How can I be wise?
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
Wisdom is one of the grandest and oddest words out there. Though it is impossible ever to reach a state of wisdom, as an aspiration wisdom deserves to rehabilitated and takes its place among a host of other more typical goals one may harbour.
Wisdom seems woven from many strands. The wise are, first and foremost, realistic about how challenging things can be. They are conscious of the complexities entailed in any project. For instance, raising a child, starting a business, spending an agreeable weekend with the family, falling in love. Knowing that something difficult is being attempted does not stop thewise from eagerness to suceed but it makes them more steadfast, calmer, and less prone to panic about problems that would invariably come their way.
Probably aware that much can and does go wrong the wise are usually alive to moments of calm and beauty even in the most modest ones. They can take pleasure in single uneventful sunny day or some pretty flowers growing by a brick wall. It isn’t because they are sentimental or naive. It is precisely the opposite. Because they have seen how hard things can be to get they know how to draw the full value of the peaceful and the sweetest whenever and wherever these arise.
The wise know that all human beings, themselves included, are deeply sunk in folly. We all have irrational desires, want incompatible things. The wise are unsurprised by the ongoing coexistence of deep immaturity alongside adult qualities like intelligence and morality. Being aware that at least half of life is irrational they try wherever possible to slow the panic where it raises its head.
The wise take the business of laughing at themselves seriously. They laugh at the about constant collisions between the noble ways they like things to be and the tormented way they infact often turn out. The wise are realistic about social relations, in particular about how difficult it is to change people’s minds and how to have effect on their lives. They are therefore extremely reticent about telling people too frankly about what they think. They want, above all, that things go well even if this means not being totally honest. So they will sit with someone of an opposite political persuasion and not try to convert them. They will hold their tongue at someone who seems to be announcing a strategic plan for reforming the country, educating their child or directing their personal life. They will be aware of how differently things can look through the eyes of others and will search more for what people have in common than what separates them.
The wise have made their peace with the yawning gap between how ideally they want to be and what they are actually like. They have come to terms with their idiocies, flaws, ugliness, limitations and drawbacks. They are not ashamed of themselves and yet they understand their craziness. They can give those close to them a fairly accurate map of the reasons that are pretty hard to live with.
The wise are realistic about other people too. They understand the extraordinary pressures everyone is under to pursue their own ambitions and to fend their interests. It can make other people appear extremely and evil but this would mean to overpersonalise the issue. The wise know that most hurt is not intentional. It is a byproduct of the constant collision with blind competing egos in a world of scarce resources. The wise are therefore slow to anger and judge. They don’t leap to the worst conclusions about what’s going on in the minds of others. They would be readier to forgive because they particularly understand about how difficult every life is, harbouring, as it does, so many frustrated ambitions, disappointment and loneliness. The wise appreciate the pressures people are under. Of course they shouted, were rude, actually they want toovertake on the inside lane. The wise are generous to the reasons for which people might not be quite so nice. If they are less persecuted by the aggression and meaness of others it is because they have a sense from where it comes from, the place, a place of hurt.
Lord, make me wise! Amen!