marshmallow-test

“Through delayed fulfillment, good desires grow stronger.”
Gregory the Great

Almost fifty years ago the famous marshmallow experiment suggested the importance of being able to wait.

There are many troubling aspects of the encroachment of today’s technologies in our daily life. Perhaps one of the more subtle is that we grow accustomed to immediate gratification. And so we become more like the children who are unable or unwilling to wait. For anything.

We expect a reply to our email right away; we expect the answer to our question right away; we expect our package to be delivered right away.

The issue here can confuse us: What could be wrong with getting a good thing right away? If we can get it sooner than later, isn’t that better?

In this, as in other cases, perhaps what would have seemed the position of an old, ornery coot turns out to be true. It’s often better to have to wait.

Seeds do not sprout, much less give fruit, for some length of time. And the sower learns to cultivate; and to ponder; and to wait.

Waiting can give the opportunity better to see things for what they are; it also occasions growth in self-restraint, and patience. Many of the most important things in life are things that we must receive. Waiting can, indeed should, dispose us to receive well.

This will require having a different mindset, a mindset that itself needs practice, and cultivation.

Gregory the Great (c. 540-604 A.D.) set aside the wealth of his Roman family to pursue the monastic life. Called to a life of action as a papal legate, he was later elected pope, in which office he became known as a reformer.

Image: In an experiment made famous at Stanford in the 60’s and 70’s children are presented with a marshmallow and then told they will be given another one if they are willing to delay eating the first for some set length of time. Later studies correlate the willingness to wait and various measures of ‘success’ in life. This image is from a more recent iteration of this experiment.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

Previous articleTraditionalism, Trump, and the Future of Fusionism
Next articlePalio
John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.