Wisdom (written 2018)
If you cast your mind back, if you try to remember, can you find a time in the past when you believed some day you would be wise? For me, as a child, I imagined this magical quality was inevitably developed by everyone. Somehow, adults were wise and though I couldn't put my finger on how they achieved this, I was convinced that it happened. They were wise, they were certain, and they were courageous. I didn't come to doubt this all at once. What I first doubted was “me”. That I'd missed the boat or the door or the turn in the path or the secret instructions. When I grew a little older, I began to see the bafflement in everyone's eyes. That's when I caught on. Wisdom is different than that. Certainty isn't attainable. And courage means something different than I first thought.
I'm hopeful again about the possibility of accessing my own “wisdom”, and while I'm more sparing in terms of who I describe as wise, I still have faith in this quality. Instead of something to be reached or achieved, I see it now as something we're born with, but might never discover. It's like a birthmark hidden by the hair on your head, or the hard to scratch itch between your shoulder blades, or being able to count the points of a snowflake that lands on our warm palm before it melts away. We never see it, or we can't quite touch it, or we don't think it's possible so we don't try, or we never think of trying in the first place. I thought wisdom was part and parcel of knowledge once. So knowledge gave birth to certainty and made courage possible. But now I know this is a mistake.
We need the “wanna” to see through to our own wisdom, and we need tremendous courage and persistence. We might need a mirror or outside help. We need to pay attention. And we have to let go of doubt. Wisdom might be a fleeting thing, like a rainbow, that we catch glimpses of when conditions are right or, in time, it might be like a new sense door opening. A view on the world we couldn't imagine before. But I believe it is worth pursuing, because I believe that wisdom is either the key to the heart or the heart the key to wisdom. Maybe they are like the yin and yang symbol, halves of a whole, each incomplete without the other. We love incompletely without wisdom. Our wisdom is frail and temporary without love.
What has me thinking of all this? My own practice, as always. The ongoing commitment to clear seeing, to kindness and harmlessness, to living in peace and harmony. And the deeper and deeper conviction that this comes down to letting go of what I mistakenly have believed is real for as long as my memory goes back: me. In every instance when a negative emotion arises, whether it's anger or sadness or fear, I find “me” at the center. Protecting what and who I think I am and what is mine. Wisdom flickers like a guttering candle each time I see this, but keeping it burning is more difficult.
Around me I look at the other “adults” who are running the world. I've wondered outloud how the world could be such a dangerous and divided place. But then I look at the divisions and the dangers in my own heart. We act and we speak without wisdom because we are confused. And we can't or we don't take time out to sort the confusion because we are caught in the momentum of action and speech that began long before “we” did.
I don't have the answer for others or for the world. But here, in this heart, I know the answer is to be a little stiller, a little quieter about my views, a little more willing to take the time to look for and nurture both the wisdom and the love that is there. And sometimes when I'm successful, there are lovely moments of opening doors and clear vistas. Sometimes wisdom's candle lightens the dark, so that courage is possible even without certainty and I can see the next step clearly, if not beyond. That's the one I'm living, after all...now and then now.