“Indeed. Many years.”
“And all that time… you have essentially waited for me,” Rhiss mused.
Borilius smiled. “Well… aye. You oversimplify things, but I suppose it does in fact boil down to that.”
“And you knew I would come.” It was not a question.
“Beyond any doubt.” The smile was gone, Borilius completely in earnest.
“There were signs. The most significant was that we were told you would come by… an unimpeachable source.”
-excerpt from Gryphon’s Heir by D.R. Ranshaw
Pity the poor people surrounding Rhiss, the protagonist of Gryphon’s Heir. He’s “made” them wait 25 years for him to arrive in their world. (Not intentionally, of course, but that doesn’t make the waiting easier, does it?) And as another character notes later on, “twenty-five years is a very long time indeed. We have waited all that time, never losing faith you would come. But hope needs something to feed on during such a span, or it withers and dies. In consequence, I fear, expectations can spiral completely out of control.”
As a society, we hate waiting. My gosh, but we’re terrible at it. We hate waiting at traffic lights --- for what is usually going to be, at max, only a couple of minutes or so. (Is that really such a big bite out of your life?) We hate waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store and we are utterly convinced the old rule is absolutely true: the other line always moves faster. I have readers who are waiting impatiently for Gryphon’s Awakening, the sequel to Gryphon’s Heir. I could go on, but I think you get the idea: we hate waiting with a white hot intensity for darn near anything.
And yet... isn’t the anticipation frequently almost better than the moment itself? When you were a kid, waiting for Christmas... agonizing, wasn’t it? And then the day was here, and passed by with blinding speed, and... then it was over. Just like that.
I was thinking about this just the other day, when we put up our Advent calendar as part of our Christmas decorations. Reflections on waiting seem doubly appropriate for Advent, which in the Christian calendar is the period of waiting leading up to Christmas itself. (Given that our kids are grown now and scattered at different post-secondary institutions across the country, putting up the daily decoration for the calendar is a task that falls to my wife and me. But it’s a task we willingly, cheerfully undertake... because we’re waiting for the end of school with great anticipation. Yep, teachers do that, too.)
Waiting well is fast becoming a lost --- possibly extinct --- art. We’re a society of irritable, impatient, whiny waiters. (I don’t intend to make this a diatribe against the Internet, but I think there’s no denying that the Internet is shortening people’s attention spans and capacity for both focus and waiting. I see it in my students, especially over the span of a 31 year career.)
We encourage the value of waiting to our children (“wait your turn,” for example) but then promptly turn around and teach them to devalue it in nearly every activity we and they undertake.
And yet, there’s value in waiting. I don’t mean the aimless, mindless, impatient waiting that most people do too often. I mean purposeful, deliberate waiting --- very possibly because you have no choice in the matter, but even so, think what it can foster and encourage: reflection; patience; fine tuning; turning an issue over and over and coming to new understanding. Whether you wait in solitude or in the midst of a multitude, in silence or in a babel of noise, there’s value to be gotten from waiting.
Oh, and by the way, for those of you already tired of waiting for Gryphon’s Awakening, even though Gryphon’s Heir only came out in June... I’m going as fast as I can. Except when I have to wait for Rhiss to tell me what he’s doing next. Sometimes he tells me a great deal... sometimes he’s much less forthcoming... and I’m trying to be patient with him when he makes me wait. I’m really impatient to hear from him how things will ultimately turn out, but I’ve learned that it’s best if I don’t try to force things, just wait to hear his voice whispering in my mind’s ear about the wonderful and amazing things he’s doing.