Wisdom: The art of using wisdom
“Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future." —Seneca
I absolutely love the mindsets of the great Stoics. Stoicism as a whole is so much more complex than what we think it to be. It makes you wonder what could have been talked about in the Stoic schools when Zeno of Citium was teaching. For this blog I’d like to go into detail about wisdom and their subdivisions.
Wisdom is the virtue of good judgement. It is an advanced state of personal development that relies on extraordinary knowledge. Virtue wisdom is rooted in perspectives, interpretations, values and courageous actions. Wisdom essentially is taking all meaning and significance from the information of everyday life and understanding the interrelationships and thus their implications. And wisdom is subdivided into good sense, good calculation, quick-wittedness, discretion, and resourcefulness.
We use wisdom to understand our existence, the human situations, all our possibilities, and most importantly, the reality of our limitations as they all intertwine. It's no easy task to do this, acting through the virtue of wisdom can mean looking at situations from a 3rd person view point.
As a stoic who uses the virtue of wisdom, we apply this knowledge and take creative and courageous action to solve problems, create opportunities, and increase the well-being of all. You see, it's not enough to know, but also to understand to benefit from wisdom. We must take well understood action to reap its benefits.
Philosopher, Nicholas Maxwell defines wisdom as “the capacity, the desire, and the active endeavor to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others' '. An interesting thing is the core of wisdom, which is human value. Wise values begin by recognizing the interrelatedness of all things and follow these mutual influences to great length. The benefit of this to human development is openness to experience, widening of personal concerns, and a desire to increase the well-being of all. This speaks to the similarities of the human experience, while we may live different lives, it's important that our experience is similar but different, our individual existence rhymes with those around you. By understanding this, we can create and develop the values as humans and make wise decisions for the well-being of everyone.
Now this is not to say that we can if we were all just wise. I mean, that's not the reality, we are all similar in experience but we do not share the same reactions. It's wishful thinking to assume that we can help everyone. The very fact that we all desire different things suggests that we can't help everyone. But it's at the individual level where we can impact those around us. Only we can control ourselves, our reactions.
We can each intentionally develop and increase our wisdom. Wisdom requires progression in clear thinking, committed action, and emotional regulation. As we develop and increase our learning and maturity our focus can shift from survival, to success, and eventually to transformation. Wisdom emerges from the fusion of thinking, feeling, and acting at their highest levels of maturity.
Aristotle recognized prudence is what makes it possible to decide correctly what is good and what is bad for man, but wisdom tells us what best to do for the good. Wisdom is the good judgement to consider how today’s choices may determine how we confront the future. Wisdom seeks to do for our future what memory does for our past.
An exercise that we can do to increase our wisdom is to take actions based on knowledge and experience for the well-being of oneself and those around you, as described earlier in the blog but to take it a step further. When we make decisions, think about what the impact of these decisions will have. It's wise to go to the dentist to prevent future issues. Some wise decisions are rooted in adversity. Adversity also builds wisdom. But also good sense, calculation prevents future pains. All of these must be based in reality.
When you are thinking about making decisions, first think short term, then think long term. How will this job change impact me and my family today and later in the future? How will me saying x, y, or z statements impact my relationship with this person? All of these decisions must be based in reality, not wishful thinking as we would then start involving our desires, which are not always based in reality. Good calculation will help us understand what outcome may come.
Write a short story describing what your life is like 5 or 10 years from now. Be optimistic without abandoning reality. Describe your family and home life, your job, what you like to do, and how you spend your time. Now, what decisions do you have to make now, each day, and in the future to make this possibility a reality? Make those decisions wisely as they become timely.