Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. If I Were…

 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.

I have recited the words above many thousands of times. It often does not work. Somewhere deep inside there lurks an opposite sentiment, an anti-serenity prayer to self. “I hate [insert adverse circumstance/condition/outcome here] and I resent that I do not have the power to change it.” In this formulation, discernment and wisdom have no role.

Ever since Eve thought if I were to eat that apple and gain knowledge and power and her idiot husband went along, there has been a flaw in each of us such that we refuse to affirm the gift of being part of reality and instead imagine a state of being we cannot have and should not really want.The Antifa/BLM phenomenon, for example, is a kind of anti-serenity prayer: I hate this reality and I resent that I do not have the power nor the vision to transform it so, if I had the power, I would destroy it all.

If I were … [something other than I am now]… Imagination is not evil. It depends on who or what it works for. I can imagine myself making far better use of my time, being more cognizant of others. A competent planner might imagine how some village could be cleaner and safer. Someone could imagine that he/she could improve life by starting a new business venture or simply living healthier and stronger. A gifted storyteller might imagine a complete new world. I could use mind powers granted me by aliens to become rich and seduce runway models. All but one of these thoughts could give rise to beneficial actions and would not be a waste of mental space and time by indulging it.

Kids should pretend to be pirates or cowboys or on a quest. Imaginary realms are places to feel out unfolding virtues, ambitions, and personhood. An escape into well-crafted stories in novel settings that explore life’s truths is helpful at any age. While reality usually does intrude when healthy imagination mutates into something less healthy, an attachment to a wrong wish born of a denial of who, what, when, and where we are can linger and fester.

Some economists opine that the rate of growth has stalled because the pace of innovation has stalled. I don’t know whether that is true but if there is an underlying societal shift away from imagination and action towards wishing and resentment that would be a frightening turn. If young men were to stop trying to get the attention of the prettiest girl in school and instead stay home and imagine trysts with a warrior princess in a video game, if we all were to start to live avatar lives in isolated immersion in entertainment media and if the American people were to wish for some instant (impossible) transformation of society rather than cherish the freedom to first imagine and then actually bring new things to life, that would be a spiritual, political, and social disaster.

Knowing the difference between wondrous possibilities on the one hand and delusions that feed narcissism and denial on the other should not be all that hard, should it? But in ways large and small that wisdom appears to escape many or most of us often. (Well, it certainly has often escaped me, anyway.)

When I was much younger, I liked to fantasize about time travel but now that I am getting old, it is much harder to do because I instantly worry that anything I do while visiting the past might undo the chain of events leading to my children and grandchildren. It kinda wrecks the fantasy. Having to accept the fact that I can’t edit out or revise past pain without undoing or harming what really matters should be some kind of lesson, some learned wisdom about the real price of joy, meaning, and love and the critical role of acceptance. I admit I don’t really have that kind of wisdom yet but now I am pretty sure it exists and I will recognize it if I ever get there–kinda like physical fitness or fiscal responsibility. I can already hear that inner voice that tells me that the menu of life was never going to be a la carte, you were always going to get whatever else is on the plate, grasshopper.

I had hoped that wisdom would be easier and more fun (sorta like what the serpent said about eating that apple). But, maybe, if I were wise, it would be.

[Done for Ricochet September Group Writing]

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 18 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. MarciN Member

    Old Bathos: I can already hear that inner voice that tells me that the menu of life was never going to be a la carte, you were always going to get whatever else is on the plate, grasshopper.

    This is true.

    Wonderful post. :-)

    • #1
    • September 15, 2020, at 8:49 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  2. Bob Thompson Member

    Old Bathos:

    Some economists opine that the rate of growth has stalled because the pace of innovation has stalled. I don’t know whether that is true but if there is an underlying societal shift away from imagination and action towards wishing and resentment that would be a frightening turn. If young men were to stop trying to get the attention of the prettiest girl in school and instead stay home and imagine trysts with a warrior princess in a video game, if we all were to start to live avatar lives in isolated immersion in entertainment media and if the American people were to wish for some instant (impossible) transformation of society rather than cherish the freedom to first imagine and then actually bring new things to life, that would be a spiritual, political and social disaster.

     

    This was the text of your post that I thought illustrates the actual conditions we face. I see some examples in my life of what I think is this avoidance and retreat into imagined safe environs. The fact that families can provide this comfortable setting for their offspring is not a good reason to do so. I personally am not able to delineate the exact circumstances of how this applies to all the diverse individual conditions we face in our society, but I can point out one that applies to young men. That was the specific of the mentioned avatar in the text. The almost mandatory military service required of males in my youth provided a bridge to learn some real life facts. To learn now that with very unprecedentedly high percentages of college educated young people living with parents tells me the challenges are not approached as they once were. We missed taking action to stem the changes in higher education processes that have been directed at destroying religious observance and the family. We now have a significant minority of young individuals who spend their time promoting communist or anarchist ideologies as the path we should take. The Trump presidency has revealed this outcome as a product of an organized effort of progressives and the approaching election has given us a shell with a failed traditional politician running on a far Left platform. This is not a direction Americans should take.

    If I were…but my time is over.

    I saw two things since yesterday that give me encouragement – Kamala Harris made a reference to a Harris Administration (she’s getting real quickly) and Dani Pletka announced she may have to vote for Trump this time. 

    • #2
    • September 15, 2020, at 9:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Old Bathos: If young men were to stop trying to get the attention of the prettiest girl in school and instead stay home and imagine trysts with a warrior princess in a video game, if we all were to start to live avatar lives in isolated immersion in entertainment media

    Well, reality says the prettiest girl is probably already taken, insane, feminist, woke, or some combination of the above. The imagined girl has no such issues. Expressing creativity in a videogame is a bit like painting a picture of a fantastic landscape, or some science fiction craft. It waves over the practical issues.

    Practical innovation involves a lot of hard work, significant initial investment, and a very uncertain payoff. I’ve seen lots of people open stores and restaurants, and even places with good food and good service can end up crushed by economic factors, bad management, or just crazy freak accidents. Being an inventor is even more challenging.

    • #3
    • September 15, 2020, at 9:31 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: If young men were to stop trying to get the attention of the prettiest girl in school and instead stay home and imagine trysts with a warrior princess in a video game, if we all were to start to live avatar lives in isolated immersion in entertainment media

    Well, reality says the prettiest girl is probably already taken, insane, feminist, woke, or some combination of the above. The imagined girl has no such issues. Expressing creativity in a videogame is a bit like painting a picture of a fantastic landscape, or some science fiction craft. It waves over the practical issues.

    Practical innovation involves a lot of hard work, significant initial investment, and a very uncertain payoff. I’ve seen lots of people open stores and restaurants, and even places with good food and good service can end up crushed by economic factors, bad management, or just crazy freak accidents. Being an inventor is even more challenging.

    I think viewpoint diversity is important so I am glad to see the incel perspective included in the comments.

    • #4
    • September 15, 2020, at 9:39 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I don’t have the limitation of ever believing that acquiring wisdom would be fun. With the bit of wisdom I’ve gained (since I’m old, too), my experience is complex. Wisdom gives me a certain level of–satisfaction? –a sense that whatever hard times I’ve been through, I learned something that is maturing and helpful. It can be joyful, but isn’t necessarily. I can become wise enough to realize those things I can’t do, or can’t have, or can’t master. But there is something about knowing that I appreciate. So I guess I have to accept the good and the bad–part of what wisdom teaches me.

    • #5
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:05 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Suspira Member

    One of my Noom lessons this morning recommended the Serenity Prayer, with one tiny revision. A three-letter word was edited out. Can you guess which one? O tempora, o mores.

    • #6
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:31 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Suspira (View Comment):

    One of my Noom lessons this morning recommended the Serenity Prayer, with one tiny revision. A three-letter word was edited out. Can you guess which one? O tempora, o mores.

    Recite it the way Niebuhr wrote it or don’t bother.

    • #7
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:56 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t have the limitation of ever believing that acquiring wisdom would be fun. With the bit of wisdom I’ve gained (since I’m old, too), my experience is complex. Wisdom gives me a certain level of–satisfaction? –a sense that whatever hard times I’ve been through, I learned something that is maturing and helpful. It can be joyful, but isn’t necessarily. I can become wise enough to realize those things I can’t do, or can’t have, or can’t master. But there is something about knowing that I appreciate. So I guess I have to accept the good and the bad–part of what wisdom teaches me.

    I only have enough wisdom to know how much wisdom I haven’t got so I really can’t comment on your comment.

    • #8
    • September 15, 2020, at 11:06 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t have the limitation of ever believing that acquiring wisdom would be fun. With the bit of wisdom I’ve gained (since I’m old, too), my experience is complex. Wisdom gives me a certain level of–satisfaction? –a sense that whatever hard times I’ve been through, I learned something that is maturing and helpful. It can be joyful, but isn’t necessarily. I can become wise enough to realize those things I can’t do, or can’t have, or can’t master. But there is something about knowing that I appreciate. So I guess I have to accept the good and the bad–part of what wisdom teaches me.

    I only have enough wisdom to know how much wisdom I haven’t got so I really can’t comment on your comment.

    But OB, you know what you don’t know, or that you don’t know everything. That’s pretty wise!

    • #9
    • September 15, 2020, at 11:09 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    Bravo on your thought provoking essay.

    There have been times when I was offered an amazing a la carte experience of life, but that poses problems too. How can I be happy with what I just chose, if the other choices remain there on the buffet table?

    As they say, youth is wasted on the young.

    • #10
    • September 15, 2020, at 12:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  11. Arahant Member

    Old Bathos: But, maybe, if I were wise, it would be.

    People call me wise all the time. Okay, that’s not the exact formulation. Maybe they call me a wise guy. Isn’t that close enough, though?

    • #11
    • September 15, 2020, at 12:57 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. The Reticulator Member

    Suspira (View Comment):

    One of my Noom lessons this morning recommended the Serenity Prayer, with one tiny revision. A three-letter word was edited out. Can you guess which one? O tempora, o mores.

     Did it leave out the word grant, too? A grant doesn’t make much sense without a grantor.

    • #12
    • September 15, 2020, at 9:16 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Suspira (View Comment):

    One of my Noom lessons this morning recommended the Serenity Prayer, with one tiny revision. A three-letter word was edited out. Can you guess which one? O tempora, o mores.

    Did it leave out the word grant, too? A grant doesn’t make much sense without a grantor.

    The Serenity Prayer has always been a staple of AA. Persons who have theological doubts and reservations about “God” are invited to mentally substitute another meaning rather than try to omit the reference. The initial most important thing about “God”, they say, is that first and foremost that you realize it ain’t you.

    • #13
    • September 16, 2020, at 3:05 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: But, maybe, if I were wise, it would be.

    People call me wise all the time. Okay, that’s not the exact formulation. Maybe they call me a wise guy. Isn’t that close enough, though?

    Ha. I tell my sons to be smart, not smarta$$es… Sometimes it works…

    • #14
    • September 16, 2020, at 7:46 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Suspira Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Suspira (View Comment):

    One of my Noom lessons this morning recommended the Serenity Prayer, with one tiny revision. A three-letter word was edited out. Can you guess which one? O tempora, o mores.

    Did it leave out the word grant, too? A grant doesn’t make much sense without a grantor.

    No. It just starts “Grant me the serenity…” Directed at whatever or whomever. 

    • #15
    • September 16, 2020, at 8:53 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: If young men were to stop trying to get the attention of the prettiest girl in school and instead stay home and imagine trysts with a warrior princess in a video game, if we all were to start to live avatar lives in isolated immersion in entertainment media

    Well, reality says the prettiest girl is probably already taken, insane, feminist, woke, or some combination of the above. The imagined girl has no such issues. Expressing creativity in a videogame is a bit like painting a picture of a fantastic landscape, or some science fiction craft. It waves over the practical issues.

    Practical innovation involves a lot of hard work, significant initial investment, and a very uncertain payoff. I’ve seen lots of people open stores and restaurants, and even places with good food and good service can end up crushed by economic factors, bad management, or just crazy freak accidents. Being an inventor is even more challenging.

    I think viewpoint diversity is important so I am glad to see the incel perspective included in the comments.

    Respectfully, sir, I am not an incel. I am providing context as to why dudes are not jumping to follow your lead. The point is that there is only one prettiest girl in the high school. Either she’s crazy or you have massive competition. Same with innovation – it is a bit like earning a living as a professional athlete – there are tons of people who don’t make it, so don’t bet on it for a career.

    Becoming immersed in video games is no different than any other hobby. People have ornate model railway layouts, are amateur artists, build elaborate flight simulators, or develop stuff with Arduino. Most of these involve some degree of imagination and fantasy, because most people can’t fly planes or build / run railways for a living.

    If you want to see more innovation, reduce regulation and keep the economy rolling. This increases the ability of hobbyists or people with ambition to take the next step.

    • #16
    • September 16, 2020, at 10:20 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Bob Thompson Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    Becoming immersed in video games is no different than any other hobby.

    @omegapaladin, I can’t figure out if I’m glad to know this is a hobby, if that is what you are saying here. I’ve had some experienced video game ‘hobbyists’ tell me the abilities they have reached with immersion are actually ‘skills’. But I haven’t seen evidence that skill is productive in any way. Should I accept this as a meaningful statement?

    • #17
    • September 16, 2020, at 11:17 AM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Don’t be shy, step up and join the conversation this month, playing off September’s theme “If I was a —, I would —.” 

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #18
    • September 18, 2020, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • Like