Our Sunday evening conversation tonight was on the subject of serenity and its close companion tranquility. There were many points of view and they seemed to always come back to various forms of intentionally feeling good while in a quiet state of mind. We started off by doing some deep breathing and a few minutes of calming thoughts. That is a good way to start off a conversation of this type because it settles out the harassment of the day and the buzz of the conversations that were in progress when the facilitator declared the start. I listened attentively for a while but then drifted off into trying to think of examples of the times I have felt those emotions.
I ran from my home in Berkeley to the top of Grizzly Peak two times per week for five years. That was about eight miles round trip and 1660 feet up in elevation, by the time I got to the top, but I pushed my body to the limit, and usually had a pulse of about 170 bpm. When I got to the top, after a minute of walking about, I would sit down and enjoy the view for half an hour. It is a spectacular spot with a perfectly clear panoramic of the whole San Francisco Bay area. It was here that I was alone with my overview of humanity. It was humanity at its best in many ways. The most open-minded of the major universities was at my feet, and Silicon Valley, and the mythic San Francisco across the Bay, and the Golden Gate, too.
The tranquility and serenity seem to demand an immersion in a terrific turbulence before they can be noted. Just having a mild day and then sitting in one’s home, or doing gardening, each of these events is very pleasant, but not serene. To me, it seems obvious that serenity is to be had only when in the calm eye of a hurricane, and then only for a few minutes before the storms strike again.
This post is titled, “I am not serene today,” and it’s because I am terribly disturbed by such a high percentage of Americans being swayed by Donald Trump’s message. I am all for absolute freedom of speech, and even his extreme form of exercising it, but what is so disturbing for me is that so many people are resonating with his message of desperate despair. I look around and I see so much wealth and so little poverty. Even the people who have what are thought the worst of jobs and those even without any form of support at all are well fed. One of my complaints is that our local people drive expensive new cars but are unwilling to pay taxes for fixing potholes in our streets or supporting university students’ tuition. It appears that the more money Americans have personally, the less willing they are to sustain the basics we all need. The self-proclaimed billionaire Trump brags about not paying any taxes for eighteen years. It is so strange that his greatest supporters are the very ones who have already suffered the most from his actual behavior.
How can I be serene when so many people claim to be suffering?