What is true wisdom?

by the sea

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” ~ Socrates

The writer, poet and I work pretty well here on most days. But not today. Today I am not cooperating. There’s been a significant shift.

Experience and study are supposed to give you answers and clarity. And they do, but they also deliver cartloads of new questions and mysteries at your doorstep. The more you study and analyze experience, the more you live and strive to be mindful in living, the more frequent and massive the deliveries.

The words of Socrates sank in today, after hovering above me for a while in recent weeks. It’s true that I figured some things out in my life and have been sharing my thoughts with much love and hope to inspire others in their own journeys. But at the end of the day, regardless of my strong opinions at times, I’ve been realizing more and more that the more I know, the less I know.

I was watching an ‘inspirational/motivational’ clip today delivered by a successful woman with a perfect smile, and it shocked me even more than usual how  some people, for whatever reasons, are (or at least appear to be) so full of certainty, which they then manage to sell with great confidence. All of these motivational gurus speak of what they learned, how they matured and developed strategies for creating a fabulous life.

But as I’m advancing in my studies and personal journey, I’m finding that instead of reaching these grand, elaborate conclusions, I get closer and closer to simplicity, and a deeper appreciation for modesty and silence. I struggle more and more to come up with those one-size-fits-all conclusions.

In ‘growing up’ and getting older, I am also not finding the priorities which seem to go with ‘maturity’. Instead, I’m seeing more and more value in playfulness, creativity, spontaneity, and the simple wisdom of children. I enjoy fairy-tales more…not less. Life appears to me more magical and mysterious than ever. Relationships and connection are that much more important. And the more I know, be it through images, poetry, psychology or spirituality, the more I wonder.

And so, on a practical level, I find myself less and less able to come up with recipes for success or problem-solving strategies. When I put together coaching materials, it starting to feel like I’m editing grocery store flyers, looking to attract customers with the weekly specials. So I’m not doing it anymore.

Which means that should you come to me stressed and confused about your life, instead of handing you an instruction sheet for how to prioritize, I’m inclined to tell you to go outside and just walk barefoot on the grass for a while. Or get a coloring book, make lemonade, and spend the day coloring…with crayons, going over the lines.

Should you have relationship issues, instead of offering you a list of communication strategies and self-help books to read, I’d hand you a few words by Hafiz“The Earth would die if the sun stopped kissing her” and send you off to a park with your partner…so you can walk and sit under a tree together, so you can eat cotton candy, hold hands and look at the clouds. I’d send you to an art gallery and tell you to watch Shrek Forever After and throw popcorn at each other and laugh.

For parenting concerns, I’d suggest you grab your kids for a day and just cuddle with berries and chocolate on the couch…watch TV and laugh, listen to what’s important to them without trying to teach anything, or follow a schedule of useful activities. I’d tell you to apologize for your mistakes and talk to your children about being human…share your dreams, ask about theirs.

So yes, this would be my wisdom. And to be honest, it scares me a bit, because it’s not what people seem to expect. I didn’t expect it. I’ve spent my whole life striving to climb this great mountain, and it feels like I got to the top only to discover the view up here is no more spectacular or miraculous than what one sees looking at a single blade of grass or a raindrop that lingers on a leaf.

The idea that there is one ‘true’ wisdom seems oppressive and comical at the same time. It’s like the statement “there is no such thing as absolute truth”. And perhaps it’s also not accurate to say that I or anyone else doesn’t know anything. Maybe it’s more about knowing some things and no longer feeling the need to package and sell the knowledge to oneself or others.

Maybe this ‘true’ wisdom is about each of us being ok with who we are, loving more and living simply, taking more time to look and feel, rather than earn and achieve. Maybe it’s about worrying less, and connecting more. Maybe it’s about trusting and working with the mystery, rather that trying to find answers before taking a step. (Yes, even in a world that requires of us to learn the art of the fake smile, superficial conversation, selective honesty and detachment at times.)

Maybe ‘true’ wisdom is always a beginning, a shift into a very bright and humble place. It seems to fit with something else Socrates said:

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” 

One Comment Add yours

  1. P Bogomil says:

    Wisdom DEFINITELY begins in Wonder.


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