I realize that I’ve been taking something for granted.
Something that I have embedded in my brain as so important I never even saw it. My therapist in DC asked me what I wanted out of therapy. She asked me to think carefully about how I would know I was getting where I wanted to go.
Happy, Fruitful, and Wise
I answered that I wanted to be “Happy, fruitful, and wise.” She laughed, I think because the answer was unusual.
Wisdom has been a central aim and virtue-aspiration of mine since I can remember.
Many of us talk about wise teachers and leaders. My list would include Parker Palmer, Maya Angelou, John O’Donohue, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Pope Francis I, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Joanna Macy, Pema Chodron, James Baldwin, Glennon Doyle, Naomi Shihab Nye, David Whyte, Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane, Mary Oliver, and countless other artists and poets.
We listen, some of us to On Being, a radio that concerns itself with wisdom in a difficult and rapidly changing world. And I say, thank Goddess for On Being, a show that brings together people for the express purpose of seeking wisdom and striving to perceive wisdom’s whispers and hints of color in our lives.
How many of us, though, think of ourselves as wisdom-seekers? Maybe more than I think. Maybe so.
How many of us, when asked, would answer that we want to be wise? Maybe more than I think. Maybe so.
But I don’t hear us talking about it, Pagans, Unitarian Universalists, the people most common in the circles in which I live and move. Why not? I wonder. It seems almost unfashionable, somehow.
And what is wisdom, anyway?
For my money, wisdom is discernment strained through and fermented by the processes of experience. Wisdom is the virtue of good judgment, of know when to act and when not to act, when to allow non-action to do its work and when to move into the way of wrong. Wisdom is the virtue that combines with compassion sometimes to become the raised hand of saying, “No!” to that which must be stopped.
Wisdom, a virtue that in the tradition in which I came up, is associated with the North, with Earth, with holding or ceding ground as is needful. It is the virtue of knowing what is needful and being willing to choose action or inaction behind that knowing.
Wisdom is not simply knowledge at rest or understanding that chatters away incessantly with one’s peers. Wisdom knows when to be silent and when to let consequences come in the interest of one’s own development or that of others.
I find that I am often afraid of the wisdom of the Fool, of being foolish for God, as they say, or of looking stupid. Even though I know there is great wisdom medicine in those paths, I am terrified of them. I’m sure they will come my way, sooner rather than later. I only hope I am awake enough to see them.
What is it for you? How does it manifest, or how has it manifested in your life and the lives of those whom you admire?
Am I off the mark? Tell me so! I’d love to hear.
And if you’re interested in some of my take on this virtue, I invite you to come to a video meditative journey this coming Monday, September 18, 2017 at 4 pm Pacific time and 7 pm Eastern. Sign up for Turning the Wheel, the group that will get you all the information you need for the call, and join us!
The call will not be long…just long enough to consider the process of autumnal preservation, especially fermentation, that transformative process of turning sweetness into something else. Understanding and knowledge into wisdom. What do we set by for the winter? What are we will to wait for in the name of wisdom?