Somewhere along the years between being a young adult and the middle-aged person I have become, I learned the old prayer about wisdom. Many of you probably know this prayer: God grant me the the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Some of us have heard this prayer so often that it has fallen into the ‘trite’ category, relegated to those catchy little books one might see in the checkout aisle of a book or gift shop, or its online equivalent. Right now I am pondering what it is to be Wise, to possess wisdom, and this prayer comes to remind me of something essential. Courage, serenity and wisdom: three traits that seem more important than ever to acquire and use in daily life.
What makes a person wise? Think over the people you have known in your lifetime, which ones were fortunate enough to possess true wisdom? For some help, I have consulted my Oxford English dictionary. The word ‘wise’ has several connotations, of course. The ones I am thinking of are as follows: ‘sagacious; prudent, sensible, discreet, judicious, insightful, clear-sighted, discerning, astute, perspicacious.’ Ah, that last one was one of my father’s favorite obscure words. Perspicacious means, ‘easily understood; clearly expressed.’ And for those who aren’t too familiar with sagacious, another great word, it means,’mentally penetrating, gifted with discernment, having practical wisdom.’ There you go.
It seems woefully obvious to me that Wisdom is a quality which many in our collective humanity are currently lacking. You might be thinking that I am being very judgemental by saying this so plainly. But if you look again of what qualities a wise human possesses, and then consider all of the people you know personally, as well as stories of ones you don’t know, you might begin to agree that very few walking the planet today can really be said to be wise.
For many years, I only considered less than a handful of the people I knew to be wise and sagacious. My father was (and still is, in my memory) at the top of my list. All his life he embodied those qualities of prudence, clear-sightedness, sensibility, astuteness, as well as showing me grace and kindness in a thousand small and large ways. Others have also shown me wisdom, most notably some of the teachers I have had throughout my life. In more recent years, I have been blessed to receive the benefits of certain friends’ grace and wisdom.
Maybe one of the blessings of getting older is to be able to see one’s own foolishness more clearly. There is a lot to be said for foolishness, or folly, in building a human being’s character. I have often played the fool in life, done things and made decisions impulsively and without a huge amount of forethought. Some could see this quality in my soul, and referred to me as ‘clownish.’ For many years I struggled with this aspect of my soul, and even now I have to fight my own hurt feelings if someone refers to me in this way. Because there is also something very beautiful about clowns, jesters, mimes; ones who are willing to play the Fool for the others.
In a very real sense, I feel as if I am holding my breath and waiting to see what will happen in our world in the coming days and months. The best advice I have received just now tells me to be as calm and still inwardly as possible, and to find what brings me joy and then practice doing those things. Funny thing is, right now I am not exactly sure what does bring me joy. One blogger wrote about having a feeling similar to when it is getting near to Christmas, and the kind of anticipation and joy that she feels as she gathers gifts for her loved ones and lovingly prepares for the festivities.
One thing is for sure; joy cannot be faked, nor can it be created by intent alone. I cannot ‘make’ myself feel joyful, just as I cannot make myself be wise or guided by grace. These are all things which happen naturally when one walks through life with a kind of openness and non-defensiveness which then allows the presence of joy, wisdom and grace to come forth.
My inscrutably faced sculpture continues to keep me company here as I write these musings tonight, dear Readers. When the time is ripe, he will open his eyes, change his expression, magically get wings and fly away, or else whisper some wise words into my ear to help me understand. Until then, though, the two of us remain with the questions, pondering the changes, and doing our best to hold the light and our love strongly for the world. Just glad to know the rest of you are out there doing the same, giving your best to the world in all the ways you know how. You all give me so much courage and comfort, and smiles and encouragement. I feel the light and the love within you, and I deeply honor it.
- The Courage to Change the Things I Can (courageousjane.com)
- Seek the Sweet Aroma of Wisdom (part One) (vineandbranchworldministries.com)
- Prayer for Courage and Wisdom (culturalcreativestimes.wordpress.com)