THE WORD SEEMS ESOTERIC to many people; indeed, it can mean many different things, and I dare say there are a lot of variations on the definitions people would give for it. It has been sought by peoples and written about in all sorts of circles for millenniums. From the spiritual to the philosophical, to the practical worldly wisdom, and now to today’s form of knowledge management, Wisdom has captivated and intrigued many a heart. It still remains however; Wisdom is something tangible, unique, and inspiring. So, let us take a broad look at it.
Wisdom is timeless. The Bible tells us that Wisdom existed before God created the world; that wisdom, the embodiment of truth and the natural law, was ‘written’ or designed prior to the concept of a worldly Creation(including the creation of ‘beings’). I suppose it is like recognising that things have always been the way they’ve always been; like the law of cause and effect: Do one thing and you might expect a certain outcome-that sort of thing. Wisdom from this viewpoint is the way things invariably work out-not always, but most of the time, with a certain level of predictability. From this perspective, it’s reliable, and it is truth; it is the way.
Wisdom is truth. Think about it: Could you substitute the word Wisdom for Truth and vice versa? I have tried this a little in the recent past and found it works most of the time. Ah, another word that is hard to define! Truth. Truth seems to have very many varied definitions. For example, we have objective and subjective truth. Objective truth is absolute, irrefutable and works basically 100 percent of the time; subjective truth, for one example, is something we human beings hold from our experience; as evidenced by our perceptions-it is partly true, but never wholly true as our experience is limited. This is why we hold such slightly different views to others around us. There is no one of us that agrees with one other all of the time; even married couples and best friends have disagreements-we hold different ‘truths’.
Wisdom from a ‘universal law’ position is truth because it works out that way most, if not all the time. Given enough time for one particularly outcome to emerge, it does. Viewed this way, Truth can also be seen as Wisdom, because of its reliability and longevity. It’s worked that way for thousands of years. The truth always intrigues us; why do some seemingly vague and non-objective truths seem to work out, over time?
Like the ‘law’ (or Wisdom) of sowing and reaping. We know why good things come back to us; it’s generally because people we’re relating with want to return a kindness we’ve extended, but there are so many factors that cloud the predictability of the actual outcome. We spiritual beings know it as truth and believe in it and practice it. People who are not so spiritual do not necessarily believe in it and therefore do not recognise it as truth in the same way.
In this way, truth and wisdom often also require faith. We don’t know that something, an action we do, will turn out well, but we do it in faith; and our faith must be ‘big enough’ to cope with the eventual disappointment of not seeing the action turn out the way we’d intended it to. Our faith is repaid most of the time, or even some of the time. The person with the biggest faith continues to act (in wisdom and in faith) with almost the complete absence of reason to continue-for all intents and purposes, the act is not working. So, in this situation, Wisdom (which is truth) is added to faith, in the form of an act or series of acts, toward a goal-we could call this applied Wisdom.
Wisdom is applied knowledge. This leads us to the most common definition of Wisdom: worldly wisdom. Truth (knowledge: knowing truth) added to faith (application: the act of acting) equals wisdom. It is only wise if it turns out that way-the “proof is in the pudding” as they say. This seems to be the best basic world understanding of the term Wisdom. It is like the best question ever: “What is the wise thing to do in this situation?” If we were to ask ourselves that more frequently, there would be a lot less pain in the world, because we would add faith to our knowledge and act in diligence-doing what we can do, or we’d add knowledge to our faith and be more prudent.
In this way, wisdom is applying the things we know as truth, the more-or-less objective or semi-objective truth; it happens this way nearly all the time. This takes courage and discipline and a range of other character qualities.
Wisdom is applying common sense. Wise living must be the goal of every sensible human being-it is the way of common sense. Common sense is said to be ‘not very common’! but in actual fact it is common; it seems not to be common because we humans are so fraught with failing-it is our nature to fail occasionally.
Living wisely is applying common sense and discipline via the values of diligence and prudence; it is seeing the world from the standpoint of shalom, which is from a state of tranquillity, peace, personal wholeness, and comfort-with-self; it is being in a state of balance-time, energy, and priorities all in line and optimised beautifully; it is having the capacity to trust sufficiently in the outcome-faith as mentioned previously; and finally, it is based upon a firm foundation of respect: because we feel in our acting that it is right and just and fair, honourable, and considerate.
Wisdom needs a stack of virtues to support its weight. Try these six above (diligence, prudence, shalom, balance, trust and respect) and see if Wisdom will stand for you-all of these virtues share an interdependence with Wisdom. There is no better reward for life itself than endeavouring the ‘wise way’. Wisdom is the very best thing to invest in.
© 2007 Steve Wickham