"The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
In a well-written novel or a spellbinding motion picture, complex characters are slowly introduced and carefully positioned in gripping plots. In time, the story develops like a photograph soaking in solution. Images become recognizable. Blurry details become more focused. Abstract ideas are synthesized into reality. And by the end, you feel rewarded for taking the time, and having the patience, to digest all of the details and allowing the experience to reflect some sense of meaning in your life. In the process, the book or film has become more than just a series of chapters, or succession of frames, but an incredible message that informs the soul.
Not unlike our day-to-day experiences.
Each day when the sun rises, we awake to a series of new encounters with people, places and ideas. If we take the time to really grasp what is happening, perhaps a random image seen out of the corner of your eye, or a clever turn of phrase overheard in the cafe, will stick in your mind. Perhaps you will ponder it for a while, walking down the sidewalk, running an errand, sitting down for a meal, playing with your dog at the end of the day. And perhaps not until the middle of the night, while deep asleep, or even the next day, while making copies in the office, the greater meaning of what you saw, or overheard, will suddenly change you.
That’s what happens when wisdom speaks to us.
Wisdom does speak to us – to me, to you and to every single being that is alive. It comes to us from everywhere – from the wind, from the leaves on the tree, from your grandchild on your knee, and from the earth and the sky. It comes to us like a whisper from beyond, in the silence, when the mind is not squawking or fearing or plotting or paying attention.
That is how I interpret Neale Donald Walsch when he says he’s having a conversation with God, when he writes of God telling him, "Listen. The words to the next song you hear. The information in the next article you read. The story line of the next movie you watch. The chance utterance of the next person you meet. Or the whisper of the next river, the next ocean, the next breeze that caresses your ear – all these devices are Mine; all these avenues are open to me. I will speak to you if you will listen."
We glean wisdom by paying attention to the present moment – when we are truly listening to people speaking to us, when we look at things clearly in front of us, when we take the time to read the novel or watch the complex film, when we have the patience to immerse ourselves into the experience, rather than get the experience over as quickly as possible.
Sometimes it takes some time for that wisdom to become known to us. It percolates within us – and by osmosis, it seeps through every cell of our being. And when we’re not looking for it – when we’re meditating or jogging or when we’re doing the laundry or washing the dishes – suddenly we know it. "A ha! That’s why that meant so much to me when I heard it!"
I wonder, in this fast-paced society of ours, whether we are taking the time to listen to the wisdom inherent within us. Time spent in silence is not time wasted.
"The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting, we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth." – Pierre Abelard
It also seems all too apparent that the person who leads our entire nation, who by all accounts should be wise and honorable, seems to not value the process of cultivating wisdom. Does President Bush truly listen to those who have new ideas to solve our problems? If so, why is he so insistent on reminding us that he is the boss, that he doesn’t have to listen to Congress, that he is "The Decider"? Sometimes it takes a cooperative approach, involving those whose stands are 180-degrees opposed to ours, to find fresh, efficient solutions. His rhetoric does not sound like it comes from a man who seeks wise counsel when opportunities do not look promising.
In such positions of power, it is how well you empower others to greatness that determines how history regards you. Sometimes I think George W. Bush enjoys playing "president" so much that he forgets that we all are watching. I hope he works harder at being present, before it’s too late.