A Spectrum Discovered

It wasn’t the first gray hair that caught my eye, nor was it my second or third. As a trope, gray hair is getting old. Yet, the banality was lost on me this morning as I realized that gray hairs now constitute half of my coiffure.

“Am I wiser?” I wondered as I studied the uniform distribution of salt and pepper.

Once, and not so long ago, I was led through an exercise where the goal was to name the different facets of my personality. When my facilitators, a lovely couple from Boulder, suggested “Wisdom” I balked.

“I am not yet Wise.” I said.

“Perhaps you feel that way, but there is a voice inside your head that sounds like Wisdom.” He replied.

“I don’t think I would be able to recognize my own Wisdom.” I said.

“There’s something about Wisdom that makes you uncomfortable.” She suggested.

“Not uncomfortable, just not yet deserving.” I said.

In that moment, Wisdom was a destination. In that moment, Wisdom was not something that one identified in one’s self. Wisdom was remote, both temporally and as a description of its quality. I had not yet earned it and I would not earn it until the days of my life were all but spent, if even then. Quoth Paul Valery: “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” The same was true in my mind for Wisdom. One could only hope to be Wise retrospectively, relative to one’s former self. Wisdom could never extend prospectively into the future as a static condition. Achievement never unlocked.

In the cold light of this Spring morning, I thought about the fact that it would be warm by the afternoon. I thought about the gradual transitions that carry us from one day to the next and I finally discovered Subtlety. One minute warmer today. One minute warmer tomorrow. Then, just as we’re sweltering in the light of a midnight moon, one minute colder. This is the way of things and this is the way of wisdom.

Wisdom doesn’t arrive, wisdom exists. It is not an absolute goal to achieve, but a spectrum to discover. Often oblique to common sense and instinct, it lies hidden, but not dormant, waiting to be brought to light.

My daughter, occasionally, is wise. Her five years on Earth have made her so. Her wisdom is neither accidental nor incipient. The same, then, may be said for me.

I am not Wise. That word implies mastery and I am not a Master.

I do, however, admit that some of my thoughts sound and feel like Truth. Truth in that they are neither right nor are they wrong; they just are. Just like the changing color of my hair and the changing temperature outside my window: If this is part of the spectrum of wisdom, then it is subtle.

And it is discovered.


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