Every thrice in a while, which is more than I care to admit, I will do something dumb. It might be that I act out in a less than mature manner. It might be that I make poor choices based on petty motives instead of sound judgement. It might be that damn instant-gratification thing that’s been going around these days. On the other hand, it might be that I buy a movie based entirely on a single viewing of the trailer, which I did a little while ago, though this was a pretty safe bet:
“Wisdom is about experience, which hopefully would include risk-taking and being somewhat adventurous.” – Robert Redford
I do agree with Redford’s definition, that a large part of wisdom, comes through experience, and that taking risks and being adventurous will certainly enhance the experiences you have. However, this summation implies that it’s up to you to initiate the grand-scale expeditions, that wisdom is something you get as a result of your efforts. I don’t think wisdom is something you just get, I think it’s something that is given. This may sound like bad news, because some people might sleep-in or be left out when the wisdom is passed around, but that’s not how it works either. It’s not even wisdom, in its final form, being handed out, anyway, but opportunities for it – and these are given to everyone.
With wisdom as the accumulation of our experiences, then, it carries that every one of us starts out as a complete dolt. As babies fresh to the world, we haven’t had many experiences, and lack the ability to recall the ones we have had (thankfully). Almost immediately, though, we set about learning things – at home, in school, at work – and these experiences makes us a little smarter, a little more understanding, perhaps, and hopefully a little wiser. Regardless of the end score, whether we feel like we have our shit together or not – a supposed sign of wisdom – the fact remains that we learn new things by doing new things, something we instinctively understand. So we set in motion some new things – we travel, we live off the grid, we set records. We make risky choices in a bid to experience adventures we’ve never had before.
But here’s the kicker.
See, I’ve never had brain damage before – it’s all a new adventure to me.
What I’m suggesting (perhaps re-iterating) is that it’s not just the fun adventures that increase our knowledge and experience in life. It’s not just our deliberate pursuits that broaden our horizons and lead to wisdom. It’s also, and more often, the things that happen to us, things that barge into life, changing it entirely and irrevocably, making everything new. And when you find yourself in this position, don’t go looking for wisdom one-liners or morals to the story, for they are only recognized in retrospect. Instead, just heed the process. The goal isn’t to find an answer and figure it all out, because life is not nearly so tidy. The goal is to get by, and later, when you look back at what helped and what hindered the process, then you will have a sliver of wisdom.