The subject of Wisdom- what it is, who has it, how you get it, and what you do with it- is the topic of a number of blogs I’ve been reading lately. One of my favorite bloggers metaphorically throws up her hands at the impossibility of nailing down “wisdom,” offering, instead, a series of snarky quotes on the subject:
“As you get older, you don’t get wiser. You get irritable.” Doris Lessing
“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” Leo Tolstoy
“The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” H.L. Menken
However, after a lot of thought and 60++ years of living, I reject these facile statements!
I think the best way to understand wisdom is to consider it a verb. To WISE- as in “wise up”. To WISE UP is to understand certain principles and try to apply them to your life. Here are some clues:
Love [to be wise] means to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing, among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills- Poet, Czeslaw Miloz
[ When people]”look less at their own individual lot than at the lot of mankind as a whole, they accordingly conduct themselves more as knowers than as sufferers.”- Grumpy philosopher, Arthur Schopenhaur
”I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile I keep dancing.”- Jewish scholar, Hillel
To Wise (up) is to begin to see your own life in context, to see how it is embedded in specific political, cultural, historical, scientific, environmental, psychological, and familial events, and circumstances. It involves shifting your focus from the self, to the self in the world. When you look at yourself and your life “the way one looks at distant things,” you gain perspective, you “wise up”: you figure out what’s important and what’s not. What’s worth expending energy, time, and money on, and what’s not. What you can offer others and what you cannot.
A few axioms of wising (up):
●You are not the center of the universe.
●Everyone believes she’s the star of her own play.
●Be kind because everyone is fighting a great battle.
●Learning about yourself means also learning about the world in which you find yourself.
● You can expand your boundaries of self to encompass other people, and maybe some animals, trees, and rocks.
●Interpret your personal story in a way that energizes and empowers yourself and others.
●Don’t take yourself too seriously.
●Wealth is what you can do without.
Patti’s axiom: After the age of 60 you don’t get to feel one way about anything.
What I’ve also learned, though, is that “wising up” takes continuous and conscious effort. When you wake up on the wrong side of bed and have a sore throat, “wising up” is nearly impossible.” When you feel scared about the future, “wising up” is like painful calisthenics. But there are those times- admittedly few, when “wising up” is a piece of cake. For a short time, maybe only a nanosecond, you become a “knower” rather than a “sufferer.” And I think you know what I’m talking about!