I tried to find some perfect metaphor or simile for wisdom but nothing quite fit. There are a few things I found that come close but, in the end, fell short.
You’re always gaining it but always need more – usually of a different kind – which you will eventually find, but often too late. Sometimes it does come just in time – usually when you’re tackling a challenge of similar form the second (or third or fourth) time around.
I listened to a podcast the other morning by Ted Radio Hour called Becoming Wise. It explored the idea that we don’t have to be “old” to be wise – at each age we have the potential to build substantial wisdom of some sort. And, in the moment, when you find that particular wisdom at that particular age, you might feel as though you’ve got this whole life thing figured out.
Really, you’ve just got life until that moment a bit more “figured out”. You can hardly anticipate the wisdom you’ll need or gain the following years as the challenges of later ages become your reality.
Think back to when you were, like, 18. You were finally grown up and pretty much over that petty teenage stuff. What the hell were adults so stressed out about? This was easy. Money? You got enough. Friends? They’re everywhere. Decisions? They’ll figure themselves out. Parents? Meh.
Now here I am, 22 and a half, and I feel as though I’m truly getting the hang of “my twenties”. At first they seemed awfully daunting – truly growing up, moving out, looking for a job, navigating relationships, becoming financially independent – “adulting”, as they say. Now, its all these things that give me life, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment. They allow me to practice and gain further wisdom.
So what happens when I meet the eve of my 29th birthday (or earlier)? There will undoubtedly be a point where I question everything I know and am left grasping for the wisdom I thought was just do damn plentiful. I’m sure it will even happen with I’m 76 or 92 and faced with the inevitable struggles that come at that time.
You can see it in many songwriters’ discography. As the years go on, different, themes, issues, and passions themes plague and decorate their lyrics and melodies.
We’re all going into life pretty blind. We learn from other’s past experiences and we use our own to face situations with knowledge, improved perception, sympathy, and understanding.
Slowly building each of our weird little individual pictures of wisdom.
I think recognizing our weaknesses and ability to improve, to gain further wisdom, is a major milestone on our “path to wisdom” – and it could come at any time, multiple times, over a lifespan. If we know we have the potential to be better equipped and for life to be fuller, how could you not be excited (if a little nervous) to face it head on?
But I’m 22 – what do I know?