P. Baltes (1993, 1999) identified seven properties of wisdom: (a) Wisdom represents a truly superior level of knowledge, judgment, and advice; (b) wisdom addresses important and difficult questions and strategies about the conduct and meaning of life; (c) wisdom includes knowledge about the limits of knowledge and the uncertainties of the world; (d) wisdom constitutes knowledge with extraordinary scope, depth, measure, and balance; (e) wisdom involves a perfect synergy of mind and character; that is, an orchestration of knowledge and virtues; (f) wisdom represents knowledge used for the good or well-being of oneself and that of others; and (g) wisdom, although difficult to achieve and to specify, is easily recognized when manifested.
Later, Baltes and Staudinger (2000) formulated a psychological perspective on wisdom entitled The Berlin Wisdom Paradigm: Wisdom as Expertise in the Fundamental Pragmatics of Life. In it, they defined wisdom as “an expertise in the conduct and meaning of life. In this vein, wisdom is a key factor in the construction of a good life”(p. 124). Zeleny et al. (2006, pp. 756, 762) further contended that:
.…academic inquiry promotes the growth of wisdom—wisdom being defined as the capacity to realize what is of value in life (and, thus, including knowledge and technological know-how). Those parts of the academic inquiry devoted to improving knowledge, understanding and technological know-how contribute to the growth of wisdom. Wisdom systems, as explication of values, provide justification and ethical anchoring for human action. . . . In the end, it is how we live, not just how we work and produce and consume, which is the ultimate value of enlightened life”
Ardelt (2004) adamantly believed that experience was the key to transforming knowledge to wisdom.
“It is only when an individual realizes (i.e. experiences) the truth of preserved knowledge that the knowledge is re-transformed into wisdom and makes the person wise(r)” (p. 260). The path to wisdom surfaces and resurfaces in the onward quest of humanbecoming. Dr. Barbara Condon (2008), as she was preparing to graduate from a doctoral education program, provides a synthesis of similar ideas on wisdom, in the following poem:
Classes to attend
Employment to keep
Readings to finish
Presentations to create
Family to consider
Dialogues to have
Decisions . . . Priorities . . . Choices
So many hellos
Stories told . . . Smiles shared
Too soon goodbyes
Bonds remain . . . Tears shed
I know less than I thought I once knew
My quest for knowledge
Another story reminds me of this “experiential” wisdom– the story entitled “Below the Surface” by Luke Storms (2011):
There are moments where I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel like a complete stranger. All the things I normally feel compelled to do: check my emails, surf the internet, have a beer, listen to music, etc. are gone. I am a completely different person. Everything feels entirely new and I feel like I’ve dropped something very heavy, like a traveler who has left his entire luggage at the door.
Even my relationship to the person I spend my life with has miraculously shifted. I realize that I don’t know her at all and at the same time I suffer the fact that I habitually take her for granted. Suddenly there is this capacity of listening to her more deeply. A great mystery has undermined all of my fixed ideas and preconceived notions. It is the feeling George Saunders describes so beautifully in his article, “Buddha Boy“:
You know the feeling at the end of the day, when the anxiety of that-which-I-must-do falls away and, for maybe the first time that day, you see, with some clarity, the people you love and the ways you have, during that day, slightly ignored them, turned away from them to get back to what you were doing, blurted out some mildly hurtful thing, projected, instead of the deep love you really feel, a surge of defensiveness or self-protection or suspicion? That moment when you think, Oh God, what have I done with this day? And what am I doing with my life? And how must I change to avoid catastrophic end-of-life regrets?
It’s extremely odd and discomforting, but at the same time it is bittersweet because it is a taste of a new possibility, a taste of real freedom. I have stepped out of the old recorded tapes that constantly play in the background of my psyche, telling me who I am.
I have ceased, for the time being, lying to myself or believing in the stories I create about myself. I am no longer living in mental constructions or concepts which Herschel says are, “delicious snacks with which we try to alleviate our amazement.”
Of course, we can’t stay on the summit forever. We start leaking out this gathered energy like a sieve and then it’s back to the level of reaction. These moments of a profound inner separation are merely a preparation for something to penetrate into my daily life. I don’t think they are the ultimate goal. I need to go further, to include more, and this leads me to a deeper questioning.
I think that something within us is aware that our stories aren’t real, even though we are continually living in them. We gather these moments of seeing ourselves and find that we don’t sleep as peacefully as we did before. To see ourselves, as we are, becomes more important. Even when the forces are heavily weighed against us we can try to oppose a continual passivity with something that is active on the inside. Rainer Maria Rilke describes this war against passivity when he says that, “what we choose to fight is so tiny! What fights with us is so giant!”
I see that either I am moving outwards towards dispersion or I am gathering all the pieces of myself inwardly and moving towards wholeness.
So maybe along comes a moment where I am inwardly active and without any manipulation, I can see the thoughts, the emotions, and the bodily sensations that are continually taking place. I am able to openly inhabit my life by being in relationship with it directly. I allow a life that is beyond the surface of my self to come into focus.
There are two currents present in the moment of seeing – a vertical one as well as a horizontal one – the level of my ordinary manifestations and that of another level which is the seeing. There is an acceptance of myself as I am and in this moment.
In my negativity, for example, I can see my reactions as well as the pull to self calm the situation by pushing it away or by escaping from it.
We need to see all this movement in ourselves, all these energies at work. We need to be in relationship with all this magical chemistry that is taking place. Now, ask yourself, “Who am I?” It’s the eternal question, the Zen koan of all Zen koans. The ego will immediately try to fortify itself but if we answer that question truthfully, all the freedom in the world is in not knowing.
How can I be available to that question? I think that anything I have understood in my practice has had emotional involvement; it’s been learned through the heart as well as the head. It is the clear distinction Jung made when he said that “the utterances of the heart- unlike those of the discriminating intellect- always relate to the whole.”
So how do I try to bring more emotion into my efforts? Well, I can try to remain close to my own mortality that continually follows me, perched on my shoulders. The presence of death is so constant and so familiar that I forget about it. I can make use of it as a constant reminder to make an effort.
For a long time my practice has involved trying to maintain an attention on my breath, always and everywhere. Often I forget and I am taken by my mind functioning, the endless circle of associations. I am swallowed up in that current again.
As we are, we see the world, ourselves, and the sacred only dimly. But greater clarity and depth of seeing is possible. HFA adults can learn to experience the deeper felt wisdom – the intuitive sense we have --- of who we truly are. Lawrence Freeman, in his book “Jesus: the Teacher Within” writes:
The teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom is one of humanity’s greatest affirmations of fundamental hopefulness. This teaching affirms life as meaningful and purposeful despite its tragedies and banalities. It affirms and celebrates the human aspiration to perfection and wholeness. It expresses our irrepressible intuition that fullness of being is our destiny. It consoles us with the only consolation that is not deceptive (which is the truth) that fullness of life is the intentional meaning of life.
Based on his writings, I submit that HFA adults (i.e. ASpies) can definitely seek the wisdom for life. They can find and live and enlightened lives. They can ultimately find the consummate (incarnate) wisdom which “affirms and celebrates human aspirations and expresses our irrepressible intuition…”