Happy New Year! 2016 is ending, and for many, not a moment too soon. Certainly the news of the world and the loss of so many headline making people have taken a toll, and kept the news people very busy. However, beyond this, the reality ion life left moving. People met and fell in love, children were born and life continued to play out, often oblivious to the tumult that surrounded us. And what of 2017?
I am in the midst of reading Tom Friedman’s new book “Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide To Thriving In The Midst of Acceleration”. The thesis, as far as I can gather, is that we continue to be in the middle of a great transformation of society marked by the rapid changes with technology, business and climate. There are some parallels to the rapid changes within our Jewish world, but that is another story. Friedman makes the observation early in the book about the importance of patience; that we are so consumed at times, with speed, that we forget about time.
This is becoming more and more relevant to us as we get older. We’ve written about this, as have a host of others, that we are at a period of life that allows us to understand that patience can be its own reward. Indeed, having patience allows us to gather wisdom; wisdom brought about from life experience. Friedman quotes Leon Wieseltier on this. Commenting on the fact that so many now question the need for having patience, he wrote: “But the ancients believed that there was wisdom in patience and that wisdom comes from patience…Patience wasn’t just the absence of speed. It was space for reflection and thought.” (p.6)
There is, then, a certain celebratory aspect of our own stage of life. For many, we may have the ability to see the world and life through a different lens. Having patience may mean having the gift of being able to reflect and be free of being a slave to time. In a world where gigabytes and bandwidth speeds and nanoseconds acquire celebrity status, it may be good, even necessary to step away from this every once in a while and to look at the world in from a slower, more patient perspective.
Wisdom can be garnered from that choice. Indeed, cultural respect for elders comes from this position. This was reflected again in a Wall Street Journal piece from the weekend edition of the Journal(Dec 31 2016-Jan. 1 2017).Dr. Alison Gopnik wrote a small reflection entitled “Human At Every Stage” (page C-1. www.wsj.com) in which she talked about the time of youth and elder hood not fixated on acquisition of goods, etc. She wrote of the importance, in this stage of out life, of understanding our own life history and the fact that our life is part of something greater. “Life history is an important idea on evolution, especially human evolution. But it also gives us a richer way of thinking about our own lives. A human being isn’t just a collection of fixed traits but part of an unfolding and dynamic story”
So, as 2017 dawns, I am hopeful that we all will have the courage to reflect on our own life’s journey and to have the patience to step outside of the world of speed and know that our own life experience has so much value and worth. In doing so, perhaps we can find the time to share that wisdom of experience with others, and thus, continue, in some small way, the cycle of passing forward what we have learned to the next generation. Not a bad hope for a new year!
Stay healthy and happy 2017.
Rabbi Richard F Address