I have ben reading Matthew Pianalto’s excellent On Patience the past week. It’s philosophical exploration of the virtue, and I’m finding the book both intellectually worthwhile and emotionally nurturing. In the first chapter, he has an extended quote from Kafka’s biography that I found particularly inspiring:
[p]atience is the master key to very situation. One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forebearing…There is no such thing as bending or breaking. It is a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself. That cannot be avoided. To abandon that path is always to break into pieces. One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself. The barriers of the fear-ridden I can only be broken by love. One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, always see the the young fresh green spring, compose oneself in patience, and wait. Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true.
There is an activeness to Kafka’s patience, and that’s one key to Pianalto’s argument. Patience does not mean acceptance or inaction, particularly vis-a-vis injustice. It is something else entirely, something active, that holds you together while the rest of the world is what it is and while change creeps along.