It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
Some reactions (by the 4NT numbers)
Consider that dissatisfaction is a function of pleasure - that greater pleasure necessarily means greater dissatisfaction. Now, factor in the diminishing returns on individual pleasures coupled with the correspondingly increases in dissatisfaction due to this diminished pleasure and the pretty convincing argument is that the attempt to maximize pleasure is (ultimately) a losing proposition.
The ignorance of reality must be understood as the ignorance of the inevitability of change (impermanence). And in attaching to things that we presume to be permanent but are (in reality) not, we create problems for ourselves. But most importantly, we often don't consider that states of mind and purity and even holiness are among the many impermanent things that we naturally attach to and that do create problems for us.
Nowhere in the 4NT does it state that there is a permanent end to suffering. If, in fact, there was a permanent end to suffering, that, in itself, would violate the fundamental understanding that all things, except nirvana and space, are conditioned. The only possible way out of this dilemma is to argue that suffering itself does not exist. While Nagarjuna (Mr. Emptiness) might argue this, this is not the thrust of the 4NT.
Regarding the notion of renouncing the self, the reality is that there is a mode of cognition where the separation between ourselves and the rest of 'whatever' disappears. In a sense, both we and the world disappear. This is not a permanent mode (as nothing but space and nirvana is permanent), but it is one that a person must experience before she can fully start to appreciate the teachings of Buddhism. So, to 'renounce the self and the world' is clearly just linguistic mechanism to get one to seek out this experience of 'disappearing'. This is one of the early reasons that so many put their butts on cushions for so long. (And it's just a fundamental problem with words in that they can only ever make perfect sense when both parties share a common experience and agree on which words to use to describe it. When only one side has an experience that needs to be shared, to the other side it sounds like gibberish or is easily misconstrued.)
It's probably most helpful to think of buddha-nature more as a verb - as the process that drives human experience in its various manifestations (thought, perception, etc.). And with that perspective, we can either awaken to the reality and the nature of this activity ... or not.
Recall one of those bits of pithiness that goes something like ... "the only difference between a buddha and an ignorant is that one realizes (that he is ignorant)".
Is calmness a required prior condition for insight to arise?
Certain insights are really a matter of putting calmness (tranquility) into proper perspective. To that end, yes, tranquility is required for most insight. But as we see from the Anupada Sutta, it is not quite accurate to say that insight arises out of tranquility ... for tranquility transcends both perception and inference.
I have learned over the years that with age doesn't always come wisdom.
The Buddhist notion of wisdom doesn't come with age, doesn't come from travel (worldliness), doesn't come from texts, doesn't come from who you hang with. It only (ultimately) comes from work. Some have worked at it, most haven't. Some are working at it, most aren't. Move on.