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.