Impatience and Virtue

(Originally posted Friday, January 18, 2013)

Not long ago I found myself standing powerlessly by the front window waiting for a technician to arrive and ascertain the cause of my electrical outage. I was still working at the time and had been required to take the morning off so the tech could gain access to the house, if necessary, and in between listening for the power to spontaneously return, I found myself muttering one of the oldest clichés of all time: Patience is a virtue.

I was speaking ironically, of course. In truth, I think patience is not a virtue but a vice—peddled by those who would have us all calm down, r-e-l-a-x, and forget that other people are wasting our time and controlling our lives. While it may be helpful in small doses, like the roast I let sit in the oven one evening as I waited for the Jarhead to unchain himself from his desk, patience can be grossly over done.

In fact, I would go one step further and say that IMPATIENCE is more virtuous than patience. For without impatience, many of our technological advancements and modern methods of living and doing business would not exist.

Take for example the instant camera. Were it not for the impatience of its inventor Samuel Shlafrock, we might still have to wait weeks—even months—to share pictures of ourselves on vacation, our cousin’s wedding, or the golf ball size hail from last summer’s thunderstorm. Ditto—and then some—for the invention of one-hour photo printers and digital photography.

A similar argument could be made about the work of Alexander Graham Bell, who clearly lacked the patience to await news by telegram or post, and Percy Spencer, father of the beloved apparatus that lets us thaw, cook and reheat entire meals in under ten minutes and allows us to soften butter for cookie dough in 25 seconds flat. And don’t get me started on the inventors of the fax machine, the personal computer, or the Internet or we’ll be here all day.

Now some might say that were it not for the patience of all these gift individuals, none of our modern appliances, tools, and other devices would exist.

But we’re not going to go there because it would completely unravel my thesis.