serenity, courage and wisdom

October 4, 2006

Living life is funny. One second you are giving advice, and the next you realize you are the one that should be listening. It’s funny how it seems like the same advice keeps coming up, in slightly different words and applied to different situations. One of the best embodiements of this advice in writing is a piece of the serenity prayer:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.

-Reinhold Niebuhr

The rest is quite beautiful too, if not a little too focused on God.  Like many religious principles, removing  God distills the advice to its useful core.

It is hard to live in the moment. There are so many ways to get distracted. Emotions, goals, dreams, expectations and addictions all can work to move focus away from the moment. At the same time being blind to the future can be destructive, or at the least can hinder one’s ability to enjoy future moments.

It seems like there needs to be a constant balance between the present and future. I think that is where the serenity prayer becomes so powerful. If one enjoys the moment they are in by being at peace with the things they cannot control, has the courage to change the future that they have control over and the wisdom to differentiate between the two, balance should come as a result.

It’s unfortunate that serenity, courage and wisdom are hard to come by in large amounts, I suppose if they were easy that prayer would not be needed. I’m not quite sure how to work towards serenity, but the best idea I have is interaction with other people. Random interaction, friendly interaction, any kind of interaction helps me remember that I’m not the only one living life.

Courage is also a funny thing, most of time the only thing stopping a change from happening is a lack of courage. I learned a lot about courage from skateboarding. Most of the time in skateboarding the balance and physical control can be mastered through practice, but the hard tricks take courage. When attempting these tricks the only obstacle is confidence, but when you’re rolling fast and about to jump off a flight of stairs suddenly just the thought that you CAN jump is not comforting enough. You have to believe in yourself, in the cheesiest of ways you just have to KNOW that you can do it. It feels so fucking good to land, the rush of acting upon courage can be worth so much more than the product of the action (in this case jumping stairs).

As for the last independent variable in the equation, wisdom, I don’t feel like I have enough experience to speak on it. I believe wisdom mostly comes from experience, sometimes it can be studied, but even then it isn’t incorporated into myself until it is applied to a situation.

I think these ideas at the heart of the principle of progressive longevity and I think I’m making a little bit of progress.

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