Editorial

When there is no more serenity

Dianne St. Jean

Most of us are familiar with, or have at least heard of The Serenity Prayer, which goes like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

The basic presumption of this prayer is that our happiness rests mainly on our own personal choices and not so much on outside factors. At the same time, it also acknowledges that some things are beyond our immediate control, but, if we “make the best of things” our hearts will be at peace.

If you asked people to name some things we cannot control, the usual answers are death, the weather, or consequences that arise from the actions of others.

To a point that’s true, yet even within the realm of those there is not a total lack of control. For example, death may be an ultimate certainty, but we can hasten or delay its arrival by the way we live. We may not be able to control the weather, but we can dress or prepare accordingly, or even move. As for the actions of others, ultimately we have the option as to the degree of influence anyone has on us.

Yet there is another consideration – that prayer was written by an American. Notwithstanding the fact that Americans themselves have experienced periods of strife, war, and suffering; overall, the experience of the western world has been basically one of relative personal freedom. Contrast that with those who live in countries where they are told where to live, how to live, who they can or cannot associate with, or even if they can leave the country at all, while others are forced to leave against their will.

Yet, there are signs that even now our relatively peaceful western world has changed, in which people no longer want to live by the philosophy “live and let live”.

Recently on Facebook someone posted the following saying: “I am no longer accepting things I cannot change. It is now time to change the things I cannot accept.” Presumably it was posted in response to the perceived dictatorial tactics of the new NDP government in Alberta, who upon taking power, according to a growing number of angry folks, have tried to take control of farmlands, family rights, and job and educational options. A normally passive, or should I say, peaceful people are now becoming revolutionary in their response, with thousands of protest signatures and rallies.

The same appears to be happening in the States. Whether or not we like Donald Trump’s popularity is rapidly becoming “not the point”; rather it is a sign of people’s frustration over what they feel is a government that is corrupted and deceptive. As one person commented, Trump’s crass bluntness is better than sly sneakiness.

Alas, it appears we have come to a point in history where personal choices are not enough to guarantee our happiness or sense of peace. When we can no longer find the grace to tolerate things around us, when normally peaceful, quiet people begin turning into reactionaries and revolutionists, when even the Serenity Prayer no longer applies, it is a sure sign that we’ve entered a paradigm shift in history. It’s just a matter of time until we discover whether it is to our favour or destruction.