by Archie Wortham
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It’s Thanksgiving time again. “When faced with problems that threaten to steal your peace of mind, learn the meaning of the word imperturbability.'” I think Charles Allen said it first. I first encountered that word in John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.” Then recently Steve Goodier sent me something in an e-mail that talked about this word.
Apparently, two artists were asked to depict a peaceful scene
on canvas. One artist drew a picture of a beautiful countryside. He included a
sun to illumine green grass, and added a picturesque farmhouse with grazing
cattle. There was a farmer walking behind strong plow horses, making his field
ready for spring planting. The whole scene seemed to personify beauty and quiet
The other artist chose to draw a majestic, rugged cliff. He
included gnarled trees that jutted from the craggy mountainside. Dark clouds
hung low and fierce jagged streaks of lightening slashed across the sky. At
first glance, this picture embodies violence, chaos and rage. But when one looks
more closely, one sees in one of the crevices of the rocky mountain, tucked back
just out of reach of the wind and rain — a nest with two small birds.
Unconcerned or unaware of the impending storm, they appear calm, cozy and
peaceful as they patiently wait for the turbulence to pass.
Is that not the way life so often seems? We may want peace to
surround us, but storms rage. Problems and pressures threaten to steal our
peace. Yet imperturbability, or inner peace, doesn’t leave when circumstances
change. It’s a peace greater than the problems of life, built on assurance that
the tempest will finally pass; and that we’ll survive the storm, grow stronger
because of it. Imperturbability is the result of a peace that surpasses
understanding. Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amidst the
storm. That’s what we should strive for, and be thankful when we arrive at those
moments of peace…that surpass understanding.
However, our lives are so encumbered by so many situations that
keep us from seeing peace in everyday struggles. It’s like in the movie
“Remember the Titans,” as one of the characters relates, “Before you reach for
hate, remember the Titans.”
I’m not sure what your habit is for Thanksgiving. There are a
lot of things for you to do and remember. You can go to someone’s house. You can
have someone over to yours. You can go through the whole day not giving thanks,
or spend the entire day reflecting over the beauties of life,
imperturbability–what God has in fact provided to you.
Most of you who regularly read this column know my parents did
not raise me. In many cases, I let that fact make my life a rugged cliff,
gnarled trees with jagged streaks of lightning across the sky. Though I was
nestled in the comfort of a nest that gave me everything I needed, I did not
appreciate the love and care my aunt and uncle gave me because I wanted my
mother and father to do that. Often I could not understand how my mom and dad
could abandon me. Focusing on my abandonment hindered me from appreciating the warmth and comfort I had. Life is like that. Many times we just can’t stop and accept the kindness we around us, because of the kindness we feel others owe us.
Sad, but true. My past illuminates how I never fully learned to accept the gift
of imperturbability until I had children of my own. Never really learned that
imperturbability consisted of the moments shared together, bonding, and
experiencing life as we learn the habit of thankfulness.
Like many habits, thankfulness is something we learn. If we are
not teaching our children to thank us for the things we do, then how can they
realize the importance of thanking others for the things they do? Our society is
becoming full of people who think they are entitled to things they have not
earned, like peace, when they have done nothing to earn that peace.
Granted, we are free to choose our course in life, but that freedom doesn’t mean we are exempt from trials and tribulations, jagged trees and lightning. Thanksgiving reminds us to give thanks for the good, and thankful we can work through the bad. If you look hard enough, I’m sure you will be able to find nests in your life, no matter how jagged the cliffs might be. You must look for it, to find
it, and be thankful when you do.
May this Thanksgiving give you something more to appreciate than complacency, harmony, and a full stomach. May this Thanksgiving give you imperturbability through finding additional ways to bond better with