A Day Of Light And Darkness
We’re a bit late to the game. At ages 67 and 74, respectively, my wife Laurie and I have recently become grandparents to a beautiful baby girl.
Which led me to think: What kind of world will our granddaughter be inheriting? As I write this, bombs are falling and people are being killed, maimed and displaced. For what?
When I asked my son, Peter, what he wanted most for his daughter, his response was admirable. “I want her to be smart,” he replied.
“Smart is good,” I said. “Wise, however, is better.”
Smart vs. Wise
Smart speaks to a quick-witted intelligence. And there’s a lot of that in this world—sometimes too quick for comfort. Just look around to see what terrible decisions “smart” people—including politicians, as well as those who lead our corporations, financial institutions, even our religious institutions, and others—have made, and how quickly they’ve resulted in awful outcomes for all of us.
Wisdom, however, subsumes intelligence. If smartness is prose, then wisdom is poetry. It’s more nuanced and introspective than just having an encyclopedia-like memory that can regurgitate facts and manipulate numbers devoid of content, impact, insight or conscience.
Wise people embody common sense, sensitivity, astuteness, integrity, judiciousness, prudence, compassion, and more. Rather than quick-witted—although they can be that too—wise people are patient, deliberative and introspective.
Will Our Little Chloe Be Wise?
Will she have the compassion and sensitivity to be kind to others, knowing that everyone she meets during her lifetime is fighting a hard battle?
Will she be judicious in her choice of friends and role models? Meaning, will she be able to distinguish between those with good character versus those with superficial charisma?
Will she possess the common sense and good judgement not to destroy nature, but to nurture and protect it? How will she deal with climate change?
Will she have the courage to stand up for what she believes in, understanding that just because she may be in the minority doesn’t mean she’s wrong?
Will she have the astuteness and prudence to see every one—regardless of race, color, creed or religion—as part of a family of humankind, all struggling in their own ways to lead the best lives they can, whatever their circumstances.
Will she be insightful enough to know that giving is better than taking, and that all things that glitter are not gold—and often not even worth having?
Will she have the wisdom to understand that her life is not a dress rehearsal, that the curtain is up, the lights, costumes and make-up are on, and that the audience is paying attention. You go girl!
Spontaneous Moments Of Joy
Finally, I hope she will be wise enough not to waste her time pursuing eternal bliss. No such thing exists. Life comes at us fast and in waves. We have our good days and our bad days. That’s just the way it is.
Instead, I hope she will be wise enough to pursue what I call SMOJs, or spontaneous moments of joy. They’re all around us— from that first breath of fresh air in the morning, to the way sunlight transforms a garden into a profusion of color, to a pleasant exchange with a stranger she may meet in the grocery store. It’s up to us to identify and appreciate these isolated but precious moments and weave them into the fabric of our lives.
I hope one day, when Chloe is old enough to read, she’ll pick this up and think of her granddad, who spent nearly his entire life, not only trying to answer these questions, but the decades he spent simply trying to determine the right questions to ask.
Maybe by then the bombs will have stopped falling and people will have found the time to seek wisdom, rather than shelter. Not that I’m anywhere near completing my journey to either of these ends.