The word serenity has more than one meaning; the most common one is the ability that some people have to live with and accept adverse situations with grace, especially when the outcome is beyond their control. When under the pressure of self-created expectations, we often become severely upset; we must not allow our future plans, hopes and dreams to become nightmares, a source of anxiety and disappointment. People who make realistic plans suffer less and are better equipped to find serenity.
Serenity is a state of mind in which we’re reasonably in peace, reconciled with who we are and what we have, and the fact that, as human beings, we are fallible and mortal. Of course, to reach this state, we must be reasonably evolved, emotionally and even morally: we shouldn’t compare ourselves to what other people are or have, nor should we be angry for not being exactly as we’d like to be. We must reconcile ourselves with our limits, so we can enjoy the potential we do have to the fullest.
Knowing how to handle time is a very important element to achieve serenity. For example, many of us get extremely anxious when stuck on traffic and late for a meeting; even if the lateness isn’t our fault, it is still very upsetting and even guilt-inducing. We reach our destination out of breath and it takes time to recover from a problem that is, as a rule, essentially unimportant. Also, time affects our serenity when we have to wait for results – be it of a medical exam or a school test. Knowing how to wait is a rare virtue, and it certainly helps to maintain calmness and serenity; after all, in a way, we are always waiting for events that will have an impact in our future choices.
The present is always fiction, as we live between memories of the past and hopes for the future. We are usually pursuing an objective, with varying degrees of determination and perseverance, and feel upset when we have nothing to look forward to, unable to enjoy ephemeral pleasures – we don’t deal well with a total lack of activity. This state of mind, in which one wants nothing, nor searches for anything, was considered by ancient philosophers to be conducive to creativity, but to most modern human beings, it brings boredom. When bored, we ponder the meaning of life and as there is no answer to that question, we get depressed.
We do all we can to escape inactivity and the ensuing boredom. Even when on a vacation we perceive as deserved because we had been productive enough, our time needs to be occupied. So we switch from our usual work to other activities, be it tourism, sports or reading. People who are incapable of enjoying any kind of occupation end up abusing alcohol or other drugs; very few people can endure a long periods of idleness.
On the other hand, the anxiety of pursuing a goal tenaciously also affects our serenity.
So we lose serenity when we move too slowly, too close to idleness – which causes boredom and depression – and we lose serenity when we move too fast, in our anxiety and hurry to reach our goals as fast as possible. Once more, wisdom and virtue are in the middle, in what Aristotle called temperance. Each of us has our own “ideal speed,” and it’s useless to try to compare our speed to other people’s speed, as we’re only well when we’re following our own rhythm, whichever it may be. Knowing oneself means, among other things, knowing the speed in which we’re confortable and can walk capably and serenely.
Tradução: Amanda Morris