Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fwd: Serenity, courage and wisdom

Again, I got lots of bounces.  Thought it might go correctly since there are no links in this message.

My friend believes in trying to heighten the virtues of the serenity prayer in her life.

That is the well-known prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

She is an honest observer of herself.  I asked her how she is doing with the three virtues of serenity, courage and wisdom.  She says she thinks she is pretty good on the first two but feels that she needs to be older to hit wisdom.  But that idea in itself shows wisdom.

It is surprising what aging can do for wisdom and understanding.  Maybe you have had the "take a break" experience.  You do a sudoku or jigsaw puzzle and are completely stuck.  You go get a drink of water and move around a bit.  Later, you take another look and it is immediately clear that you could do this or place that piece there.  Bertrand Russell stated decades ago that he would think vigorously about something and then put it out of his mind.  He found that it was often when he was shaving that a good answer or a good next step would pop into his mind.

That seems a good description of some of the wisdom that aging brings.  Something puzzles you or irritates you or angers you for years.  One day, without trying, you notice that the puzzle is gone.  It is not a puzzle anymore.  It is natural and orderly and to be expected.  Sure, some new understandings come from deliberate inquiry, careful reading and concentrated research.  But, it seems that the best often descends unsought, settling in like a season until it is just there. You can wonder why it took so long, where it was hiding while you were searching and aching.

Quiet and valuable and often serene insights of this sort may be difficult to express in words.  I find that much of my own thinking and experiencing comes from what feels like seeing clearly, without fear and without filter.  It may not be possible to say to a younger person in any helpful way,"Just see clearly.  Don't worry about what ought to be but try to grasp what actually is." In our current world of entertainment and high octane excitement, what actually is may seem too tame to accept.  So, we may have a tendency while younger to embellish or wish or fancify but when we are older, we are naturally calmer, more serene (!) It often becomes easier to grasp what is happening and to accept it as is.  And there pops up the word that Mother Theresa often emphasized: Accept!  See and accept the world and yourself and your fortune as it is and as adequate and sufficient.

I realize that your energy and your philosophy and your state of excitement and hope and joy and striving may demand, as a basic American obligation, that you outdo yourself and everyone else.  Maybe you totally MUST scale Mt. Everest while cornering the market on gold and conquering cancer but it may be wise to fully digest and appreciate life as it comes to you.

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