On Wisdom

stunning_photographs_05 Wisdom and caution are often expressed as synonymous ideas.

Some would say to be wise is to be measured, calm, soft-spoken and to be a better listener than a talker. To have carefully considered all the options and arrived at a 'balanced' and inoffensive conclusion. But what is wisdom when faced with someone who is violent right now, right in front of me? Or what about when that friend with a pattern of addiction is on the other end of the phone threatening to take actions that might be destructive to them or to others right this second? Wisdom in this case is courage to take action decisively and immediately based on the little information we have. Sometimes wisdom isn't typified by a thoughtful sigh, but by bloodied knuckles that engaged thoughtfully, but under urgency.

Far beyond some of the dramatic examples I've listed above I wonder about the number of opportunities lost by those who would, in wisdom, consider all the options until many of them have evaporated before their eyes and they're left with less than they began with. Perhaps wisdom would call them to choose something before they instead lost everything. Wisdom is often the word we use to make cowardice look like integrity and indecisiveness look like honour. I'm wondering if wisdom is the comfort of knowing that there are few actions that can't be undone, hurt feelings that can't be mended, and apologies that can't be made if we've been a little too hasty.

What about our picture of wisdom were to change? Less like a white-bearded man and more like a fiery red-headed woman of no more than 18 years old. What if her convictions led her to decide that a wise decision is to stand at the front of picket lines against the unwise decisions of policy-makers? Perhaps her carefully-considered opinion puts her at odds with her family and the predominant social norms? Perhaps she knows that having $500,000 bound up in bank debt on a mortgage is really no 'wiser' than spending the little she has on encountering people in other nations whose stories look nothing like hers. Is she youthful, naive and ignorant - or is she the recapturing of true wisdom?

I may be too young to know most things, but I know one thing: Wisdom and inaction are incompatible. Wisdom is a person, and he calls us ever onward.