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cheerful serenity

“(Cheerful serenity) is

the secret of beauty and the

real substance of all art. The

poet who praises the

splendors and terrors of life

in the dance-measures of his

verse, the musician who

sounds them in a pure,

eternal present - these are

bringers of light, increasers

of joy and brightness on

earth, even if they lead us

first through tears and


- Herman Hesse - The Glass Bead Game

Joseph Knecht, the protagonist of The Glass Bead Game, is talking about this cheerful serenity after a meeting with his old teacher and friend who emanates and envelops him in (t)his serenity. Such cheerfulness, writes Hesse, is neither frivolity nor complacency; it is supreme insight and love, affirmation of all reality, alertness on the brink of all depths and abysses; it is indestructible and only increases with age and nearness to death…

A wise friend once told me that a sense of humor is always one of the characteristics of an enlightened person. A lightness in being, without losing reverence. Cheerful serenity. Of course, it is a very very serious business this living business we are involved in; however, it is ALSO quite the cosmic joke. Honoring the mystery, with a smile. Without the smile, we actually aren’t doing honor to it; just the smile, and it evaporates. It is glory, jest and riddle, as Alexander Pope writes. I’ve always loved that.

The photos are from a hidden little church in The Hague. I’m not sure about the cheerfulness, but the beauty and serenity enveloped me completely as I walked in and it (and I) was carried in a particular lightness. Ease and serenity; light reverence.

Maybe that is enough for a cheerful and lightly serene conversation between the church - or my experience in this church -and Knecht’s encounter with cheerful serenity. A very particular feeling, or atmosphere, not just beholden to people, but, so it appears, to places as well.

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