Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Wisdom, Or Be Careful What You Ask For

January 3, 2022

Solomon as an adolescent knew he would be king after his father, the famous King David. He talked with God, who told him he would grant a wish. Solomon asked for wisdom.

I often recommend reading the book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament) during the month of January in order to set off the year with good momentum. It’s the writings of Solomon’s wisdom teaching. 31 chapters—31 days in January. Read a chapter a day.

But, the story of Solomon didn’t turn out well. He lived a dissolute life. Many of his wives brought pagan gods into Israel. His son was barely king when he caused a split in the kingdom due to his lack of wisdom. The huge kingdom was gone in an instant.

Think about this. What if…what if he had asked God to help him act wisely instead of just to have wisdom.

We can know a lot, but we can still act like a fool. We can be a couple of lengths short of a PhD, yet we can live wisely.

I don’t care how much of the book of Proverbs you have memorized. What matters is what you do after you rise from bed tomorrow morning. Ask God to help you live wisely and with kindness this year.

The Whole Thing and its Parts

December 29, 2021
Entrance to Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Gardens

We visited Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Gardens last evening. Various artists transformed groves of plants and trees into light and music experiences.

We had our first significant snow of the year yesterday. Even with temperatures above freezing (38F or 3C) causing some melting, the vestiges of the white snow perfectly enhanced the experience.

The highlight for me was a laser light show across a small lake. Dancing lights to a festive piece of music. In contemplation just in the moment, I de-focused my eyes and absorbed the experience. Yet all the while part of my mind was thinking of the technical intricacies of the lights themselves and the programming required.

Listening to s symphonic orchestra is the same experience. I listen to the whole piece while also noticing the work and movements of each instrument and how the composer and then conductor has brought them altogether for a beautiful whole piece.

Similarly, one should read a great book including Scripture. You must absorb the whole of the main argument of the writer while yet enjoying the parts. One errs by picking out sentences while yet missing the whole thought.

Yet, how often readers of spiritual texts do just that. And not only Christians. Check out how often you also see that trait in the Hindu and Islamic traditions. A human trait, this is, as Yoda might have put it.

And a human trait we can learn to overcome with awareness and practice.

Just don’t think so much that you miss the beauty of the whole.

So Much Time

December 24, 2021

“It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do. It’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”

A foggy Christmas Eve

The photo was taken this morning in northern Illinois. Actually this shouldn’t deter Rudolf and Santa, since the song talks about evening. But, still, this Christmas Eve began warm and foggy for the end of December in the US north.

Everyone who has waited until the last day to purchase those Christmas gifts will be delayed this morning.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in America the Christmas season is less about Advent and more about having too much to do in too little time. Parties, family dinners, meet friends, prepare and mail cards, purchase the best gifts. When Christmas comes we are not celebrating, we are exhausted.

Maybe we should absorb more of the wisdom of the quote I found. Maybe we choose to pack too many things into the limited amount of time. How about chucking most of it and just relaxing and enjoying?

Wisdom Don’t Come Easy

December 2, 2021

You, who are on the road

Must have a code

That you can live by

And so become yourself

Because the past is just a goodbye

Graham Nash, recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

Life as a journey must be a metaphor as old as human life itself. I thought about that journey and the advice that Seneca gave to his friend Lucillius, “Wisdom comes haphazard to no man. Virtue will not fall upon you by chance. Either will knowledge thereof be won by light effort or small toil.”

Seneca wrote 124 letters to his friend teaching him how to live a virtuous and complete life. But such a life is not gained by taking it easy. We must have that vision of a final outcome as a virtuous and wise person if we are to reach that destination.

First we learn and infuse that knowledge and wisdom and virtue into our own lives. Then we must teach the next generations unless they degenerate into heathens.

Teach your children well

Their father’s hell

Did slowly go by

And feed them on your dreams

The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by

Graham Nash, recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

Blessings on your journey. Wisdom don’t come easy, but attaining it is worth the effort.

Planting Words Just Like Seeds

November 12, 2021

Jesus talked about words like seeds. Words in his story were about the Kingdom of God. His point was about the hearer. Some hearers ignore the words for a variety of reasons. Some get enthused briefly but forget about them after a brief period of time. Kind of like listening to a moving sermon or a motivational speaker at a conference.

But some hearers allow the words to be planted, grow, and flourish in their thinking and in their life.

At about the same time in another land and in another language, Lucius Antaeus Seneca wrote to his good friend Lucilius a similar message.

You are right when you urge that we increase our mutual traffic in letters. But the greatest benefit is to be derived from conversation, because it creeps by degrees into the soul. Words should be like seed; no matter how small the seed may be, if it has once found a favorable ground, it unfolds its strength and from an insignificant thing spreads to its greatest growth.

Let a favorable mind receive and assimilate them. Then of itself the mind also will produce bounteously in its turn, giving back more than it has received.

I think that it would have been a great thing for Jesus and Seneca to have met. Tradition holds that Jesus traveled to the East. There are reports of his traveling to India, for instance. Seneca seemed to have little knowledge of the Middle East having stopped no farther east than Greece. Oh, well. We can take a lesson from these two thoughts.

We should be wise in our conversation. Be aware and responsible of the power of our words.

We should be wise hearers of the words. Choose wisely to whom we listen. Let the words settle in, nurture them, let the ideas blossom and bear fruit.

Unless We Control Our Affairs By a Guiding Purpose

October 26, 2021

Lay’s Potato Chips once had an advertising challenge—“Bet you can’t eat just one.”

When we find something pleasurable, we cannot stop at some sensible place. We rush headlong into overindulgence—or, as the ancient philosopher Seneca put it, “the abyss of sorrow.”

I could take that Lay’s challenge—sort of. I could eat just one. One bag full, that is. No matter the size of that bag. And then I would get on the scale the next morning and read the results right there between my feet in large, black, unforgiving numbers!

Seneca pointed out how hard to keep something pleasurable within bounds. Food, drink, sex, games, whatever. He told us “there are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river.

We can read the Hebrew Proverbs learning the difference between the wise person and the fool. Or the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Or the teachings of his brother James in the Christian Scriptures. Here and many other places we are taught about that guiding principle that keeps us from going overboard with our freedom to pursue pleasure being swept away by the currents.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

Four For The Road

October 25, 2021

Here are four pieces of wisdom for living.

Experiment. Life is an experiment. You try something. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, then you try something else. Always.

Invent. Look for new ways to do something. Invent a tool, a pattern, a lifestyle. Go on a new path beyond the same old experiences.

New Ideas. One way to train your brain to come up with new ideas is the 20 things method. Sit with a page of paper and a pen. Write a question at the top of the page that you are trying to solve or figure out. Write an idea. Write another, maybe just playing around with the words. After about 15 answers, you’ll notice the ideas are becoming more creative. By 20, you will have the solution you are seeking.

If you missed writing class in school, that will be much to your detriment. This is a variation of the list method (a thought which just occurred to me). You begin with an idea and begin to write an essay. By the time you have finished the essay, you will have ideas that you never imagined when you began. It happens with me almost every day that I sit down to write this blog.

Practice these daily.

Ask better questions. This got me into trouble as a student. Some people just seemed to have an ability to take things on faith. I still remember chemistry class in high school, but the same held through in almost every class I took even throughout university. Some people accepted whatever the teacher said, remembered it, wrote it on tests. They were the A students. I always asked, how do they know that? I puzzled things out. I didn’t care about the test. It was superfluous. I was a B student.

I feel I lack on asking better questions many times. That is my personal challenge. What is yours?

What Do You Do With Your Time?

October 20, 2021

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’

Into the future

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’

Into the future

Steve Miller Band

I was listening to Seth Godin this morning while I was doing my wind sprints and walking around the ponds here in northern Illinois. He reminded me of something I’ve often thought about.

Technology was supposed to make us productive. Why? So that we wouldn’t have to work so many hours to make sufficient income. Why? So that we’d have more “free” time.

It did make us more productive. So, what do we do with our time?

Research into people’s behavior shows that we—watch more Netflix, spend more time with the TV, spend hours on social media. In other words, our time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

Between moving to a new state and the pandemic, I have lost all the old services I used to do—teaching Bible, teaching Yoga, serving on nonprofit boards. It’s been hard picking up. I tried with a new church, but there was no place for someone like me.

On the other hand, I’ve read more deeply into some good books. I’m currently 327 pages into a 981-page novel by David Foster Wallace called Infinite Jest. Supposedly the book “everyone” says they have read, but few actually have. I view that as a challenge. This guy is incredibly observant of people and culture. That helps sharpen my own observational skills.

I am still writing two blogs and keeping up with technology. But I have time to workout. Read. See more of the family up here.

What about you? What are you doing with your free time? How many hours do you spend with a screen? What could you do that would be more healthful and of service? Take a walk in nature? Read a good book? Maybe read a great book again? Set aside a little more time for meditation and prayer? Call a friend?

The Steve Miller Band in the next verse said “I want to fly like an eagle.” Just soaring on the air currents. Watching. Observing. Getting an occasional meal. Enjoying the freedom. Reminds me of Isaiah, “Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength.⁣ They will soar high on wings like eagles.” Just taking pleasure in being.

Run Away From Aggrandizement

July 9, 2021

We live in an age of selfies, personal branding, being outrageous just to be noticed—especially on social media.

In the US, we have “leaders” in politics such as Congresspeople who have actually changed their personal political philosophy in order to be more grandiose and outrageous in order to be noticed, be seen, be branded. If it is good for the Kardashians, then it must be good for me.

This might be a good time to pause and consider how we (I) use social media. What is my motivation for the things I publish?

I turn to my go-to guy for psychology. No, not Dr. Phil. John Climacus, the Desert Father. “We will show ourselves true lovers of wisdom and of God if we stubbornly run away from all possibility of aggrandizement.”

Pause…Let that sink in. Where do I fall short in that category?

John has further thoughts well expressed:

Humility is a heavenly waterspout which can lift the soul from the abyss up to heaven’s height.

The sea is the source of the fountain, and humility is the source of discernment.

No, We Do Not Have the Right To Say Whatever We Wish

May 6, 2021

There seems to be a movement of people speaking loudly who feel they can say (or write, same thing) anything that comes to mind. Or, even bypasses the mind.

There are times I need to remember the wisdom of the Apostle James, brother of Jesus.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

James 3

How easily our words belie the status of our hearts. How easily we use them to hurt others. We think we are so smart, but an untamed tongue (or typing thumbs) openly reveals to all how not smart we are.

People used to think I was smart when I was young. In reality, I was just quiet. I didn’t open my mouth and reveal my ignorance. Many of us today (including me) need to practice that same discipline.