Practicing patience

Traffic jams, crowded stores, delays in getting items we've ordered, may make us impatient. We stand in line, mentally spinning our wheels and wondering why that customer had to bring 500 unwrapped pennies to the store during its busiest time.

Sometimes, of course, we've got to speak up. But if we spend too much time fussing over delays, we may be suffering from a form of impatience that wears us down without getting us out of the store any faster.

In its starkest sense, to be impatient is to accept the belief that one is a mortal with only a finite life span, locked in a struggle with other similarly limited mortals. It is to accept as inescapable reality a matter-based existence with all the weariness and frustration that accompany it.

But man is not a struggling mortal. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains: ''Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science. Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique.''n1

n1 Science and Health, p. 475.

Through prayer we can recognize this man to be our own true nature and begin to break free from the pressures that produce impatience. To be the image of Love is to love our neighbors-including the cashier who seems slower than the rest-and to express the graciousness and good cheer that are elements of a loving outlook.

But living a life of such patience entails more than just standing in line without getting cross. Christ Jesus, in telling his followers of the serious trials they would face, advised, ''In your patience possess ye your souls.''n2 The practice of prayer-based patience really does lead to self-possession of the most profound kind, and gives us stability against whatever would throw us off course. Learning to be patient in the small things, and to retain our inner peace, builds up a core of spiritual strength that will help to sustain us when we are facing bigger challenges.

n2 Luke 21:19

As we become quieter inside, we're less likely to be overwhelmed by emotion, by bad news, or by setbacks. The human will that demands to have its own way will have less influence, too.

Of course, another element that would make us impatient is the feeling that we're not being given enough attention or that we shouldn't be treated ''this way.'' But such ''me''-centered feelings are certainly not the outcome of the very image of Love. To be this image-to bring it out in whatever we think or do-is to be loving in the Christly sense. And understanding more of how to be this image gives us increasing dominion over every aspect of daily life.

Christly love is inclusive, not exclusive. To love in this way is to embrace mentally all with whom we have contact. To be Christlike is to be strong before the blows the world would give us and yet to be tender toward those around us. It is to be cheerful even under trying circumstances and to be brave when courage is needed. Naturally, we may not be able to express this much love all at once. But practice in the little things is a great help.

With this Christliness also comes the discernment that will tell us how to behave under stressful circumstances. This helps us get free from the influences of the crowd and enables us to act independently and decisively.

After we've become conscious of our own existence as the image of Love, it's only natural that we take the next step and recognize this to be the true nature of everyone. Then we realize that we all have equally important roles to play in the universe. This changes our attitude from ''Why aren't you helping me more quickly?'' to ''Can I do anything to ease this process?''

As we acknowledge the central role of divine Spirit, Love, in our experience, we will become less subject to frayed tempers and angry hearts. In obtaining this true self-possession-exchanging a finite view of self for the consciousness of our actual, immortal being-we will be putting on ''the mind of Christ,''n3 and everyone around us will be benefited.

n3 I Cor. 2:16.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Ecclesiastes 7:8.

''There's no forerunner,'' says Altman, musing on the new video. ''So far, nobody's even discussed that it must have a whole different style, that it's by nature a whole different medium.''

He is convinced that ''each medium has its own possibilities and demands, and its own limitations. The limitation of film is that it's too specific, and you must destroy that specificness. The limitation of stage is that it's not explicit enough. It can't take you to so many places, so you have to create illusions within the space that you've got.''

What are the special properties of video? ''You watch it in a less-formal situation. Your attention is not forced in one direction. Your environment is different, and you control it more. You can interrupt the experience, and even back it up. It becomes like reading a book. And like a book, if you become emotionally affected, you don't have to go farther for a while. You can stop and cherish it.''

In dealing with video, Altman plans to take the medium on its own artistic terms. While he is already planning an adaptation of ''2 by South,'' for example , he expects the video version to be utterly different from the stage experience. ''I would never deal with anyone who wants to put my plays on in a theater and just shoot them with three cameras,'' he insists. ''You have to readapt them to the visual medium, and the result won't necessarily resemble what you saw on the stage.

''If I'm successful - to myself, not commercially - you'll immediately see it's not a movie or a television show or a theater piece. It'll be that thing, whatever it's eventually called. Right now, it doesn't even have a name.''

Will the video medium really have a great deal of freedom and flexibility, though, or will it be dominated by patterns already established by the major networks and their imitators? Will cable TV and home video wind up as radio is today, with lots of outlets competing with one another, but most of them sounding like clones of one another?

Altman is optimistic. ''The networks try to play it safe, to be bland,'' he acknowledges. ''But they're too big to make all the decisions about something as diversified as the video outlets will be. The machine, the monster, is going to be so hungry that it'll turn wherever it has to for material. The networks won't be able to monopolize it. Small individual people's groups should be able to get in. It could be like publishing, where you deal with a whole spectrum, and specialization can occur. There could be a whole renaissance.''

It fact, Altman feels the immediate future of video could parallel the early history of radio. ''That was a great art for about seven years,'' he says, ''before television and records began to dominate. People like Norman Corwin and Arch Obler did brilliant stuff that was designed for that medium. I was growing up and trying to be an artist at the time that took place, and I learned as much about dramatics from Norman Corwin as from anyone. Then that was killed by the specificness of TV and sitcoms and movies. But now those impressionistic kinds of things can return, and visuals can be added. And we'll be dealing with a new form.''Altman knows the situation is complicated. There are plays he would happily do on stage, others he would adapt for video - ''Streamers,'' by David Rabe, is one he plans to tackle soon for video. Others he would adapt only for a regular motion picture. Moreover, he feels audiences must be trained if they are going to appreciate and respond to the media possibilities of the future. ''You can't read Dickens if you haven't learned to read,'' he notes; ''you can't pick up Borges as your first book and know what it's all about.''

But he will be exploring the new terrain right along with us, seeking ways of injecting his unconventional style and visionary ideas into brand-new media formats, and perhaps discovering brand-new audiences at the same time. For all his bold ideas, Altman is a crackerjack entertainer, too - he gave us the musical ''Popeye'' as well as the fantastical ''Quintet,'' though he considers them to be ''the same film'' in some ways - and the addition of video to his repertoire could broaden as well as deepen his artistic reputation, increasing the chances of popular future work in the motion-picture field as well as in the areas he is currently investigating. It's an exciting time for Robert Altman, and for the admirers who can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

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