Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Patience and Suffering

I just spent the better part of the week trying to replace our simple home network which attaches two computers to the internet. The old network router broke when Comcast was guiding me over the phone to make a cable service change. Having failed several times to get the router back in service, I did some research and came up with the idea of installing a much simpler switch. After much frustration trying to install it, I learned that simple switches will not work with Comcast cable (something the Comcast people did not seem to know, but the India based support tech for the switch company did).

More research led to the purchase of a different brand of replacement router, which I could not get to work with our system. Comcast and both router companies kept me on a wild goose chase, each blaming the problem on the next company. I’ll skip the agonizing details of the ordeal, since we all have had similar horror stories.

This experience reminded me what is wrong with American business and, in a related way, with America. Minimally regulated monopolies like Comcast try to steal turf from similar monopolies; Comcast is currently trying to steal phone and satellite dish customers. Meanwhile Comcast is ignoring the opportunity to sell home networking services to their existing customers. Their support people quickly tell customers that Comcast is responsible only up to the modem, and that any problem with network routers is “not their problem”. Likely more than half of Comcast customers have a home network or could benefit by having one. Comcast could be providing a worthwhile home networking service and making money in the process, but fails to see the need and opportunity.

Wondering for the umpteenth time why the original router stopped working, I re-installed it again and verified it was defective. Then I called son Anthony for moral support and for encouragement to maybe buy a new computer and start fresh. But “Voila!” - after being on the phone for several minutes, and with the router staying on, the device suddenly figured out what it was supposed to be doing and started doing it correctly. It was not broken; I had just not given it enough time to get back in full operation. The whole ordeal had been caused by my impatience.

The word “patience” comes from the Latin word for suffering, not in the sense of enduring pain, but rather in the sense of allowing things to happen. Think Mark 10:14, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.” Buddha saw suffering, in the painful sense, as the first noble truth, “Life means suffering”.

Impatience sometimes causes needless suffering. My impatient escalation of a minor problem reminded me of the American inclination toward impatience. At the beginning of our nation, the Revolutionary War was started in part due to our impatience with King George. Over two centuries later, George Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in part due to his impatience with the UN arms inspection process. The Revolutionary War lasted many years and required patience to endure, which the American colonists had, while King George and his people ran out of patience. The Iraq occupation also requires patience to endure, which most of the American people do not have, but which most of the people in Iraq do. George Bush, so impatient to start the War, has now been preaching patience during the occupation. Fortunately, he is not King George and we will be rid of him in January 2009.

America has spent too much effort in surrogate turf wars supposedly to gain advantage over enemies, like the communists in the cold war and now the terrorists in the so-called war on terror, and too little effort on meeting the needs of our own people, like health care and economic justice. Two notable failures in the 20th Century led to wonderful American initiatives. The economic failure causing the Great Depression prompted the New Deal, and the diplomatic failure causing World War II prompted the U.S. led rebuilding of Europe and Japan and the creation of the UN. The New Deal taught Americans that we need to work together to solve national problems. We then applied that lesson after World War II, working with Europe and Japan on their reconstruction and with the entire world community on establishing the UN. Once we are rid of Bush, America should work to attain the cessation of suffering here at home, and then use that experience to help attain the end of suffering worldwide.


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