Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Blog site to accompany KUAR Public Radio program, the only program on radio today where the generations get together the first and third Tuesdays each month to compare and contrast their perspectives on a wide variety of topics.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Since my last posting we have presented programs on Nursing Homes, Football, Funerals and now one on Patience. I really have to find more time to keep this up!
The last two on Funerals and Patience were rather timely given all that has transpired on the Gulf. What struck me the most about funerals was that with all the coverage from A to Z, no one talked about how funerals were going to be handled. Can you imagine what it must be like to know that one of your loved ones has been killed in this tragedy and have no way to pay your respects to that person? And the other aspect came from my guests who, being funeral directors, knew that the funeral busineses were destroyed too and that they would not be able to serve their communities. Such a tragedy for so many families!
We then did our latest program on Patience. Our society has certainly had their patience tried in these last few months. Gas prices, health care, Katrina, Iraq....the list keeps growing long and our patience thin.
Here are the thoughts of my email guests on Patience...hope you enjoy them and you can hear the program at anytime.

From Joan Szabo -Kingwood, TX
Patience Middle Generation:
1. What is the patience level of your generation?
The nature of patience has changed. As American modern society moves further away from its agrarian and manufacturing roots and more into the information age the pace of life has picked up. Patience in an agrarian society largely meant dealing with the crop and weather cycles, waiting out the bad times holding on best you could, and rejoicing in the good times. Mastering hand crafts and music making were ways of passing the time and embellishing life. Patience in a manufacturing society largely meant enduring long hours in often oppressive and/or dangerous conditions in order to purchase goods and services to sustain and enhance life. Patience in the information age means learning how to be competent and centered in a fast changing work environment in order to buy goods and services, as well as time for yourself and your family to participate in activities of interest.
In the information age we are waiting out global business cycles and the advent of the next new big thing more than the weather. We are slowly educating ourselves to be reasonably literate with fast moving technological advances, and we are patiently tolerating having to move an average of every five years in order to stay employed. We are learning to be our own contractors when we grew up expecting companies to give us employment and benefits. We are helping our children and grandchildren who are moving back in with us just when we had expectations of enjoying trips to Cancun and moving into a retirement park in South Texas for the winter.
We are less patient than our foremothers and forefathers in making handmade goods and in learning new things. We have expectations of instant “perfect” results. We’ve seen the experts perform on TV without the benefit of watching them struggle. We wonder why we can’t do that too, and generally prefer to be in awe than to learn the discipline. We have forgotten that we were the ones who championed the arts and crafts blossoming of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s that was in large part a backlash to cheap manufactured goods like we now embrace at Wal Mart.
We are less patient with driving than our predecessors. We grew up with paved roads, big motors and cheap, available gas. We didn’t have to know much about machines to make cars run, and run fast. We now generally want comfortable seats, air conditioning, tilt steering, whisper quiet motors, multi-media surround sound, 0-60 mph in a heart beat acceleration, push-button whatever’s, as well as room for the grandkids’ surf board and the luggage. We barely remember the old stiff bench seats, static radio stations, club coupe back shelves, and knee action shock absorbers of our parents’ cars and the cars of our youth. Long gone are the hippie camping trips in VW busses on the roadside at Big Sur and Muir Woods. Now we’re thinking of motor homes with microwaves and satellite dishes and plug-ins with sewer disposal.
We have less patience with paper based media than we did only a few years ago, and are now making a shift toward dependence on computers. We have not done so easily, and are generally far outstripped in computer literacy by our younger generation. We are getting used to knowing what we want to know when we want to know it. We sometimes take vacations to get away from that—usually with the cell phone in the suitcase just in case. Most of us aren’t into wi-fi yet. We are just-in-time learners, and we haven’t yet had the patience to learn skills that we don’t think we need to know to function.
We, of all people, have lack of patience with our crops of young adults who want to skip over the old paradigms for learning and the old values, and just get to where they want to go. This is a very old recording that was played to us in our own youth.
We are trying to be patient with our elders, who are getting even for how we tried them when we were young. This, too, is a very old recording, but with some re-engineering. The impatience and disconnect are aggravated. The knowledge and experience of elders tends to appear less and less relevant to contemporary conditions due to the fast paced changes in technology, communication, and societal norms. Elders are living longer, and living lives that are often separated from youth and nuclear family life.
2. Were you taught patience or is an acquired taste?
Patience, like other traits, seems to me to be a balance of nature and nurture. There is evidence that people are wired differently from birth in terms of how much stimulation they need to feel satisfaction. Hot wired persons by nature gravitate with little patience toward situations that give them the ups and downs that they desire, and on it goes chicken and egg style. Hot wired people tend to have more children earlier, so it is not surprising to see a population shift away from patience in a society where patience is becoming less and less of a necessary function in daily life.
A behavioral piece of the puzzle is opportunity for youth to observe admired adults struggling and patiently overcoming difficulty in terms the youth can understand. All adults have struggled (some patiently), and many have taken pains to shield children from the pain. Too much shielding can leave children without models, good, bad or indifferent. Even a bad model may be better than no model, as bad models can inspire one to think individually and go the other way.
We segregate our youth into age groups at school where the adults are the experts. There are no adult peer learners to act as emotionally mature models for the youth as they struggle with basic educational skills and basic social skills. There are precious few opportunities where youth and adults get to work through problems together as a team. Instead the kids are quite on their own in dealing with learning habits and group behaviors. Teachers exhibit varying degrees of patience toward students, but at school, students are very tempted to see their teachers in an “us vs. them” situation where teacher patience may be interpreted as weakness in leadership.
Those kids who gravitate toward an adult personal mentor that teaches them a skill and is willing to share the struggle to learn the discipline are probably the kids who have the best chance to learn to be patient. In an agrarian society where extended families lived together and worked together on the same projects there were more opportunities for such mentoring. There were also more opportunities for dysfunction and abuse!
To answer your question more directly about the learning piece, I personally am still learning patience from a number of main sources that I recognize at this time. One is from my favorite aunt from rural Maine, who taught me to read for fun, to love nature, and to walk in the woods mindfully. One is from my life long love of horses where my equine teachers continue to help me learn the benefits of making an effort to perceive the world through the sensibilities of other beings. One is from practicing the discipline of making art, which still teaches me to embrace my limitations, let go of expectations, and be in the moment. Another is caring for someone with significant mental impairments who struggles enormously. I must be aware of my boundaries to avoid being sucked in to terrible unhappiness, and my boundaries must include compassion in large doses just to keep my own mental balance. When I fail, I need patience with myself. Another is the discipline of doing professional social work where one patiently aids others to reach their own goals despite bureaucracy, relapses into destructive behavior, and other internal and external obstacles of all sorts.
3. What are the areas of life that your generation is particularly patient with and what areas drive you crazy with impatience?
My now “mature” generation seems patient, or is it complacent (?) with letting politics go where it may. We who rose up against the Viet Nam war are just rolling our eyes at Iraq. We who risked our careers and even lives on civil rights activism, hippie clothing and long hair, are patient with those in government who would check our library records and tell our science teachers what to say to students about science. We who led the women’s movement are patient with those in government who would take a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive destiny away. We who were the very model of impatience with the old guard have become the old guard.
Now we are impatient with youth. We of the hippie generation don’t like hip-hop and rap and cracks showing over jeans. We don’t like tagging and we are afraid of kids having the drugs we once thought were a gateway to new consciousness. Some of us might still have some weed now and again, but that’s different. This is a very old recording using only slightly different lyrics.
Most of us that have come home and bought into middle class values after being hippies as youth have become intolerant of those with different values, and impatient with them for not seeing the world the way that we do. We may talk about equality and political correctness, and we have put much in place in the rule structure about that. Still, we will not hire people with too many rings in their lips or who have process orientation instead of goal orientation. We do not want to live next to them, and we do not want our children around them.
How has modern life affected patience?
The ability to have instant communications has given rise to the expectation that one should be available all of the time, both to family and for work. The many up sides of communication are balanced by blurring of personal boundaries and impatience when one does not get to speak with the person they want when they want to. People talk on cell phones during performances and in classrooms, engendering impatience from others who would like to be where they are for what they came for, rather than overhearing someone else’s personal conversation.
The modern “customer service” orientation of this country did not occur to me as something special until I went elsewhere. People in less developed countries and persons here from generational poverty may wait for hours for nothing, and learn to expect to do so with no apologies. Many people, particularly those with means, in our country feel entitled to quick service, and may feel justified to get very ugly if their expectations go unmet.
Somehow we seem to be drifting toward being meaner and meaner with one another, showing less compassion and less patience in the media. TV shows that were about building wonderful homes are now fierce competitions with teams pitted against each other to build homes. “Reality” shows have people treating others horribly as part of “entertainment.” If a humorist isn’t demeaning someone or using foul language, then s/he doesn’t get media attention. It is no wonder that we have set the stage for things like road rage where impatient people think that the rest of the world should move off the road so they can break the law by speeding.
Winning has somehow begun to supplant dignity as the be all and end all in modern American life. It is no wonder that people have difficulty finding a respectful form of discourse where they can talk patiently and politely about concerns they have with one another. The expectation has become that one is a loser and one a winner, rather than that there could be a mutually respectful solution. People may be impatient to win and may resort to verbal or even physical abuse to make a point, and feel justified in so doing.
The rise in fundamentalist religion rather than promoting compassion and patience with working out differences, to me appears to have promoted a right and wrong, black and white dichotomy. One side feels they have god-given right to the truth and the other will burn in hell. Patience and tolerance have gone out the window in the name of god in favor of burning abortion clinics, bullying young women, and murdering doctors who risk their lives to do what they think is the right thing, as well as murdering people by stealing aircraft and flying into buildings, starting wars, just to mention a few things.
5. Has all the technology to make life easier helped in patience levels or just made it worse?
I think that the labor saving devices have spoiled us to have expectations of instant results, but that relative wealth and buying on credit have really done away with the need for patience when it comes to durable goods.
I am old enough to remember the pre-wash and wear, pre-dryer, pre-fabric softener days when it was a woman’s job to do all the family ironing. The wrinkled look was an anathema. The washing was done in a wringer-washer, and hung off the fire escape or in the yard to dry. It was tedious, never-ending work. I felt shackled, not patient. I learned how to accept feeling shackled like a prisoner learns how to do time, but I wouldn’t call it patience.
Patience came from making my own riding coat on a treadle sewing machine. I couldn’t afford a store bought fancy riding coat. I wanted a special coat very badly, so I learned how to make one even though I had never sewn before. I made many mistakes and sought help again and again until it came out right. Now I don’t need patience to get riding clothes. I just go to the store or the horse auction, or even a thrift store and buy what I want right away. I just bought a cool pair of gorgeous rough out leather chaps at the horse auction last week for a song—less than it would cost to buy the raw materials. I do have the money (or I wouldn’t buy), but if I weren’t such a stick about debt for non-essentials/non-investments, I could buy what I wanted on credit and pay later. I wouldn’t even need to save up, much less make my own! Patience? Save it for the horse.
6. Is your generation more or less patient with the older and younger generation?
My generation has its share of guilt about how we raised our kids. Guilt can be a motivator to loosen boundaries. If we feel guilty about how we raised our kids, we may be willing to spoil them in some other way to make up for it. Our generation has more and more kids moving themselves and their families back in with their parents. If we are not patient, some of us are at least tolerant of the change in expectations for independence.
My generation has marginalized elders and made fun of changes in mental status that sometimes come with aging. We have not looked at aging as a learning opportunity, or thought much about how we will be as we get there. We have not had the patience to sit with elders, especially those who are full of complaints and unhappiness. We have not seen it as a privilege to wait for elders in our activities. Our elders have not seen it as their role to teach us humility and to show us how to slow down for a fellow traveler.
7. Do you expect to gain patience for the rest of your life…or lose it?
Elders that I have known have both gained and lost patience. Anxiety and frustration are not unexpected outcomes from inexorable loss of function. Those who get stuck in anxiety and frustration find the barriers to function increase. An elder can become too nervous to learn how to operate new technology, too frustrated to get past the loss of dignity at being a beginner again, too overwhelmed by loss of function to face a new challenge. On the other hand, some elders find freedom in not worrying about being the best at everything. They relish their status as someone who has nothing left to prove. They accept that their lives have narrowed with grace and gratitude for the time they have had and will still have. Those elders pick through the battles that they need to fight and let the rest go. I hope that I do my mental health homework well enough to face the challenges of aging like making a riding coat, not like being shackled to an ironing board in the hot summer with no air conditioning.

Duane Mariage - Springfield, MO
Middle Generation:
1. What is the patience level of your generation? As I find myself in the middle age group I also find my patience level very high. I can see the mistakes made in younger ages by being "inpatient". I now see the advantage of waiting and watching instead of jumping in so fast.
2. Were you taught patience or is an acquired taste? Both, taught as a virtue to obtain, acquired thru seeing the effect time has on everything.
3. What are the areas of life that your generation is particularly patient with and what areas drive you crazy with impatience? We're patient with aging, we know it's coming but not in a hurry to get there. What drives us crazy is the "throw away" mind set of today. We'll consider fixing something that's not working right and the young people simply want to throw it away and buy a new one.
4. How has modern life affected patience? Modern life seems to discard patience because newer, faster, bigger would never sell if people were patient.
5. Has all the technology to make life easier helped in patience levels or just made it worse? Technology has definitely made life easier, however it's also made us dependent on that easier lifestyle. So, if the technology that makes our life easier fails, we rush to get it fixed as fast as we can. But, if the cost of fixing it is more than we can afford, we fall back into "putting up with" having to be patient until we can get it fixed.
6. Is your generation more or less patient with the older and younger generation? We're impatient with both. The older should already know how, and the younger don't seem to care.
7. Do you expect to gain patience for the rest of your life…or lose it? Gain, remember we were taught that "it" was a virtue, we've discovered that "it" is a necessity, and we see "it" as the way to delay the inevitable.