Monday, November 18, 2013

The Poetry of Wisdom

From the Book of Wisdom
(7:22 - 8:1)

(c) 2013 Alfred J.Garrotto *
In my November 13, 2013 post, I offered an understanding of wisdom that is philosophical, almost chronological (first this, then that). To balance that heady approach, I now offer an even more compelling poetic view of wisdom.
The Book of Wisdom was written 
in Egypt between the years 80-50 BCE. The author was a Jew living in a Greek-speaking world. His aim was to express the faith and wisdom of tiny Israel in a form influenced by and understandable to his surrounding Greek culture. 

The seventh chapter of Wisdom contains a hymn/poem that is dedicated to the all-pervasive Spirit of God. In it, the author issues a call to all of us to channel the divine wisdom in every aspect of our lives. 

The following abridged form of the biblical text serves as a personal life-map for recognizing true wisdom amid the myriad imposters that clog the road of our daily lives--and living it.

Wisdom is . . .


cannot corrupt
loves what is good
nothing can restrain it
loving humankind
sees everything

surpasses in nobility all that moves
permeates all things
a reflection of eternal light
spotless mirror of God’s action
image of God’s goodness
more beautiful than the sun
surpasses all constellations
outrivals light
orders all things rightly . . .

Christian Community Bible: Catholic Pastoral Edition
© 1999, Bernardo Hurault and Patricia Grogan, FC
Imprimatur: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

Alfred J. Garrotto is the author of the novel

* Photo "Santa Cruz Sunset"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Can't Buy Wisdom--at any price

Note: With the Thanksgiving/Christmas Season upon us, everything will be for sale and much of that will be "on sale." One of the most important of our human needs is wisdom, which alone can bring us the joy and happiness we all say we want in life. The trouble is, we can't buy it at any price. But what is wisdom and how do we get it? The following is an excerpt from my book, The Wisdom of Les Miserables: Lessons From the Heart of Jean Valjean.

From various modern renditions of  wisdom, I have borrowed pieces and put them together in one statement that makes sense to me:

Wisdom is the ability, developed through experience, internal reflection and insight, to discern what is true and to exercise good judgment.

Let me share what this statement means to me.

.  .  .  ability developed through experience

Becoming wise requires that I commit myself to observing the human story as lived by those who preceded me on this planet. Analyzing that great body of experience, with its successes and failures, virtues and vices, I need to compare it to my  own unfolding story—my life circumstances, perceived problems, and decision-making processes. 
Victor Hugo steeped himself in the history of the human condition. The fact that his political leanings shifted over his lifetime might be viewed—and would be in the contemporary American scene—as vacillation and expediency. I prefer to think of it as a reflection of his hope that someone along the political spectrum, at some point in his lifetime, might eventually “get it right.” He understood well the terrible consequences for society’s marginalized populations—les miserables—of failure to learn from the mistakes of the past.

.  .  .  internal reflection

Based on what humanity has learned over time and what my own personal history and instincts reveal to me, I am called upon, at a given moment in time, to make the best evaluation of what I must do in similar historical circumstances. In other words, I assess what has worked in the past to my benefit and to the greater good of all—and what hasn’t.
Although Hugo’s personal habits and behaviors seemed eccentric at times, the author of Les Miserables possessed a rich interior life that combined personal faith in God and a keen desire to promote “liberty and justice for all.”

.  .  .  and insight

Based on my observation of history and reflection on its meaning, I gain creative insight to develop a plan for living a satisfied and productive life and promoting the welfare of those around me and the world at large.
In Les Miserables, particularly in the life of protagonist Jean Valjean, Victor Hugo drew a map for human living that, if followed, would create a more just, rational, and beautiful world than most human beings live in today.
The evil portrayed in the persons of Inspector Javert and the Thenardiers (innkeepers), and in the legal and penal systems of the author’s time, is a model of inhuman behavior. Hugo plunges his readers into the hell of these characters and institutions and their modern global counterparts (corporate greed, genocide, inter- and intra-religious slaughter, domestic poverty, homelessness, displaced refugees, etc.). Where does the list end?

.  .  .  to discern what is true and to exercise good judgment.

Experience, reflection, insight: these are essential ingredients in the search for and discernment of elusive truth. To the extent that truth is available and achievable, it leads me to sound judgment .  .  .  to wisdom. 

(c) 2013 by Alfred J. Garrotto

Alfred J. Garrotto is the author of the novel