The first time I was meaningfully exposed to tolerance was in an electronic manner. I was learning to put together radios and stuff and had to learn a lot about resistors, capacitors and transistors. Funny, these components, even devoid of the electronics context, are so meaningful.
I learnt putting together radios too early, so I can’t put radios together anymore, all is forgotten. I can however, still turn on a radio and choose a station I like. And I am content with that. But I remember what tolerance meant, as a concept. Wiki now tells me it is permissible limit of variation. I agree – that’s close to what I remember.
I saw the NEFA post this morning, even before I saw the news feeds. I read the other linked posts.
Somehow, I thought of Set Theory, they teach it at a very early age nowadays – my six-year old niece knows that apples are not oranges but both are fruits. They use baskets and real things, instead of Venn Diagrams. But I digress.
In my own mind tolerance is mute acceptance of a thingy without experiencing high levels of disgust. Silence, you see has myriad meanings. Something snaps when that disgust level is achieved. My teacher could tolerate the lack of attention in my class, but she could not tolerate my argument with my friend about Batman’s superiority over Superman. I remember it like yesterday, “I will not tolerate this behaviour in class.” Out I went of the class! In that, was my first exposure to the T-word, but a meaningful exposure came much later. Electronics: trying to get some signal out of a radio. Then in college, we had a Professor, who oh-so-well explained tolerance, and said “OK” in a reassuring manner, every other fifth word. This time, there were numbers and Greek symbols surrounding the resistors, capacitors and transistors. We needed calculators because from being a concept, it was now real. If that dull diode didn’t light up or lethargic needle on the ammeter didn’t move, someone in the chain was being intolerant, or obtuse, I thought. Rather than calculate and get the right number, we adjusted the current or the voltage or something so that the dim diode could redeem this world of darkness. You see, we tolerated the damned diode. Don’t be getting all technical on me – I don’t remember a thing we did in the lab. I just know that we did something and that darned diode did light up. Sixteen years on I still have nightmares about getting that drowsy diode to light up or the potassium permanganate to pipette out colour in that insipid beaker.
But the concepts stuck. They stuck hard.
Like Set Theory. And set theory is probably another way to describe intolerance (or tolerance). There aren’t just those few faiths any more, you know? X tolerates Y, but doesn’t tolerate Z. There is a plethora of variables now. A single person has multiple faiths. Faith is no more limited only to religion; it is also about lifestyle choices; it is also about standards and values.
What is the tolerance threshold for two people of the same religious faith, one of who smokes and the other doesn’t. Do they tolerate each other because of the same religion or are intolerant because of the lifestyle choice? Add another person and another religion. Permute. Where is the intersection? Add another person; we now have four, add another lifestyle – food choices – organic and non (believe me, this will soon become a faith by itself, if it hasn’t already). Complicate it just a bit by saying that Person A and Person D do the same job but have different standards and values that they attribute to work. Permute and combine. Calculate. How do you depict the Venn Diagram? What are the possibilities and which one of them will hold true? Does the context in which the possibilities occur make a difference?
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that we now have multiple variables, and the permissible limits are lesser.