Thursday, March 13, 2014

Impatience or Pride?

"Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man’s erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with strongest bias rules,
Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools."
Alexander Pope

My Dad would have been 95 this month. He died when he was 76. The quote above is the epigram at the beginning of his one unpublished novel and I think it was modestly chosen to remind him of what he considered his greatest fault.

Those who knew and loved him all agree that his greatest fault was his impatience. Dad’s impatience was to ordinary impatience as global climate change is to a balmy spring day. A short while before his sudden and mercifully quick death he told one of my siblings that he’d been working on the impatience thing his whole life and thought he might be getting somewhere better. I cling to that with desperate white-knuckled hope: most mornings, I yell at the toaster to hurry up. But some mornings I don’t.  So there might be hope for me too.

I think Dad may have realized there’s a reason why pride is given pride of place as one of the seven top deadly sins while impatience doesn’t even make the top ten. I realize this too when I watch the news or read the internet or listen to people talk about religion or politics. We don’t even listen to each other any more. (I also yell at the TV) Only part of the reason is that we’re impatient for the other person to stop talking so we can reply/rebut. We may like to think we have open minds but we mostly don’t want anybody to put anything into them. We have all made up our minds that our beliefs, opinions and certainties are right and those who disagree are wrong. That, my friends, is pride – even if it happens to be true. And it’s a sin in the non-religious as well as religious sense to be so far along the sliding scale of self-confidence as to surpass arrogance.  I am humble enough to accept that even I can’t be right all the time.

We have two ears and one mouth, and yet we all want to talk more than listen, myself included.  So, I am resolving in Dad’s name to not only stop yelling at the toaster and the TV. I’m also going to try to listen better and talk less. Not sayin’ I’ll agree with every fool who speaks, or that I won’t snort in derision at their foolish biases. Just that I’ll listen and try hear what they are really trying to saying.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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