I've been reading many books, lately, that try to describe what Wisdom is. It seems to be a recurring theme, in my choices.
I use the Serenity Prayer almost every day. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference."
It is the Wisdom part that I have trouble with, at times.
All I know is that I know nothing." ― Socrates
So, this morning, I looked up the study of Wisdom. I found an article on Wisdom written in February of 2004. I discovered the study of Wisdom is sometimes called Sophology. And I read the more Wisdom one thinks one has, the less one really does.
"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom."...Gandhi
I discovered there is a lot of differences in the study of Wisdom. There are religious traditions, there is folk wisdom, there is over-the-fence type wisdom, and there is kitchen table wisdom.
Over-the-fence wisdom seems to deal mainly with gardening; there are also references to philosophical discussions about any subject neighbours wish to discourse upon. Folk Wisdom...well, these are homilies which are familiar to anyone who grew up with families that used them. For instance..."Red sky in the morning, sailors' take warning; Red sky at night, sailors' delight."
There are many such. I discovered that these sayings don't necessarily translate well into English from another language. I remember a lot of these German sayings from my youth; they made perfect sense to me when I was still thinking in the German language, still bound by the German culture; now some of these are just odd.
And yet...there is tradition in these folk sayings. People relate to them. They mean something, something that has been handed down through the ages. I know I don't use folk sayings when I talk with my family; it has been lost to me, this art of having a wise saying right at my fingertips. A saying that would fit any situation with equanimity.
The elder generation committed these folk Wisdoms to memory; I don't remember doing the same.
My favourite way to hand down familial Wisdom is that which is discussed around the family kitchen table. This, to me, is kitchen table Wisdom. This is where my family heard the woes and joys that made up a day; here is where we solved and celebrated them. Here is where we shared and listened.
We still do this tradition, my granddaughter, my daughter and I. One day Graydon, too, will be included, when he is old enough to voice his thoughts and opinions. Even now, his opinions are definitely heard!
On Wednesdays, I travel to my daughter's home, early in the morning. Early enough to visit with my granddaughter for almost an hour, before I drive her to school. And then, I go back and watch my daughter and her son go through their morning routine. It is a highlight of my week; this opportunity to share Wisdom which has been given to me for a relatively short period of time. I intend to use it to the utmost.
It will be over when my daughter returns to teaching, after maternity leave. We will have to be more creative, at this point, to find time to touch each other's Spirit.
"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." ― Plato
Our time together will have to be quality time; the telephone and the computer will be used to continue to share stories. These are the backbone of family heritage...these words we share are important. Regardless of circumstances, we must continue to make time to share the joys and sorrows.
"Certain qualities associated with wisdom recur in the academic literature: a clear-eyed view of human nature and the human predicament; emotional resiliency and the ability to cope in the face of adversity; an openness to other possibilities; forgiveness; humility; and a knack for learning from lifetime experiences." The Older-and-Wiser Hypothesis by Stephan S. Hall
Those life time experiences Mr. Hall mentions in the above quotation are the ones that build around the kitchen table. Sometimes, I feel as if I am floundering, once again going into my head alone. And on Wednesdays, my daughter will take the tangled knots, and straighten them out for me. Wisdom does not only belong to the elders.
Mr. Hall, in his essay in the New York Times, says it is easier to define what Wisdom isn't, rather than what it is. He writes that psychologists, after thirty years of the study of Wisdom, still don't agree on an answer. But he gives a very good account of the beginning and continuing study of Wisdom and why it is essential to the future of society.
Where would I be without the Wisdom contained in the family stories? The stories of experiences in the family and how they were handled, as messy as the telling might be, gives enormous connection to each other. By sharing and questioning, being open to answers, choices become more apparent.
Forgiveness, then, follows from the discussion of the subject, the questions that are answered...the tears that are shed. There is Wisdom in the shared knowledge of the experiences of each other, in similar situations.
Around the kitchen table... this is where family Wisdom grows.
As for the study of Wisdom? Well, as Stephen Hall so aptly writes, the journey may be as enlightening as the destination.
And at the end of all my research, what Wisdom is, and how I learn it, is still a mystery.