What is Wisdom
Posted on February 21, 2017

I was intrigued by an article that crossed my desk from an advertising executive who was lamenting the lack of experience in his world. All the older workers had been “excessed” in favor of the young, the “with it” generation and he felt a lack of “context” as he expressed it. I don’t work in advertising, but I agreed with his basic premise that we need some way to grasp where we were, so that where we are or want to go has some bite, some traction.

Of course, my thoughts went biblical, to the concept of wisdom there which has nothing to do with IQs or awards, but rather with knowing how to act in a given situation. Wisdom literature, biblically speaking, includes such books as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, if you have the apocrypha. Each of them devotes chapters to making choices in life by looking before and after, and seeking counsel. One should always choose by following the examples of those who have gone before.

This makes wisdom practical but also supposes that there are wise elders who can be consulted. In the old extended family, there was always someone from another generation to offer a good word. I grew up in a multigenerational household and there was a gift readily available if parents were busy or absent. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, offered more than “When I was young…” stories. They knew about broken hearts and false friends, about “life isn’t fair” and so many issues that one faces in the growth process.

Today, in a nuclear unit or single parent household, or even a full family that never sits down together for a meal, where does youth go to find experience? It is limited. It gets more limited in a child centered world where the voice of youth is the only one heard and the elders bow to its happiness.

Do a bit of wisdom thinking as you come and go. True wisdom isn’t on those report cards that were once so important; it lies in the choices we make that are not always original. Our challenge is to consult the past so that the future is rooted in the richness of the experience of others. Don’t let that wealth be wasted.


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