowadays is to “go hard or go home” and while I am one for hard work, I have learnt that some of my biggest trip up’s, could have been avoided if I took a bit of time and stepped back from it all. Being part of the cultural rat race isn’t any better than any other rat race.

This lesson comes with a little task I learnt from an article in the Harvard Magazine, discussing the “power of patience”.

Harvard art historian, Jennifer L. Roberts, discusses the crucial necessity of patience in learning. After reading this, I set myself the task to allocate extra time to tasks I would usually whizz through. Reading, writing and drawing were all things I specifically tried to assert patience on.

What I learnt: Taking the time to read a little slower, to stroll a little slower and stare at things a little longer, has nurtured my skills to a far greater extent than zooming through life haphazardly.

Impatience and clacking on my keyboard can feel great sometimes, but it rarely nurtures the way “strategic patience” does.

A task I stole from Roberts, was an exercise she gave to students at the beginning of extensive art projects. Before undertaking long and strenuous hours, writing about a painting and delving into every nook and cranny about its existence, she asked students to allocate 3 hours, to simply stare at the painting. With great reluctance, the students couldn’t understand the need for 3 hours. Especially, seeing as this time could have been put forward towards writing and researching.

What the students found was, that they started to become aware of details they never saw before. Compelling and deliberate details and attempts, by the artist, to convey a story.

When looking at Boy with a squirrel by John Singleton Copley, Roberts found many details that weren’t apparent at her first glance.

Roberts writes: “Just a few examples from the first hour of my own experiment: It took me nine minutes to notice that the shape of the boy’s ear precisely echoes that of the ruff along the squirrel’s belly—and that Copley was making some kind of connection between the animal and the human body and the sensory capacities of each.”

“…It was 21 minutes before I registered the fact that the fingers holding the chain exactly span the diameter of the water glass beneath them. It took a good 45 minutes before I realized that the seemingly random folds and wrinkles in the background curtain are actually perfect copies of the shapes of the boy’s ear and eye, as if Copley had imagined those sensory organs distributing or imprinting themselves on the surface behind him. And so on.”

What this teaches us, is that patience is so much more than passively sitting there and staring into an abyss, it’s productive delays in your work, necessary delays.

Practicing patience,


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