In a New Yorker cartoon a woman is standing in a bedroom doorway. In the room is her husband still holding the chainsaw he has taken to the furniture in the room: the bed is now cut in half, a lamp has been dismembered and various little tables have been reduced to various little pieces. All over the walls are hastily painted words and phrases “You ruined my life! Evil! Wasted years! Hate hate hate! I hate you so much! We have nothing in common!” The husband has turned toward the woman in the doorway and is saying, “I’m so sorry, I never meant for you to find out this way.” Clearly, he did mean for her to find out; his need to appear considerate of her seems to indicate that he is actually the one who does not want to find out! Sometimes, we sprinkle the glitter of civility over what we say in order to hide a deeper and sometimes ugly truth, and in doing so we cooperate in our keeping us ignorant of something within our heart which needs to become known.
I can’t remember where I came across this saying: “We romanticize that our elders are wise because of their years of experience. But you know what… stupid people get old too.” In other words… everyone gets old but not everyone gets wise! Wisdom is not a commodity that one buys at a big-box store, and yet it does have to be paid for by our trying to understand the truth behind what is seen, said, and done. It has also been said, by someone unknown to me, that “The less people know, the more stubbornly they know it!” Ignorance is an understandable state of affairs in a child, but in an adult… not so much! Having arrived at old age and having not learned some of Life’s lessons should not be considered an accomplishment! In order for us to grow in wisdom we have to be willing to learn the truth of things, beginning with our own truth!
I have known people who equate Wisdom with becoming academically accomplished, and yet sometimes such an academic seems to simultaneously manifest a puzzling and contradictory stupidity… Sheldon of “The Big Bang Theory” being a prime example. Others say that the path to Wisdom is found in the struggle between good and evil. I would suggest that the struggle to become wise is actually a struggle between “good” and “better”, a struggle to move forward and to evolve. While books and courses can certainly contribute to that evolution, a degree does not automatically bestow Wisdom; sometimes, the nitty gritty of life can also teach us what we need to know… if we pay attention!
There is a scene in the series “Third Rock From The Sun” in which Sally says of her cop-boyfriend, “Don’s been waiting all this time and I’ve been ignoring his needs. What’s wrong with me?” Her toughened, street-wise landlady Mrs. Dubcek replies, “Nothing that a pint of bourbon and a cheap motel room won’t fix!” Sometimes, the path to Wisdom can even wend its way through cheap motel rooms! Sometimes the discomfort of “I didn’t mean for you find out this way” can enlighten us. When we are “old”… how do we want to be? Do we want to continue being befuddled by life, or do we want to have grown in some Wisdom? Whichever it is we can be certain that how we take the journey today will bring us to where we arrive. Mrs. Dubcek’s advice for the journey: forget the glitter!
What did you find out today?