Monday, December 19, 2011
Wisdom and the Light of Truth
I march along, blinded by the light of truth
Shining from the inside out, it guides my way
I see so clearly within the distance
Of my mind, that I fail to hear
The truths of others
And I walk alone in silence.
Blinded by the light of truth
I stumble and I fall
Each step I take less certain
Unknowing that the light I see
Is nothing but a curtain.
I think this is where wisdom comes in. First we can ask what wisdom is about. Often, it is assumed that wisdom becomes a natural consequence of aging and education. However, wisdom is not the same as intelligence, according to the Max Planck Institute. A person may know a great deal about physics but be unable to maintain personal relationships or social interest. We have opportunities to improve the ways we manage our lives, make plans for the future, and think about things we have done in the past as we age. [i]
A working definition will be the “…power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, and understanding.”
Many people, including a lot of us older persons, believe that as we age we tend to live more and more in the past because earlier life events mean more to us. Yet most people, regardless of their age, have fond memories. So why should older people spend more time in the past than younger people? Memories, both positive and negative are useful because they help us act in the here and now as well as future. But releasing preoccupation with the “good old days” or the imagined future helps us focus our experience on the here and now. That’s not to say that the past means nothing. We can learn from it, without living in it.
According to Wille Nelson, an American musician and community activist who is now 76-years-old, to act wisely we must “Be here. Be present. Wherever we are, be there.”
[i] This material was adapted from the Manual For the Assessment of Wisdom-Related Knowledge produced by The Max Plank Institute for Human Development and Education Berlin 1994