Here I am on the train on the way to work, at 11:21 AM, using my phone as a WiFi hotspot so I can get online with my computer, writing this instead of working, because maybe if I get these things out of my head I’ll be able to focus better on my work. Maybe.
Hey, you know what YS said recently? We were in the outerboro for my nephew’s bar mitzvah, and we were walking back from shul on Friday night, and these two little girls who belonged to another simcha were walking in front of us, and one of them was wearing a crown, and the following conversation ensued:
Me: You must be a princess. I can tell because you’re wearing a crown.
Little girl: I AM a princess, and so is she. We’re cousins and friends.
Me: Oh, so you’re definitely both princesses, because all princesses are related. [I was just saying that to make conversation.]
YS: Well, most of them, anyway. Especially in Europe.
Anyway, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to ponder the following series of questions.
Does “surrender” mean the same thing as “give up?” Can a person surrender without admitting defeat? Is there such a thing? Can surrendering to a situation be an act of strength?
You know the serenity prayer, or rather the oft-quoted and widely commercialized abbreviated version of such, that says “God, 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”?
[I really don't like putting end punctuation outside quotation marks. It's the way I was taught, but my understanding is that it's no longer done that way, but really, in a case like this, shouldn't it be? I've taught myself not to like it and to correct it when I see it, but really, it seems like the right thing to do in this case. I feel so torn.]
So, the serenity prayer. What do you do when the thing you cannot change is something that’s inherently unacceptable? For example, I can “accept,” in theory, that there’s such a thing as evil and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But in that case, by “accept,” I mean “ignore.” It’s not ok that people are evil and do horrible evil things to innocent women, men and children. I don’t feel serene about that at all. So I don’t accept it in a way that suggests it’s ok with me and that I’m fine with it being that way. But I “accept” it in that I know I can’t do anything about it, and thinking about it freaks the hell out of me, so I do my best not to think about it. That’s a form of acceptance, right? Or avoidance? Those are closely related, aren’t they?
But what about when it’s something it’s impossible to ignore? And it’s something unacceptable, but something I cannot change? Can I accept that it’s going to be unacceptable forever, and it’s never going to change? What does accept even mean? Leave it that way and go on with serenity? That doesn’t seem ok, does it? But if it can’t be changed, what good does it do to not accept it? Do I surrender? Do I give up? Do I pursue serenity in some other way, such as hard alcohol or drugs?
Yeah, this isn’t helping. I still can’t concentrate. I can probably change that via other means, though, so I’m going to muster the courage God grants me, and go ahead and do so.