Sydney travel – a short lesson in patience, and a moment with Epicurus

Posted by jerry on August 13th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Travel

On arrival in Sydney I was given a lesson in patience… well, not me personally, but the person waiting behind us at the supermarket as we were buying milk and coffee for our stay.

After paying for the goods, it took a moment to put the change in the wallet, and replace the wallet in the backpack, while the checkout operator called out ‘next please’. The man behind me pushed up close, muttered about how rude people are, and demanded his change. As this was going on I completed what I needed, reshouldered my bag and picked up the shopping bag.

I was wondering vaguely who had offended this man, wherupon he pushed passed me, spun around and told me I should be in a retirement home – with a few additional expletives to emphasise his point. I laughed at his joke and told him to have a nice day as well – by then he was heading off up the escalator. The security guard visibly relaxed at the man’s departure – perhaps fearing a conflict between myself and the unfortunate stranger. ‘What an impatient person’ I thought. and this made me think a little about the concept of patience.

Patience (ˈpā-shənz) is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances. This can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. – Wikipedia

I reflected on what this man’s demonstrated lack of patience meant for the broader society. Sydney is a modern highly pressured city, and perhaps the poor man was late for his bus or train, or perhaps it had become a habit to be rushing everywhere – even at the end of the day when perhaps his business appointments had concluded. Perhaps he had had a bad day and my delay at the checkout was some sort of last straw.

It also occurred to me that it is important to take time for living. To appreciate what is around us, and to see opportunities in every situation. My small backpack might have alerted him to the fact that I was a stranger in his town, and that a short delay could have resulted in a pleasant -if brief – conversation. So perhaps he wasted an opportunity. Indeed my brief sojourn in Sydney is precisely so that I can take a little time for living – a mini-break from a fairly busy work life in Canberra, meet up with friends old and new and dine with them around me and engage them in conversation.

I think it was Epicurus (341 BCE, Samos – 270 BCE, Athens) who held that one should live a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. It may have been Epicurus who held that it is better to eat a crust of bread with friends than to feast alone. I’m guessing that the man who accosted me was not by nature an Epicurean.

Cheers
Jerry

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