Friday, April 16, 2021

moving toward an age of wisdom

The news this morning is like the news of too many other mornings: More people killed through gun violence as the enraged or insane deliver mayhem on the soul of our nation. If all politicians cared about people and not power they would have fixed things after Sandy Hook when teachers and kindergarten students were targets of wrath, but if that didn't move them toward action, what can? That they refused to fix things then still amazes me. This interesting editorial by David Brooks, "Wisdom isn't what you think it is," suggests that wisdom is more about listening to others than about what we can say. And I pray for the development of wisdom.

One of the rules I have posted in the woodshop at the Clear Spring School is Listen. The rule is not just about what I say in the form of instruction. It's also about the tools and the sounds they make that inform us of how they are interacting with the material, wood. For wood, being real, is one of the sources we draw upon to engage wisdom. One of the things that becomes clear is that while we may quickly know a few things, on a superficial level, practice is of enormous utility. And as Brooks points out you can quickly grasp other people's knowledge, it takes living and listening to attain wisdom. And true wisdom is less about what you can do, and more about the ways through which we enable others to act courageously and with wisdom of their own.

One of the most common notions of wisdom is that it "comes with age." And yet, we can spend a lot of time doing the same dumb things over and over and not necessarily get wiser in the process.

Knowledge comes from a variety of sources: conversation, books, radio, instruction, television, personal observation.
Knowledge may be acquired either directly or from a third party.
Wisdom emerges from reflection on personal and collective experience.
Wisdom involves understanding the relationships between seemingly disparate events and things and is expressed as action toward improvement of the lives of others. It's not about sitting on our hands, it's about putting them to work.

The following is from Charles H. Ham and his book Hand and Mind, 1880: 
"Nothing stimulates and quickens the intellect more than the use of mechanical tools. The boy who begins to construct things is compelled at once to begin to think, deliberate, reason, and conclude. As he proceeds he is brought in contact with powerful natural forces. If he would control, direct, and apply these forces he must first master the laws by which they are governed; he must investigate the causes of the phenomena of matter, and it will be strange if from this he is not also led to a study of the phenomena of mind. At the very threshold of practical mechanics a thirst for wisdom is engendered, and the student is irresistibly impelled to investigate the mysteries of philosophy. Thus the training of the eye and hand reacts upon the brain, stimulating it to excursions into the realm of scientific discovery in search of facts to be applied in practical forms at the bench and the anvil." 
And so, you will find that it is not enough to read about wisdom and the idea of wisdom may seem pretentious, unless you, too, are inspired to explore the wisdom of your own hands. Plant a garden, play instrumental music, make something of useful beauty.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

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