On Wisdom

On Wisdom



“Wisdom,” says Joseph Meeker, “is a state of the human mind characterized by profound understanding and deep insight. It is often, but not necessarily, accompanied by extensive formal knowledge. Unschooled people can acquire wisdom, and wise people can be found among carpenters, fishermen, or housewives. Wherever it exists, wisdom shows itself as a perception of the relativity and relationships among things. It is an awareness of wholeness that does not lose sight of particularity or concreteness, or of the intricacies of interrelationships. It is where left and right brain come together in a union of logic and poetry and sensation, and where self-awareness is no longer at odds with awareness of the otherness of the world. Wisdom cannot be confined to a specialized field, nor is it an academic discipline; it is the consciousness of wholeness and integrity that transcends both. Wisdom is complexity understood and relationships accepted.”


This month’s Touchstone Theme explores the depth and possibility afforded us when we take heed of the world of experience, in all its forms; appreciating the interrelatedness of experience, thought and perception as these human responses to stimuli that awaken us to the potential of our own being.  Each of us has wisdom.  Born of the challenges of our own experiences, we each carry pieces of the larger truths that bind us together in life with all living things.   Hear the words of the poet Wendell Berry who writes:


If we will have the wisdom to survive,
To stand like slow-growing trees
On a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
If we will make our seasons welcome here,
Asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
The lives our lives prepare will live
Here, their houses strongly placed
Upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
Rich in the windows. The river will run
Clear, as we will never know it,
And over it, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
Green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
The old forest, an old forest will stand,
Its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
Risen out of the ground. They will take
Nothing from the ground they will not return,
Whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
Native to this valley, will spread over it
Like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is not paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility.


As we enter into a season of rejuvenation, let us all be mindful of the potency of our experiences of joy and pain, of reason and prayerful reflection.  Wisdom may come of any of these.  And there will be stories to tell in return.  May you remember and find ever more creative ways to share your stories.