Like fingernails on a chalkboard I hear those five words way too much. Twice last week which is low. To me it says nothing but to the speaker it seems to speak volumes. Two repeating words with a “what” in the middle is supposed to summarize one’s present predicament.
It is often said as a an conclusion as though there is nothing more to say on the subject. I guess you could call it a spoken period. Where’s Reinhold Niebuhr when you need him?
Are we that quick to sell out and resign? It is not even resignation because that would imply a recognition that nothing more can be done about a particular situation. “I am resigned to this,” is not the same as saying, “It is what it is.” Two pronouns that represent nothing says something about our English education. If the subject is marriage (which it often is) then the concluding statement leaves me baffled as I walk away. “Was he talking about the sorrow or grief or talking about the unknown future,” I think to myself. “Please, try to think of a noun.” It helps the listener (i.e. me) immensely.
Where would the great protestors of our culture be if that phrase was thrown out at a civil rights rally or gay rally or Vietnam protest or women’s rights or how many others we can recall. The reason for those gatherings was that whatever the “it” was, it was the “it” that gathered the group to change the present “it” to a different or new “it.” Don’t you sometimes hate pronouns? Niebuhr gives us three approaches to life with a concluding prayer that gathers all three together. The repeating pronouns with “what” in the middle gives us nothing; or could you call it despair? I’ve learned to hear it as a “dead end” which makes the chalkboard’s sound all the more bothersome. We are smart and educated here in the U.S. so how we can so easily condense and nutshell our lives into repeating pronouns with a “what” in the middle? Naming the “what” may very well lead us to a new direction or understanding in and of our lives.
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.