UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM

I have dredged up an old journal entry on the subject, from about 3 years ago…It’s a little disjointed, but can start the process of exploring the idea.

UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM

So there is a combination of time and understanding that leads to wisdom.

I want so much to do the right thing. I want to look at any given situation and see through all the details and confusion to the perfect action. I love to take action. I love to take up my sword and shield and attack the dragon, kill it, and impress the whole village. It feels so GOOD to conquer evil and fight entropy. Sometimes I fight things that don’t even need killing. And sometimes I fight things that can’t be killed.

But I am finding that taking action is best done after I take a look at the situation. I have discovered that I need to gather some data before I run off half-cocked. I need to stop and take stock of the situation. I need to know that I understand the problem.

I also find that while I can sometimes define the problem, I can’t necessarily figure out the solution to the problem.

So I suppose the first step in understanding is understanding what it is that I’m even trying to understand. I have to stop and define the problem.. I have to pin down what it is that is really going on. I see all sorts of symptoms of a problem, but that doesn”t mean that I am aware of the cause of this problem. Often, it takes a lot of digging and contemplation and discussion with friends and writing and despair to find the root.

Sometimes, I think I have found the symptoms, the root and the solution all at once. Then I go to sleep, wake up and discover that I was completely off base. And I have to start again. I’ve begun to tell myself, “Hey, that’s what you ar thinking NOW, but tomorrow you will think something completely different. And next month will be totally changed again.”

So, finding the cause is really hard. And then, it isn’t even always useful, to pursue finding the cause. There are certain things, problems whose symptoms are the problem, and it doesn’t matter in the least what the root of the problem is.

Like when I was 8. I sucked my thumb. I was far too old to suck my thumb. Now, my parents could have had me psycho-analysed to discover the root cause of my thumb-sucking habit. But what happened was, one day, at eight years old, I decided to stop. Just like that. I never sucked my thumb again.

In that case, the cause was more or less unimportant. I just needed to stop.

Sometimes, though, digging deep to find and understand the cause is really important. Sometimes, you aren’t able to ‘just stop.’ Sometimes, the symptoms are complicated and spring out in odd angles that you can’t predict, and you need to have a firm grasp on the source of these outbreaks, so that you can head them off. It is then that serious head work is required, to find and isolate the root.

Defining it is hard sometimes. It takes courage to look at some things we have hidden from ourselves as too painful. Because we hide these painful things because we truly believe that we will be irreparably harmed by letting them out. And just because they’ve been aging like wine doesn’t mean that they will feel LESS scary and painful and life-threatening now than they did when we first repressed them.

We are stronger than we think we are, though. And those things need to be brought out to light, so they don’t crop up at odd angles and screw up our lives.

So then, sometimes, after some time has passed, we get to the root, and find a way of explaining it to ourselves, to put handles on it, so we can grasp it. Then comes the part where we have to do something about it. Just because you know what a problem is doen’st mean you can solve it.

There are some situations and some individuals who “Just say no” works great for. And there are some that aren’t so easy. Then you also have to think and talk and discuss and pray and read and hope and beat your head against walls to find a way to surmount the problem. That’s another level of understanding.

And then comes the part of wisdom. After all that information gathering, you have amassed a certain amount of understanding. You have some measure more of understanding than you had in the beginning.

Wisdom is the part where you take all the understanding you can get, and look at the timing of the thing, and decide what to do.

Sometimes, wisdom is not taking any action at all. That’s very hard. But there are times when you look at the situation, and you realize there is nothing you can do to change it. That the wisest thing to do is conserve your energy.

My meaningful life poem

It is late. I am fried

I am usually a littel better about keeping on top of things, so that at the end of the semester, I am NOT fried.

But I won all these contest and had DUTIES to perform. Like, going to the award ceremony. Between that and the shock of disbelief that I went through after I found out about these awards, I have not been able to concentrate on my homework.

THEREFORE, since I have 200 pages of Moby Dick to finish reading by tomorrow at 4PM, I must give you one of my assignments to read,

I don’t think I will inflict my 20 page term paper on early american feminism, or my 7 page paper on the modern disillusionment towards Millenial redemption. If these actually piqued your interest, email me and I’ll send them to you.

BUT! I have another class, called “Create a Meaningful Life” for which I had to do a group project. This project was supposed to involve our little group in creating a presentation that would show how WE make our lives meaningful. We had to read Tuesdays With Morrie so that we would know what a meaningful life was.

I could have suggested other novels, but they didn’t ask me.

Please realize that this is a FRESHMAN level, REQUIRED class. My little teenager group members are cute.

Anyway.
We decided to do a “recipe for a meaningful life” and then bribe the teacher with cookies. My contribution was to write a poem that tied all the ingredients (in the form of a presentation by each individual group member about their “ingredient”) together into some sort of meta-fiction.

I’m literary. I use the word meta-fiction.

Anyway, here is my extremely NON-literary, but potentially amusing poem.

—————-

I had been standing on top of the world, riding high
Life was moving and I was moving with it
Places to go, people to see, no time to stop and ask why
Like a horse in a race, I had taken the bit

But times change, chances get lost, things don’t go as planned
What I had wanted, what seemed in my grip
Completely erased out of the horizon I scanned
It seemed like my life had done a flip

Needless to say, this did not make me happy
I whined and pined to my friends on the phone
‘til they’d had enough, “Get a grip, Make it snappy!
Your bitching will leave you out on your own.

Oh man, this was bad, I needed answers now
I felt like I had lost my way
Someone, surely, must be able to show me how
This game of life should play.

Sitting on my steps, head in my hands, out of hope
I watched the neighbors as they were passing
Everyone else seemed like they knew how to cope
One elderly lady was softly laughing.

Maybe she had learned how to find life’s joy!
She had always seemed happy and nice.
I’d take my chances, no time to be coy.
“Miz Smith,” I said, “I’d like your advice”

I explained my problem in some crazy way
My life was a mess, my dreams crashing.
She smiles and said, “I think I know what you’re trying to say
I bet I can answer the question you’re asking.

I have an idea, why don’t you come home with me?
I’ve got all the ingredients for cookies
Using my time-honored, handed-down family recipe
Simple enough to be made by rookies.

I folled her down to her kitchen, found a bowl
Each part is more than itself, she said
These are pieces of a structure, making up a whole
You have to keep that in your head.

Bring me the sugar, it’s a good place to start
You’ll see the whole, wait til were done
This one thing is not the whole, it’s just one part
Perhaps you could think of the sugar as fun

(here follows Sergio’s presentations on how FUN makes his life meaningful)

Miz Smith smiled, as if I were a child that’s slow
“Don’t get excited, fun is not the only thing
Get the butter out of the fridge, that’s the next to go
Think now, what quality does butter bring?”

(Here follows Jill’s presentation on how love is essential for a meaningful life)

Mixing and stirring with her spoon in the goo,
Miz Smith was working it good.
”Those two are nice,” she said, “add in the eggs, too.
Please get them for me if you would.”

(Stretching the ingredient metaphor, Darryl gives his presentation on eggs as Creatvie arts)

It’s not cookies yet, this goop lacks power
The foundation is needed on which to build
What these cookies need is a whole bunch of flour
It’s these things by which our life is filled.

(Ashley then tells us how she builds her life on the foundation of her family)

After the flour, she added more things, baking soda and salt
I think you’re getting it, you’re not such a goon
One more thing, if I didn’t make you do I’d be at fault
I want you to stir with the spoon.

(I now have to do double duty and talk about getting down into life, as the spoon in the dough, and DOING creative things)

We’ve talked about cookies as a recipe to make life sweet
You’ll have to do the rest
But to thank you for your kind attention, we’ve brought you a treat
And we wish you all the best.

(Here is where we bribe the class and hand out real cookies)

This odd hybrid of Tuesdays with Morrie and Dr. Suess has it’s first and only showing tomorrow at 10:30. Wish me luck!