Monday, May 14, 2007

Wiser and Bolder

What is wisdom? What makes us wise? Is it age? Is it experience? Or is it both? Or is it none of the above?

I recently read in an article that certain qualities associated with wisdom that recur in academic literature are:

1. Clear-eyed view of human nature and the human predicament.
2. Emotional resiliency and the ability to cope in the face of adversity.
3. Openness to other possibilities.
4. Forgiveness.
5. Humility.
6. Knack for learning from lifetime experiences.

The article also mentions that for the wise action is important, and so is judicious inaction. Emotion is central to wisdom, yet detachment is essential

This got me thinking about our culture and the distorted notions of dignity, honor, respect, etc. Are these stifling artificial blocks that we have imposed on ourselves that are keeping us miles away from even getting close to becoming wise?

Simon Clayton, a researcher on wisdom identified in her dissertation three general aspects of human activity that were central to wisdom:

1. Cognitive: The acquisition of knowledge.
2. Reflective: The analysis of that knowledge (information).
3. Affective: The filtering of information through emotions.

I find this a powerful insight in my attempt to understand beliefs and practices that I might find dysfunctional, counterproductive, and even uncivilized. A brief application of the above three aspects of wisdom into our current state of affairs and we soon find that we are far far away from being wise. The sad news is that it seems we have even missed the first stop, which happens to be the very acquisition of knowledge and the very caliber of the knowledge we are busy acquiring.

The more I think of wisdom, the more I am convinced that it is closely related to civility. It is what brings us closer to our humanity. It is what gives us the balance and the compassion to really start making a meaningful difference in life.

As long as we cling to centuries old notions of false values that we all know are intended to protect an outdated status quo for fear of change, I am afraid we will only be harboring a culture that nurtures spineless cowards whose souls are outdated and outmaneuvered.


Mimo said...

I totally subscribe to this and love your conclusion on the very subject of wisdom; civility and humility have a lot to do with it, since without them you can never get to the real and genuine cognitive stage of the process; stage no. 1 is so very important to acquire, and is the stage that most of us believe they have it in their blood, by birth. This is where arrogance, stubbornness and blind faith comes in place and stands in the way of true wisdom!

Farah said...

so would you agree that wisdom can be acquired by a thirst for knowledge followed by curious practice leading to the emotional ability to learn from the lifetime experiences of your own as well as others, and in turn taking all of this with an open mind and practicing a meditative process of change or action?

Because if so, it means that wisdom comes down to much control of the mind. A repetitve voice in your head that reminds you of certain points when waking life deceives you with shallow,blind,materialisitic habits.

Which comes to confirm your conclusion that in order to obtain at least a whiff of bold wisdom,one must excercise the mind with both exestential and factual information.

As Emerson said 'Infancy conforms to nobody'..we must never lose the childlike search for lifes answers on how to live it in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Tallouza said...

Mimo: Thanks! Lack of openness to other possibilities and to understanding the unfamiliar are the very culprits that are keeping us from really seeking knowledge in the true sense of the word. Life goes on and we find ourselves watching while everyone is passing us by. Herd mentality does not come from void:-)

Farah: Welcome to Tallouza! Wow! How do I begin to answer this one? What comes first wisdom or self control? I think both feed off of each other. The beauty of it all is that this is a continuous dynamic process. It is a continuing evolution of one’s soul, being, and character. We are fallible, weak at times with temptations of things we might even dislike deep down inside. The trick is to be true to one’s self and to admit it, face it, deal with it, learn from it, and then MOVE ON. It is a dialectical process and we are constantly synthesizing and transcending various realities in the pursuit of truth and ultimately wisdom. That's my story and I am sticking to it :-) Loved the Emerson quote. You should listen to Randy Crawford's song "Almaz"...It talks about Emerson's refreshing innocence when it comes to love.