Wisdom is a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time and energy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom
Proverbs in the Bible is the literature of Wisdom, thought to come mostly from Solomon. It is also thought that it may have been composed as guidance to young men as they entered into manhood.
"What the wicked dreads will overtake him
What the righteous desire will be granted." (Proverbs 10)
Philosophically , wisdom is the best use of knowledge. While freethinkers and others believed it came from pure reason, others believe it comes from intuition or spirituality.
"Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doorway.
For who ever finds me finds life and receives favour from the Lord
But whoever fails to find me, harms himself
All who hate me love death." (Proverbs 8)
Certainly experience is a way to wisdom but hopefully we can learn from others successes and failures. We don't have to reinvent the wheel continuously. Individually and historically we seem to do just that.
The golden rule throughout the world is "do unto others what you would have them do until you" or "do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you."
In social physics this is equivalent to 'gravity'. The dissension and war in the world therefore can be likened to the evidence of any hospital trauma ward. What goes up comes down and while yes with great effort together we can put a man in space more often than not we are Icarus. "Pride goest before a fall." "All the Kings men could not put Humpty together again." So there's the evidence of broken bones, casts, and splints. I am fortunate today to be ambulatory because as an adolescent boy my friends and I being big on folly and low on wisdom thought we'd see how high a building we could jump from without getting hurt too badly. Perhaps had we read proverbs we'd not all have eventually sprained our ankles.
In church, an elder, in his 70's or even 80's, though he was wry and full of wit and had the sparkling eyes of youth, prayed before the congregation, "Thank you God for the pain because it reminds me of all the trials and good times I've had in my life."
My ankle reminds me of the joy of leaping off tall buildings with friends below to pick up the pieces. Naturally I can focus on that final two story or three story jump or I can play the tape back to the silly glee of youth and the foolish belief that we could perhaps defy gravity.
NASA had it's crashes but it worked with extreme caution, we think. Wisdom is that balance between inaction and action. It's a turning point. It's beyond clever.
A task that is given to the aging is to write their own 'obituary' or consider what 'epitaph' one would want on their tombstone. Then consider using the time left in life to meet that goal. Today I don't think I'd have an obituary that said I was a "wise" man. At best I would be considered intelligent. My mother in fact said, I was 'too smart by half" and while I never did quite understand what she meant I know it was not her cryptic way of calling me wise.
I believe most would know that I was a God seeker. I would that I had found Him more or She had caught me more and perhaps then I'd be said to be a "Godly" man. We tend to think of the Godly as wise. At best today I'd be said to be a 'good man' and I know that when I was so pleased with "popularity" I wouldn't have been thought 'good'. To be popular is often to be 'all things to all people' whereas to be 'good' is to make 'moral' judgements which will naturally cause one to be thought poorly of by those who benefit from evil.
"To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech." (Proverbs 8)
Does that sound like the sort who would thrive in the Los Vegas, Hollywood, Washington, Ottawa, or Victoria as portrayed in the media. It strikes me that it would be easier to be 'moral' in Podunk Saskatchewan.
Yet, a couple of hundreds years of medieval church history is a discussion of 'virtue'. If 'chastity' is a virtue, would a girl who is born in a brothel, lives to 30 and dies a virgin be more or less virtuous, than a girl born in an nunnery, lives to 30 and dies a virgin. The culmination of the thought on just this sort of conundrum was that the "virtue untested" is not a 'virtue". Indeed there is a thing called the 'virtue of necessity'.
That our times seem more evil is probably simply because individually and collectively we simply have more power. There's are nuclear weapons and mass media. The interconnectedness of society is such that we're literally always peeing upstream from someone and drinking water downstream from someone else who is peeing. Karey Shinn's endeavours to ensure clean water by her 'Clean Sewage News' speaks to this dilemma. The proud don't care. Consequently they drink a lot of piss and eat a lot of shit because 'what goes around comes around' is a bit of 'wisdom' that affects everything from faeces to political favours.
Ralf Nader was considered one of the squeakiest clean men in America. Car companies spent millions of dollars paying private investigators to find 'dirt' on him. They were unsuccessful. We associated Mother Theresa or St. Theresa and Gandhi with good yet they might not have stood the test that Nader was subjected to. Churchill was never particularly 'wholesome' with his cigars and booze and love or war. Yet , he too is considered wise.
Researchers in the field of positive psychology have defined wisdom as the coordination of "knowledge and experience" and "its deliberate use to improve well being." With this definition, wisdom can supposedly be measured using the following criteria.
- A wise person has self-knowledge.
- A wise person seems sincere and direct with others.
- Others ask wise people for advice.
- A wise person's actions are consistent with his/her ethical beliefs.
I just remember that when I was 20 I wanted to be an "intellectual". I was told I was when I was 30 by the most intellectual of intellectuals I knew. I was surprised then but not now. I know that today I'm not so interested in being 'intellectual' but I'd sure like to be wise. To that end I pray each day for God's guidance. I also seek advice regularly from those I consider wise. I read medical and scientific literature, study the arts, take courses and strive to learn more about what is true. Somedays I actually try to practice the virtues, like 'prudence' which has been equated with wisdom.
The wisdom of Socrates was that he knew what he didn't know and I believe I'm becoming wise each day in my own ignorance.