Wisdom is found when you take a closer look.
Prompt of the week. Before you react, ask yourself: "What's the wisdom in this?"
Every time I utter the word "wisdom", someone giggles or sneers. Wisdom, more so even than expertise, does not sit comfortably in a democratic, anti-elitist society. In an age dominated by science and technology, by specialization and compartmentalization, it is too loose, too grand, and too mysterious a concept. With our heads in our smartphones and tablets, in our bills and bank statements, we simply do not have the time or mental space for it.
'Wisdom' derives from the Proto-Indo-European words and root 'weyd': "to see". Well, that's not really a surprise?! I am a visionair and I See a lot of thing others do not. I am aware of the present moment and therefor look at life unattached.
Model of wisdom
My model of wisdom is my grandmother Everdina, my mother's mother. I am named after her, with the E. as my middle name, Melanie E. Rijkers. Everdina, or Dina, did not have more than two years of secondary education. She becomes an orphan at a young age, and is kept at home to take care of her two older brothers.
She is 'saved' by an uncle who puts her in a family as a paid help, earning her own small income. After she meets my grandfather, they have to wait until May 1945 to get married due to World War II. Dina and Gert have seven children including a set of premature born twins. The boys are send home in a gingerbread tin, due to their tiny size, more or less to die.
The smallest of the two miraculously survives. Imagine this bizarre situation, with both of them working hard at the farm of her parents in law, as they can't afford or get hold of their own home, having those babies and receiving no natal care or whatsoever.
My mother is born in 1947, and sits on my grandmother's lap. My uncle Will, left on the photo, is the firstborn. Both of them are two models of wisdom to me. My mother dies in 1991 but my uncle and I still write letters to each other.
My parents wedding. Photo taken in 1970, with all four of my grandparents on the left. Dina loves telling us stories, and we, her grandchildren, visit her often. "Make sure you finish school, as I didn't got the opportunity when I was young."
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” — Socrates
My mother is able to attend the police academy in the 1960's, and is one of the first female police officers on the streets of Nijmegen. No longer women are stuck behind a desk in an administrative position only. By the way Nijmegen is the Dutch town from the movie 'A bridge too far'.
Still it feels very weird to read she had to quit her job as she marries my dad in 1970. Married women are not allowed on the force in the 1960's ...
Keep on learning
Philosophy literally means "the love of wisdom". I think of myself as older and wiser now. I hope to be a lot older when I die, as I want to become a well known philosopher. Now I am 50 years old, and I feel I'm only halfway up. My second, and best half of my life has yet to come.
From my grandmother I learned to grab chances when they appear. From my mother I learned life is short. From my grandfather I learned to have a joyful, playful life. From my uncle Will I learned you can live an adventures life in your back yard. From my dad I learned to listen to your body.
Those lessons aren't all happy ones, as my dad died of the complications of his surgery for bowl cancer. My mother also died of cancer when I was still a teenager.
Thinking of all these people, a smile comes to my face. I guess wisdom is: being able to smile. To smile of joy, to be peaceful and happy. Reminiscence, inner peace.
Message to myself
My mum says: Melanie, you are good. You are great! My sweet girl, I love you. My dad says: Melanie, I am so proud of you.
My grandmother says: Shall I tell you another story? Come and sit with a cup of tea. My granddad invites me to come out and play. We use the big swing in the garden, and I fly!
My uncle Will tells me to think before I act. He's actually the only one still alive. Dear family, I love you all.
I want to know
During a retreat in Bali ten years ago I claim: I want to know. A few years ago this changes: I do not want to know. This feels like a huge liberation. Freedom!
I do not need to know. My strength is being able to let go, and just be. I can come undone, just like Duran Duran's song.
Who do you need?
Who do you love?
When you come undone ...
By needing me, just me, only me,
I am enough.
Wisdom is found when you take a closer look.