Sunday, May 15, 2011

What is Wisdom?

So May's theme is wisdom, and the tricky part for me about this month is where to start. How on earth do I describe wisdom? It's one of those know-it-when-I-see-it-(or-experience-it) things. I started out thinking it was knowledge and experience, but it's more than that. There's a depth to the knowledge and experience, and a peace to it, too, that makes wisdom the valuable quality it is.

The dictionary defines wisdom as "knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action." I like that because it combines a way of knowing with a way of being. It tells me that a wise person doesn't just sit up on a mountaintop thinking wise thoughts. She makes wise decisions and lives through wise actions.

I'm taking a philosophy class at the School of Practical Philosophy, which I highly recommend, and we're studying happiness. One of the keys to happiness, the curriculum argues, is wisdom.

So this week in class we talked about the Platonic Virtues, those qualities Plato said are essential to any society's happiness and prosperity. He breaks them down into "divine" virtues and "human" virtues and says that if you go after the divine ones, you'll get the human ones as part of the bargain. However, if you go only for the human ones (without the divine ones), you won't get any of them. (Bummer, right?)

The divine virtues are Wisdom, Temperance, Justice, and Courage. The human virtues are Health, Beauty, Strength, and Wealth. And I can see his point. If we go for beauty with no thought for wisdom or temperance, we'll end up with tv shows like The Swan or little girls who get forced into beauty pageants too young. If we go for strength without wisdom, we get, well, Arnold Schwartzenegger. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Having completed a month on risk, I feel I'm a step ahead in the wisdom category, as I'm already well practiced with courage. And courage is a huge part of wisdom -- being courageous enough to take "right action."

All of this is well and good, but what am I actually DOING to practice wisdom? I'm trying to live fully in the moment and make decisions I won't regret. Sometimes they take a lot more effort than I want to expend at the time, but so far it's really felt worth it. Because if I can live a whole month with no regrets... what a month!

Join me next Sunday, May 22nd at 4pm for a discussion on wisdom! Just call 712.775.7100 and use the participant passcode of 500681# to join.

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