Mar 20, 2009

- Wisdom: The Forgotten Dimension?

Wisdom - what is it and how do you acquire it?
According to Prof. Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swathmore College, wisdom means having moral will and skill.
Wisdom means having the moral will to do right by other people, and to have the moral skill to figure out what doing right means.
This is not a new idea; it is something that Aristotle taught that in ancient Greece.
According to Schwartz, a wise person has four aspects:
  1. A wise person knows how to make an exception to every rule.
  2. A wise person knows how to improvise
  3. A wise person knows how to use these moral skills to serve other people.
  4. A wise person is made not born.
Wisdom depends on experience – but not just any experience. Schwartz lists three important points that are crucial for learning to be wise:
  • You need the time to get to know the people you are serving 
  • You need permission to improvise
  • You need to be mentored by wise teachers
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, wisdom comes with age. So I’ll just wait a while and then I’ll finally be wise.” But is that true? 

Does wisdom come with age?

I think the answer is, “Yes, but…” It’s true that with each day and each year we can learn to become wiser. However, we often ignore the teachings that life offers us. Here is one unforgettable teaching that I nearly ignored – because the teacher happened to be my son who was seven years old at the time.

What is the secret ingredient of wisdom?
I think there is one key ingredient. And it’s not one on Prof. Schwartz’ list.
A wise person takes the overview
The story of Sebastian and the woman begging illustrates that point perfectly. When I walked past that woman, I was pre-occupied with getting the bus. My mind revolved around my anxiety and I wasn’t open to
anything that was happening around me. In contrast, Sebastian took the overview. He could sense that I was anxious and in a hurry, but he could also see the despair and suffering of this woman sitting in the bitter cold and begging for money.
Compassionate action – the outflow of wisdom – happens when we stop being the center of our concern . 
Then we can open up to a wider view of reality that includes the suffering of others, as well as our  own – and  respond with compassion.


1 comment:

GREEN said...

in a different way

When I was very young I discovered that,
for me, a journey is the best way to learn. I still
have this pilgrim’s soul to this day, and have decided
to relate some of the lessons I have learned,
in the hopes that they will be useful to other likeminded

1] Avoid museums. This advice may seem
absurd, but let us reflect a little together: if you
are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting
to seek out the present, than the past? Usually,
people feel obliged to go to museums, because
ever since they were small they have been told
that traveling is a search for this type of culture.

Of course museums are important, but they require
time and objectivity - you need to know
what it is you want to see there, otherwise you
will come away with the impression that you saw
several things which are fundamental to your life,
but cannot remember what they were.

2] Frequent bars. Unlike museums, this is
where the life of the city can be found. Bars are
not discotheques, but places where the people gather
to have a drink, pass the time, and are always
willing to chat. Buy a newspaper and observe the
bustle of people coming and going. If someone
speaks to you, strike up a conversation, however
banal: one cannot judge the beauty of a path merely
by looking at its entrance.

3] Be open and forward. The best tourist
guide is someone who lives there, knows everything,
but doesn’t work at a travel agency. Go
out into the street, choose someone you wish to
speak to, and ask him or her for directions (where

is such-and-such a cathedral? Where is the post
office?) If this bears no fruit, try someone else - I
guarantee that in the end you will find excellent

4] Try and travel alone, or - if you are married
- with your spouse. It will be harder work, no
one will be looking after you, but this is the only
way of truly leaving your country. Group travel is
just a disguised way of pretending to go abroad,
where you speak your own language, obey the
leader of the pack, and concern yourself more
with the internal gossip of the group than with
the place you are visiting.

5] Don’t compare. Don’t compare anything
- not prices, nor cleanliness, nor quality of life,
nor means of transport, nothing! You are not
traveling in order to prove you live better than
others - your search, in fact, is to find out how
others live, what they have to teach, how they
view reality and the extraordinary things in life.

6] Understand that everyone understands
you. Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t
be afraid: I have been in many places in which
there was no way of communicating with words,
and I always found support, guidance, important
suggestions, even girlfriends. Some people think
that if you travel alone, you will go out into the
street and be lost forever. All you need is the hotel
card in your pocket, and - should you find
yourself in extreme circumstances - take a taxi
and show it to the driver.

7] Don’t buy much. Spend your money on
things which you won’t have to carry: good theater,
restaurants, walks. Nowadays, with the global
market and the Internet, you can have everything
you want without having to pay for excess baggage.
8] Don’t try and see the world in a month.
It is better to stay in one city for four or five days,
that visit five cities in a week. A city is like a Capri-
cious woman, who needs time to be seduced and
reveal herself completely.

9] A journey is an adventure. Henry Miller
said that it is far more important to discover a
church no one has heard of, than go to Rome and
feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel, with two
hundred thousand tourists shouting all around
you. Go to the Sistine Chapel, but also get lost
in the streets, wander down alleyways, feel free to
look for something, without knowing what it is. I
swear you will find it and that it will change your

- You have learned far more than was taught
you - he said. - You concentrated yourself enough
to win, were capable of fighting for that which
you desire. Then, you had compassion, and were
willing to make a sacrifice in the name of a noble
cause. Welcome to the monastery, because you
know how to balance discipline with compassion.

Author: Pauolo Coelho

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