Patience as Perseverance

By William J. Furney
The Bali Times

I was jogging along the beach in Canggu when I stopped to seek tips from a man who was fishing by the deserted shore.

In five years there, he hadn’t caught a thing, he said.

So much for tips. But it struck me as extreme, that a person would do something for so long without a result you would soon expect after first casting your line.

And so I asked this Balinese, from the same village I live in, why he pursued this activity there when he’d never caught anything. “It’s just a hobby,” he said, “I like it.”

It’s like making brushstrokes over and over and never getting a completed painting. Not that this fishing devotee is an angling virgin. At one of those commercial pools stuffed with fish, he hooked some, and the catch was cooked up on the spot for him and his five friends – for Rp300,000 (US$32). He’d had more, natural success in a boat in the seas off Bali.

But still he comes to this remote spot in Canggu with no expectations. “It’s hard to find fish here,” he said as he skewered a squirming worm in readiness for casting into the foaming ocean. In the lagoon behind, there’s a chance of a catch if the water’s high, he told me, but again he’s had no luck there.

My children and I, newly minted fisherfolk, also haven’t had a nibble in the location, but still we try. And after all, if fishing – famous for its calming effects – is about anything, it’s patience.

One definition of this serene state of mind is “the state of endurance under difficult circumstances” and in almost all religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism – is one of the key virtues. My own description of the condition is maintaining calm in the face of events or incidences that attempt to rock you off-center, and not taking any hair-trigger action. It’s also, on a lower level, about keeping your life on a steady keel. And more than that: knowing that what you’re waiting for will come, as long as you’re prepared for a virtuous wait.

It forms one of the seven heavenly virtues of Christian theology – the others: chastity, abstinence, liberality, diligence, kindness, humility – as opposed to the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.  But who cares about that.

As youngsters we’re fervently impatient for the years to come, but once they do, and as life swiftly progresses, we want to regress. So: patience.

In this newspaper, for our LifeTimes item, we ask people of a certain, advanced age how old they feel and almost always the replies are in their “20s” or “30s” – that’s those, largely foreigners, who are in good physical shape.

When we interview aged Balinese who have toiled all their lives in the ricefields or at crowded marketplaces, and are now bent over and as frail as ricepaper, they nearly always say they “feel their age” or “feel very old.”

It’s the edgy body that lets the mind, and spirit, down as we age, but it’s a reminder that the spirit, if not weighed down by infirmity, is ageless, and this gives pause to consider the eternal hereafter.

Many people, including here in Bali, are impatient for success, but it’s part of the staunch learning curve, which demands resolute patience, that gives rise to triumph, whatever the field. It’s the life education along the way that paves the way for accomplishment, and without it we would all be so much shallower.

In these testing economic times that the greed-based Western financial system has thrust the entire world into, one news report I watched this week showed that people who would not normally hunt for immediate answers to turmoil from soothsayers – tarot card readers and other mystic business – are visiting seers in ever-increasing numbers. They want to know what the future – their financial future – holds for them.

But just as we may not know what will happen in our own personal lives in the next hour, day or week, so too we cannot be privy to how the markets will react to the latest government bailout in the days ahead, or the dripping price of crude. We must be patient and see it through.

As I was saying to an Australian property developer in Bali at the outset of the crisis, astute people – in this case, investors, in villas – know the value of  proper value. If a proffered property displays itself as a worthwhile investment, through sound construction and with subsequent management skills and adherence, it’s going to be a sure bet no matter what the cyclical, churning markets are saying or doing.

And if Bali’s tourism industry is roiled by yet another malaise – and so far, it seems to be holding up, despite some European and American kneejerk cancellations – it, too, being of sound superiority, will always be worth a plane ticket.

As for the Canggu fisherman-in-waiting, I wished him luck and said if he ever did snare something there, he’d get the surprise of his life. I think he will, because he has the patience.

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