I find it very disheartening that so many individuals with good intent treat wisdom as though it was a commodity. Others believe that there is a formula to becoming wise. And the idea that men of wealth, Billionaires, must be wise since they are the most successful individuals on this planet, well, that concept is a very far stretch of the imagination. Perhaps we need to explore the concept of wisdom, ask a few questions of ourselves. The first and most obvious question is: What is Wisdom? Ah, now there’s the rub, for wisdom, whether with a capital ‘W’ or a small one, is many things to different individuals. Saving money for one’s retirement years has always been considered wise. Seeking peace of mind (or inner peace) is another goal. Taking time out to smell the roses along one’s travel through life is another act of wisdom. The list is endless.
Wisdom can be habits that provide some measure of happiness or success. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Good old Franklin to the rescue. Living in the Now, which has a myriad of meanings, is another practice often cited as wise. But is all habituation good? I know there are those who will pillar me for stating that all addiction abuse is based on habitual behavior but it is, none the less, true. This is not to confuse obsessive compulsive behavior or OCD with habits such as drug addiction. The two are different cases. But the fact of the matter is that we form habits in life and do so from our early age. Mothers try to instill what they consider good habits in our childhood. We learn to pick up after ourselves, eat our meals, go to sleep at the proper time, and so on. As adults we form our habits to suit the behaviors needed to earn a living and raise a family. Our days are filled with accumulated habits and those habits are often times changed through the course of our lives. And when we retire we need to change or stop some of them. So, good habits can be considered wise habits and bad habits can be considered unwise habits. Writers such as Marcus Aurelius provide the concepts, the principles, the guidance we may need to form good habits and avoid bad ones.
That a man’s desire should exceed his reach is another part of wisdom. Goal oriented behavior is often seen as having some wisdom to it. The ideal of seeking to become mindful or spiritual or any other inward attainment is often called seeking wisdom. Few of us are able to sell all we have and then follow a spiritual teacher but we can make the decision to lead a more inner directed life. Not that an inner directed life is any more wise than an outer directed life. It is merely the differences of judgment as exercised by all individuals throughout their lives. One attends formal learning institutions so to obtain that piece of paper necessary to convince others that one is worthy of hire.this is an outward directed living. A goal that obtains practical knowledge and legitimacy for use in the world. True, we may attend such formal institutions so as to obtain and Education as we might understand that term, but sometimes this ideal is not all that it is purported to be. Perhaps what we really want is that sense of learning and understanding that comes from a life spent in the love of learning, of finding things out for ourselves, in that continuous discovery of knowledge and thought. The world is my oyster and I seek to understand it through obtaining knowledge of its parts and thinking on what I have learned. Is this not wisdom? In this case wisdom is a by product, a grace that comes through doing.
We must consider the sellers of the wisdom of correct decision making. Often we call such individual consultants, whether in business or religion or secular humanities. They are really all the same. They sell belief. We can improve our decisions in business if we do certain things such as eliminate bias and do better research. Perhaps they will give us a few mathematical tools to aide our decision makings. We may wish to compute our probabilities and engage in some manner of statistical analysis. Or should we try to change our self image and attempt to present to others a new identity, a kinder or more honest or more open individual. Perhaps we may try to adopt leadership characteristics that have proven successful in other leaders. We may call this wisdom as change, that alter route not taken before now. So we seek to change our thinking and our personalities so as to reflect this new found wisdom. For that change we hire those who purport to have the expertise in this new type of wisdom. Only they know the cant, the formulas, the correct methods. Perhaps I am a bit cynical.
I am sure that we can find a few more ways of looking at this thing called Wisdom. And there are those who treat this ideal as a commodity, as a unit of production with a shelf life. Here, take a few cans of it and stock you cupboard against any future shortage. One might even corner the market on it if one has enough money. I am sure that Bill Gates has warehouses full of it. Alright, now I am certainly being very cynical. My point is that we can only pursue wisdom obliquely, as a course of action engages in living our lives. Will we always make the right decisions? Of course not. Will we always cultivate the best habits? No, not in our fondest dreams. We become wise to the degree that we seek to do for ourselves and occasionally others what we believe is right. And when we fail, and when we question our actions and beliefs, we gain new opportunities to follow that path to wisdom. No one ever gets wisdom right the first time and no one ever becomes wise immediately. This ideal of wisdom is a path we walk every day by discovery, for it is not a well marked path. Think of yourself as an explorer is a wild and unknown land. The enjoyment is in the discovery.