Is Wisdom Gone?
If Sylvia Boorstein, author of Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There, was correct when she said, “You don’t become wise on the run,” then there’s a sound possibility that wisdom is severely waning in this country. Everything – or almost everything – is done on the run these days. Does the topic of “wisdom” even get mentioned in primary education anymore? Let’s review how Wikipedia defines wisdom. “Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight.” Sounds reasonable enough. But of course, there’s more. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “Capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct, soundness of judgment in the choice of means and ends: sometimes less strictly, sound sense, especially in practical affairs. It is the opposite of folly; synonymous with enlightenment, learning, erudition.” Then there are mythological and philosophical perspectives, educational and Psychological perspectives to consider—which speaks to the depth and breadth of wisdom itself.
I remember a time in my childhood, around age 6, when I sat with an older, much older friend and he would tell me stories about life. Being that young there were things I didn’t fully understand, but he was patient with my questions. At the end of each or our discussions, well, mostly him talking and me listening, I was left with volumes of information to mull over. He’d sometimes ask me what I had thought about when we got together another day. I loved those talks, and somehow, I think I was experiencing the awakening stages of wisdom. In college my most frustrating and yet stimulating professor would pose deep questions during the class, and never, ever provide any answers to our inquiries; he just put them back on us with another storm of questions. I learned so much from that man! And to this day, I harken back to his style of teaching with such admiration and gratitude. He shaped the way I looked at things, at obstacles, riddles, and enigmas. He taught me how to think non-linearly, to mull, to ponder, and most of all, to imagine deeply and be in the possibility of life.
I find myself doing less mulling and imagining these days. Is my excuse that I’m just too busy? If that’s true, I need to seriously change my ways! While I do very much enjoy being deeply involved with life, becoming more acclimated to my new home here in Western Oregon, getting to meet and develop friendships with the most affable people around, and slowly becoming a contribution through my budding health business, my role on the Board of Friends of the Library, and working with the Zero Waste folks who value sustainability and the preservation of natural resources, it all translates to my being — rather busy. I don’t want to be too busy to develop and rouse wisdom.
As I turn to some of the wisdom teachers over the centuries, I begin to realize I can make a few alterations that will enable the connections and contributions I desire without sacrificing the inspiration of wisdom. Key to beginning this journey is to slow down. Over and over again, as I research this, the concept of time seems paramount to wisdom. Isaac Asimov states, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” We can’t ‘hurry’ wisdom. It takes time to percolate and develop ideas and values before it transforms into wisdom. Albert Einstein said, “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” Again, there’s value in taking the time to ponder what is right before us. When we hurry by, rushing to get to the next event, we miss the wonder of pausing to let wisdom reveal itself. Rumi says it best. “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
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