Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where Are the Wise Men When You Need Them?

Despite it being Christmas, the world is short of many things. Peace, joy and love to name a few from the well-known carols. But somewhere near the top of the list is wisdom. 2000 years ago the three wise men had to be recruited for that first Christmas from a far off land rather than locally in Bethlehem. Wisdom is hard to find.

Jim wore his white hair haphazardly atop his round face with bushy, untamed eyebrows arched over brilliant eyes, as if to protect them. He looked his age, a healthy 88 years old, except for those eyes. They were filled with the insatiable curiousity of a young student. Yet they betrayed a depth that no young man could mimic. It was wisdom I saw there. Unmistakable as it was exceptional.

Each time Jim and I met he gave me a sincere smile and hugged me like a true friend, but also with the warmth of a father. With little time for shallow niceties, he was always anxious to hear about the important details of my life; family, work, health. There was no pretense. We were friends, and I considered it an immense privilege to have such a sage advisor and mentor. Strangely enough, while I was in awe of his credentials, experience, and successes as a world-renown academic, authour and speaker, he never caused me to feel any inequity in our relationship. He always treated me as an equal, despite the obvious disparity in age and life experience. Wisdom is like that. It does not seek an admiring audience but humbly attracts one.

Recently, Jim and I met, as we often did, over an early morning breakfast at White Spot. It was simple and predictably good fare. We both ordered porridge, thick, steaming, topped with ample amounts of raisins and brown sugar then cooled with just a little milk. Comfort food; it always reminds me of my childhood when oatmeal, then an unappealing staple to me, was my father’s favourite breakfast. Like wisdom, it seems few people have an appetite for porridge now. But Jim does.
At 58 I have encountered many people that I enjoy being with and listening to.  Sometimes it is like comfortably sipping afternoon tea in the sitting room. At other times I find my mind unwilling to stay focused, drifting off topic, lagging behind to luxuriate in some idea or racing ahead to conclusions not yet drawn or applications yet to be made. But wisdom, like Jim’s thoughtful words, fills the space offered it; trivia is driven away like rootless sagebrush in a windstorm.  It is like drinking from a fire hose, so intense and dense are his insights.

Wisdom is difficult to glean from our daily diet of the trite and trivial. Like real “news”, it is difficult to find amid the newspapers' exaggerations of advertisement and palaver of editorials. Wisdom, on the other hand, is not meant to please or relax, it is stark, sometimes jagged and jarring. It does not soothe the psyche. It provokes it.
Knowledge we have in abundance. We admire and even worship the miracles of modern science and those who produce them. Wisdom, by comparison, is a word no one can apply to his or her own insights. Any sense of pride or worthiness contaminates its purity. Wisdom is a mystical marriage of the heart, soul and mind. It cannot be created at will nor captured to hold high like some rare bird in a cage.

I can imagine Jim as one of the three wise men who followed a star’s navigational signs to find the birthplace of a special child. There is little recorded about these weary and wary wanderers who simply sought a promised revelation. Now I know it is not fashionable to hearken back to the origin of Christmas, but we could use some good news, some promises that last beyond election day, and some wise men. At least that is the case with Parkinson’s disease. We need the brightest and best to come up with ways to fulfill the promises of a cure, healing and relief from this damnable disease. But more, we need the wise to teach us how to live, follow the star and persevere with purpose when the stiffness, tremours and sadness seem unbearable.
For me, I am better able to wrestle with reality because of people, like Jim, who speak wisdom into my life. Whether we have PD or not, we all need sources of wisdom.

1 comment:

  1. Love the pictures you share. I always find one I want to paint. This time it's the wisemen. So very beautiful. I was sick yesterday and spent the day on the sofa watchingn Little House on the Prairie marathan and crying. The wisdom taught in that show is rare today. Michael Landon was full of wisdom in his movie productions - not so sure about his real life, but one show in particular when the Mom gives the duaghter a punishment and later wants to rescind it. The pastor says something to the effect if you do that once, she'll come to expect it. Not knowing Mom was considering rescinding the duaghter, she was proceeding to do what she pleased, to disobey, but at the last moment when both Mom and sister thought she was thumbing her nose at her Mom's authority, the daughter chose obedience. Your writing about wisdom today after i spent the day watching those and after a horrendous previous day with a sundowning mother with dementia, was a great way to start this day. Thanks.