Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wisdom, An Endangered Quality


    I majored in philosophy in college.  The word itself translates as, "love of wisdom".  But, the term 'wisdom' itself is less clear.  Looking at various dictionaries online, I see that it is one of those words that is tricky, so they have done cute little tricks like,"...the quality of being wise".  Or they just resort to using synonyms, like 'sagacity'.  This gets a little silly.  Okay, says I, what is 'wise'?

   Well, it's a bit like some other hard to nail down qualities, like 'love' or 'truth'.  One can dance around, trying to gain some sense of it.  How would you define it to a non-English speaker, for instance?  In the end, you may well end-up saying, "Well, it's just one of those things that you know when you experience it." Aside: you can't really 'see' it, so witnessing it is about as close as we can get to 'knowing' it.

  I have had the wonderful privilege of being in the company of several truly 'wise' people this lifetime. She'll give me a roll of the eyes for saying it, but, my wife, Abigail is wise. Okay, not always...but, she most frequently has a handle on what will work best and also be the 'right thing' to do in any given situation.  My tendency is to react emotionally and launch a diatribe against the insults, injustices, un-kindnesses and just plain wrong things that we are encountering seemingly every day now.

  The actual application of 'wisdom' to any situation or problem is one of those things that, again, makes itself known by the result it achieves.  When confronted by a difficult ethical situation, where right and wrong are not just a simple and obvious way forward, a truly wise person will come up with something that seems to both recognize not only what the conflict is, but also what constitutes a reasonable response to it.  It uses more than logic, more than massive applied thinking.  The Heart Quality is in the mix.  

Compassion personified

   Okay, but what does that feel like?  It means that in considering all the possible ways of responding to a difficult problem, one must necessarily include compassion, or the ability to apprehend what both sides are feeling and even why they are feeling that way.  'Empathy' is another term that the dictionaries tend to dance around.   But, like 'compassion' it means that we can step out of our own, limited and usually skewed viewpoint, and understand that of another person....even when we may disagree vehemently with it.

 A truly wise person is not given to fits of egoic pique.  They are able to remain centered and feel the heart quality that is either missing or present, and by doing this, a wise person comes to a conclusion that will address opposing views with equal consideration.  Wisdom is a kind of compassionate overview of any given problem or situation.  We know it when we experience it first hand.  When a person is strongly invested in their own opinion being 'right' and is unwilling to even consider any others that are not in line with it....that is the functional opposite of being wise. It has earned little respect in that regard, often being described as 'pig-headed', 'stubborn', 'opinionated' and on and on.  We tend to not respect people when they act this way.  

  And, when we encounter a person who is able to rise above the differences and distinctions that divide people, we....most of us, anyway....recognize that as 'being wise'.  

  Ruth Bader Ginsberg, bless her, spent her entire professional life demonstrating compassion and wisdom.  She cared about the plight of the women and minorities in this society, and her interpretations of the Constitution were heavily flavored by that caring.

  Then we have the opposite in play.  You already know I am going to use the man I fondly refer to as 'The Idiot' as an example.  Donald J. Idiot is missing a large part of his personality that would render him a decent human being.  I'm sorry. It's just NOT THERE.   He revels in other peoples' pain, and has, in fact, demonstrated distinctly sadistic tendencies.  HE VISIBLY ENJOYS THE SUFFERING of anybody he has decided is his enemy....and that is anybody who dares to disagree with him.

A Mind is a precious thing to lose.

  He is unable to tell the truth and almost never does.  If he does, it is usually by accident, as when he said to Bob Woodward that he actually did know the virus was extremely deadly....all the while telling the American people that it was a 'hoax' , would pass quickly and no really effective prevention measures were necessary.  He lies because he thinks it will advance his personal gain more power and booty, i.e. re-election at present. 

   For his knuckle-draggers, lying is not a problem.  Hell, they probably do it too, so why would they hold their idol to a higher standard?  The evangelicals don't seem to mind that Donny boy is a life-time skirt chaser and violator of women, their bodies and their rights. He's a philanderer, adulterer, and general sleaze-ball....none of it is a problem for people who claim that they are practicing Christians and have a high moral standard themselves. 

  But, do they really?  How can they make a claim for their own moral uprightness and also embrace the leadership of such a down and rotten dirt-ball?  I still don't get it.  Hypocrisy is so rife throughout the GOP that perhaps they don't even recognize it anymore.  A good example at the present time, is this latest series of events that has unfolded after the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg....where Moscow Mitch McConnell completely reversed his 2016 declaration that supreme court justices should be picked by the people, and not by a lame duck president.  Really?   Turtle-man is so morally corrupt that he couldn't find his conscience if it literally bit him in the ass.  And, it will.,....sooner or later, at some point before his soul leaves his body, Ol' Moscow Mitch will realize that he's been a turd of a human being.  He may have beaten his conscience into submission for now....but it will rise at the proper moment and he will see the truth of his misdeeds.

  What we're experiencing an entire a dearth of Wisdom. It's out there in isolated cases, like RBG, but, for the most part people are just arguing for their own viewpoint, and rejecting any and all others.  We are divided now more than we have been at any time since the Civil War...and, as a result of being absolutely unwilling to even allow opposing views to exist, we are headed for a scenario that will quite possibly turn into something of a modern Civil War...our very own National Nightmare.

  When wisdom, and its integral quality Compassion have gone....violence is the most frequent path that awaits us.  To exacerbate the situation, we are a very heavily armed society.  No, I am not saying that we need to try and disarm America. That will never happen; we are way too far down the path of an armed citizenry to reverse it now.  And, we should not have to do that either.  

   If people can stop thinking that their opinion is the only one worth considering, and that all those who disagree with them are the 'enemy' other words, if people--at least a larger segment of us--can manage to rediscover what it means to be wise, and to demonstrate compassion, then there is a chance that we will avoid turning toward the Dark-Side and violence.  

  But, for many decades, I have felt that it would take some very painful and difficult circumstances to motivate such a change.  As my wife says frequently:  "It needs to break-down before we can fix it." And, it may just be that the Idiot has been sent to do just that: instigate chaos and all hell breaking loose.

 The question is:  how far down the path of self-destruction do we have to go before we realize that it is a bad choice and we decide to make some changes for the better?

No comments: