Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wisdom

Image result for john piippo dune
Me, climbing the big dune at Warren Dunes State Park (Michigan)

As usual, I am beginning my day by opening up the Bible to Proverbs, and then to Psalms. I slow-cook in these biblical books. I start the day on the right track.

As a philosopher, I have read a lot of the world's wisdom literature.  This is what philosophers do. The word "philosophy" means "the love of wisdom" (philo-sophia). So, I have read Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Kant, Descartes and Hume, Anselm and Aquinas, the Buddha and Confucius, the Upanishads and the Koran, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, Camus and Sartre, Russell and Wittgenstein, Foucault and Derrida, Merton and Nouwen, and many others. I read philosophy when driving the car. It is my bathroom reading. I study it. Scholars have taught me. I love wisdom. I treasure it. It has supreme value to me.

The love of wisdom is not a claim to be wise. But you won't be wise without having a foundational desire for wisdom.

Have you seen those cartoons where someone seeking wisdom struggles to the top of a mountain to ask a white-bearded man with long grey hair a question? The book of Proverbs lies open on the pinnacle. God meets me, on the mountain, every morning.

"Above all else," I am told, "get wisdom." Above everything else? Above money? Above fame? Above beauty? Above possessions? Yes. To understand this is to be wise. To think otherwise is to be an ordinary fool. 

This morning I'm after some more wisdom. I collect it like diamonds, and mount them in my journal. I polish them by reading, and re-reading them. 

I am beginning to read Proverbs in Eugene Peterson's The Message. Peterson writes a beautiful introduction to Proverbs on its core theme.

Wisdom is different from knowledge. Wisdom may contain knowledge; knowledge may have no wisdom.

"“Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such." (Peterson, The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In Contemporary Language, p. 870)

A college degree does not guarantee wisdom.

Peterson writes:


  • Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children,
  • handling our money
  • and conducting our sexual lives,
  • going to work
  • and exercising leadership,
  • using words well
  • and treating friends kindly,
  • eating and drinking healthily,
  • cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace.
  • Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do. In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God. (Ib.)
Here I go again, ascending to the mountain top.

"These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David's son, Israel's king -
written down so we'll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it's going."
- Proverbs 1:1

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