Duane Noriyuki, Times Staff Writer - November 15, 2001
In our fast-lane, computer-driven lives, do we have the patience
to wait out the war against terrorism?
we shook our fists and repaired our hearts, there was a pause
when it was brought to our attention that the war on terrorism
would not be decided at the end of four quarters or nine innings.
That it would require, among other things, patience.
After all, we Americans spend thousands of dollars on computers
only minimally faster than our last, watch television behind
an arsenal of remote controls, created the term "road
rage" for our feather-trigger tendencies, and nearly
fall to our knees at the supermarket when the cashier leans
into a microphone and speaks those unmerciful words: "Price
check, please." Yet now, Americans are being asked for
the seemingly impossible, to have patience in the war on terrorism.
Patience? Physiologically, our adrenaline gushes, our eyes
dilate, our hearts pump like pistons on the 405. On days like
Sept. 11, our spirits hunger for justice to preside and for
peace to be restored. And despite this week's gains in the
war at hand, an end is not in sight. Indeed, analysts and
politicians say we may face years of international conflict.
But still we seek quick resolution, and to that end our bodies
are braced for action. It's a national characteristic, to
be sure, but it's also a deeply human trait.
"It's very protective," says psychiatrist David
Feinberg, medical director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric and
Behavioral Health Services department. "If you have danger
in front of you, you want to be on your toes, so to speak,
but then we're asked to breathe deeply, relax and be patient,
and the two are in direct conflict, so it's very hard to do."
So, when President Bush looks into the camera and speaks to
the nation of resolve and conviction then asks that we be
patient, we breathe deeply. We wonder--as justice awaits,
bombs fall, airplanes crash and life around us changes forever--how
is that possible? To find answers we look to our pasts. We
look to the monk, the professor and the fisherman. We look
to champions and a relative of a missing child. Then, again,
we breathe deeply.
In Buddhism, patience is one of "six perfections"
that form a foundation in the quest for enlightenment. The
others are generosity, ethical discipline, perseverance or
joyous effort, meditative concentration and discriminative
awareness or wisdom, according to the book "Healing Anger:
the Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective" (Snow
Lion Publications, 1997) by the Dalai Lama.
There is no evil like hatred,
And no fortitude like patience.
Thus I should strive in various ways
To meditate on patience.
These are words translated from Shantideva's "Guide to
the Bodhisattva's Way of Life," discussed in the book.
The Dalai Lama further states, "The only factor that
can give refuge or protection from the destructive effects
of anger and hatred is the practice of tolerance and patience."
The Rev. Kusala, a Buddhist monk who also serves as chaplain
at the Garden Grove Police Department and UCLA, rode a Suzuki
Volusia motorcycle from his home at the International Buddhist
Meditation Center in Los Angeles to his parents' home in Wisconsin
in September. "Five thousand miles," he says, "13
states. No cell phone."
Like much of life, Kusala says, it was a lesson in patience--stress
and discomfort caused by careless drivers, changing road and
weather conditions. "Once you accept those things,"
he says, "then the ride is the way it's supposed to be."
One of the ways to achieve equanimity, perfect balance of
mind, nirvana, he says, is to practice patience, and a good
way to practice, he tells students, is to go to a convenience
store or busy grocery store and choose the longest line.
"That," he says, "is how you practice patience."
Along the path to enlightenment one might encounter the saintly,
the searchers and Curt Gowdy. The 80-year-old retired host
of "The American Sportsman" learned about patience
from rod and reel and the lessons of nature.
"A lot of what I know," he says, "I learned
from fishing. Fishing has been my life, and I can tell you
that you have to have a lot of patience."
Gowdy was introduced to the sport at age 6, when his father,
a railroad dispatcher in Cheyenne, would take him to the Wyoming
waters. Even there and even then, there were days when Gowdy
would toss down an empty creel in disappointment and frustration.
"My dad would lecture me on it, saying, 'Come on, now,
calm down and be patient. If we don't get 'em today, we'll
get 'em tomorrow."'
Gowdy tells of filming a fishing show about eight years ago
in New Zealand, where he arrived to streams of cobalt blue,
filled with water so clear that the fish could see you coming.
In a river called Rangitiki, there were huge boulders creating
shadows and magnificent pools where trout lingered.
"We're making this film, and I'm paying for it, and the
first day we didn't have any fish, and the second day we didn't
have any, and my guide, a guy named Ted Hayes, who owned a
lodge there, was getting nervous. He wanted the film to be
successful so it would be shown in America and maybe he could
get some customers out of it."
On the third day, they carefully approached a pool formed
by a boulder in the middle of the river.
"We looked out and saw a fish rise to the top, coming
up for flies. I motioned to Hayes that this was it, and I
cast, and the fish comes up, and I miss him." Tried again,
Hayes cursed, yanked his hat off and threw it on the ground
and walked away. Halfway up a hill, he stopped and looked
down upon the river. He spotted fish up ahead. They approached
carefully. Gowdy studied the current and cast.
"Bang," he says, "9-pounder, the biggest trout
I ever caught." Sometimes, Gowdy says, "you just
have to keep plugging away, keep hoping. Stay optimistic."
In 1846, the infamously impatient Donner party set forth from
Springfield, Ill., for California. Eager to reach the promised
land, they left the established route and attempted a shortcut
across the Great Basin and through the Sierra Nevada, where
they were hit hard by a blizzard. Only 46 of the 87 members
Their story is one of cannibalism, failed dreams, greed and,
Another example of impatience was the Spanish-American War,
says Richard N. Rosecrance, a political science professor
at UCLA who served as a policy advisor during the Johnson
"It was perfectly obvious that a settlement could have
been reached with Spain over Cuba," Rosecrance says.
"We simply got pushed into very precipitous decisions
based on information that was far from reality."
But history has other stories that describe how patience prevailed,
says Rosecrance. He cites manifest destiny, the long, bloody
battles of the Civil War and the Cold War.
"There were many people who believed that if we just
hung in there, the other side would have major problems,"
he says. "If we had patience, we would be able to maybe
not triumph but at least more than hold our own and possibly
bring a favorable end to the Cold War."
It is a strategy with many applications, one of them implemented
by Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.). From 1973 to 1997, Osborne was
head football coach at the University of Nebraska.
It was Osborne's belief that a steady, grinding attack would
wear the opponent down, allowing his Huskers to dominate at
some point during the second half. It didn't always work.
The Huskers lost seven straight bowl games under his reign.
During one stretch, Nebraska lost five straight years to league
Osborne, however, stayed the course, and, eventually, the
Huskers won three national titles.
Elected to office last year, Osborne takes lessons learned
from the gridiron and applies them to issues of greater world
"My biggest concern is not whether we can win the battle,"
he says from his Washington, D.C., office.
"Certainly militarily and economically and in every sphere
we have superiority, but the real question is do we have the
will, the staying power, the character and the moral fiber
as a nation to see it through? We have gotten used to quick
and easy solutions in our country."
Easy solutions such as laser surgery for when we can't see,
pills for when we can't sleep. Fast food, faster food, fastest
food for when we are hungry.
The Chess Player
A century ago, there was no quick solution for Henry Nelson
Pillsbury, says Jack Peters, an international master chess
player who writes a column for The Times.
In 1896, Pillsbury lost a game to the legendary Emanuel Lasker,
a mathematician from Germany. It was one of Lasker's finest
games, Peters says, and, afterward, Pillsbury played the game
over and over in his mind until he developed a move that he
was certain would defeat Lasker.
Pillsbury bided his time for eight years until finally getting
a rematch in 1904. By then, his health had deteriorated from
the effects of syphilis.
Pillsbury and Lasker, world champion from 1894 to 1921, squared
off in Pennsylvania, and Pillsbury played his long-awaited
move. In what is regarded as one of his finest games, Pillsbury
beat the champ, and, then, two years later, he died.
But war is not chess. It is not football. It is not fishing.
Patience is not always something we seek. Sometimes it is
forced upon us.
Alma Crittenden, 65, of San Diego, has been waging her own
war for 10 years. On July 15, 1991, Crittenden's great-niece,
Rasheeyda Wilson, then 9 years old, disappeared while playing
in her neighborhood.
Since her disappearance, Wilson's mother died, so it is left
to Crittenden to wait and hope. The child's picture still
hangs on Crittenden's living room wall. She keeps a stuffed
Christmas mouse Wilson played with during visits. Each day,
Crittenden prays. From time to time, she calls the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which runs the
child's photograph on its Web site. She searches the faces
of strangers, and, she says, she will continue looking until
there is closure. Her war is against the probable and the
But in her patience rests hope that, like Homer's Odysseus,
who overcame peril and temptation to make his long way home
to loved ones, Rasheeyda will return. It is the same hope
Crittenden has for soldiers now far away, for all families
with empty chairs at the table.
"The only way to be patient," she says, "is
to believe and trust in the Lord, to ask him for the guidance
and patience to go on."
Words of Encouragement
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, President Bush and
members of his administration have counseled and praised patience
in the American public.
* "In the months ahead, our patience will be one of our
strengths--patience with the long waits that will result from
tighter security, patience and understanding that it will
take time to achieve our goals, patience in all the sacrifices
that may come."
* "We're patient, and the American people are patient.
That is bad news for the Taliban."
* "I'm really pleased with the fact that the American
people are patient....They understand that it's going to take
a while to achieve our objective, and I appreciate that patience."
Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem, Pentagon deputy director of
operations for current readiness and capabilities:
* "[The Taliban] are the kind of people who, one, want
to survive to be able to rain their terror and fear on others
... and they're very patient. We're going to have to have
equal patience and we're going to have to have more determination
* "We are prepared to take however long is required to
bring the Taliban down. We definitely need to have patience."
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
* "The watchword is patience."