Examination of conscience: 2nd day of spiritual exercise (1)

I’m finding myself incredibly impatient this morning, so I need to explore my sense of impatience. I should begin with the nature of impatience. And then get on with some exercise.

I feel impatient when my desire for something is deferred. Some kind of obstacle gets in the way. A simple example: Someone is visiting, I want to use the bathroom, and the bathroom is occupied. I have to wait to realize my desire. My impatience stems from not wanting to wait for what I want.

I think there’s more to be said about this. My feeling is that I have a larger claim or prior claim to something. (Is this always correct in the case of impatience?) Do I believe that I’m more–is this the word?–deserving of this thing than somebody else? For I want something but that something is unavailable or inaccessible. It is not immediately within my grasp. Naturally, I believe that it will be within my grasp but,  so it appears, not yet. But I feel as if it should. So, perhaps I’m not wrong to believe that in matters of impatience 1) we want something that’s not immediately within our grasp and 2) we feel, in some sense, as if we have some larger or prior or more substantial claim to its being so.

But 1) and 2) alone wouldn’t explain my “itchiness.” My impatience is intolerable. No! It is this: The actual world is not tolerable. Yes, that’s it: how things are around me are unpleasant, undesirable, painful, and so forth. So then:

  1. Something I want–an apartment, quietness, sleep, a room with a view, and so on–is not immediately within my grasp.
  2. I feel as though it should be–which is to say, that I have some weighty claim upon how things should stand.
  3. I can’t bear the way things are: the people around me, the space I occupy, my position in the world, and so on.

As a result of 1-3, I feel as though my life is not fully or sufficiently within my control and hence there is, for the one enveloped in impatience, a blanketing (?) sense of unfreedom.

And what’s to be done? Oh, exercise!

With regard to 1., can I not tell myself that so long as I want the right things they will soon enough be within my grasp? And do you want the right things? Are they the right ones? Are they the kinds of low-hanging fruit that could come to hand? “Yes, I think so.” Good, then. And if they are low hanging fruit, then soon enough the branch will grow heavy and the fruit place itself in your hand. Do you think? “Yes, I think so.” And if sleep doesn’t come? “Then surely tomorrow.” And if not then? “Then, there is the sound of the night. Even the pleasure of knowing that sleeplessness is an aberration. How fortunate that sleep regularly comes unbidden.” Yes.

With regard to 2., can I not laugh at my hubris: the World conform to You? What pride, vanity. That you’re higher than so many others and so many things. What fools we mortals be. And what grounds for such weighty claims? “Because I’m intelligent and beautiful.” How intelligent, how beautiful? “Because I work harder.” Harder than what? than who? And does the world bend to you or you to it? “I don’t know.” Meditate on this. Like a child, you ask for too much and you expect that to be master while the world is your servant.

And with regard to 3., where is your courage? Where your persistence? Where your stamina? Are you so weak in will and in thought that you can’t hold on longer? It’s as if you couldn’t even manage to hold your breath for an instant. Can you? Can you not bear pain? Or am I wrong in thinking that you’ve withstood pain in the past? Or am I wrong? Can you not do it now? What is stopping you from doing it now?

The impatience, with the sunrise, slowly withdraws, feels less tactile, less present somehow. I love the sunrise.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to examine why impatience so often leads to anger (also, disappointment, etc.).


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