Mack Williams: Serendipitous serenity
Someone mentioned “serenity” the other day, and I thought of how serenity is sometimes, difficult to find.
Scripture says we may sometimes seek death , but not find it; and this sometimes applies (less “gravely”) to the seeking of serenity as well, kind of like what might be called the “insomniac’s nightmare”(now there’s a paradox).
But today, I speak of the “serendipitous serenity,” a chance happening of peacefulness when we weren’t even looking for it, our being unprepared for its happening. Serenity doesn’t “shout” like the clashing orchestral symbol, or make the thumping and tingling sound of the Old Testament timbrel ( sounds like I’m starting to quote lyrics from the great composer/organist/choir director Roberta Bitgood’s old wedding song,”The Greatest of These is Love,”(which I’ve sung at a few weddings here and there). Instead, serenity sometimes seems to descend like a slow fog on a morning when we are off from work, with no need of worry for the commute. And at other times, serenity seems to arise from hot asphalt like a gentle cloud following a Summer thunderstorm, (in either case, a surprise).
On one of these seemingly “serenely serendipitous” occasions, I paused from a brisk walk on the Dan River Walk Trail, briefly resting on a bench (put there for just that). Though my walking pace of 2-3 miles per hour hadn’t made the scenery seem to pass by as rapidly as that of traveling in a car; all apparent motion stopped (of course) on that bench, while I serenely enjoyed my view of the real motion of water, geese, ducks, and occasional swan.
Another instance of particular serendipitous serenity occurred at a most unlikely place last year, the outpatient physical rehab floor (3rd) of Danville’s Spectrum Medical! While using a stationary bike, I looked out of the great windows of that sunny place, and all at once, serenity seemed to be “riding along” with me! My skull-enclosed serenity took no notice of my rapidly pedaling feet (doesn’t come from there anyway). From my elevated view on that clear-with-clouds warm sunny day, I saw people walking along tree-planted sidewalks, and cars proceeding past old warehouses re-purposed for loft-living.
The scene was “under-framed” by the gloriously flourishing indoor window gardens beneath each high-ceiling window (it’s a re-purposed textile mill building). Although not far up enough to appreciate the Earth’s curvature, I was high enough to get an even better feel of Danville’s true hilly nature (although, even down there on foot, there’s one street in the town which makes me think of that almost 180 degree curve in Valle Crucis, tipped over at about a 45-60 degree angle!).
Within that great sunny room, someone might groan, then give out a hearty laugh! Therapists joked with patients, vice-versa; and patients joked with each other! I thought about the old-time Austrian tenor Richard Tauber, singing songs from the Franz Lehar operetta “The Land of Smiles!” That place was kind of like “The Land of Smiles”(with a few groans thrown in). And I think those moments of serenity there also helped set the recovering muscles’ tone.
In summation, even when someone sets out to find serenity, or whether serenity’s seeds are serendipitously sewn, their best chance for germination always depends on the receptivity of a soil called “self.”
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