Serenity Quest

My correspondent BW used the above title for the email I quote in the last entry below. I find it apt, and more positive than talking about depression or winter blues. Serenity is what is missing from modern life. Modern American culture does little to encourage or value it. There is no training for it in schools (and let's keep it that way--I would hate to see what the education bureaucracy would come up with if two quarters of "serenity training" became a requirement), and modern religion, as well as traditional psychology, do little to deal with the nuts and bolts of achieving a greater calm. Perhaps these deficiencies explain the recent burst of interest in Buddhist thought in this country (just look at the "Eastern Religion" section at Barnes and Noble for evidence). Eastern meditation is all about achieving calm, a state the frenzied modern mind craves.

But all around us are everyday people who don't seem to need books to screw their head on straight. For instance, a lady from town who told me she couldn't sleep for years after her husband's death put her night-time energies into making quilts--dozens and dozens of them--for poor children in Third World countries. She said it kept her from going crazy, and I know darn well she hasn't read a book since high school. Others talk, in homey terms unpolluted by self-help jargon (because they've never read that stuff) of the little things they do to maintain sanity, to stop worrying, to feel better. These people and the methods they develop interest me.

For I am of the opinion that, although we value education highly, there is no correllation between those who are educated and those who are serene, or even sane. In fact, the opposite might be true: The more educated you are, the more restless your mind, and not necessarily in a productive way. People who seem simple and guileless often have a genius for living that might be the envy of those who read book after book, who constantly strive, or who follow current affairs with a restless passion.