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A wise man

September 20, 2011

In preparing for my wisdom series, I asked Q what qualities he thought made a person wise. He described some wise people in his life.

I always thought my friend D was wise—that is why I wanted you to meet him. He is wise in a lot of spheres in his life. He spent a lot of time observing the world and drawing what I thought were accurate conclusions from it about people’s personalities and their behavior and collective behavior. He thinks the world  is kinda crazy so he decided to go in a different direction. He had to change a lot about himself but the reward is clear. D reads a lot, is very happy, two great kids—very grounded. He is a combination of loving and intelligent. To me those qualities make him wise. He is also very honest, he is selective—not trying to change anyone, he doesn’t pontificate because he doesn’t need to. D just tries to set an example.

D built his home. He is a carpenter—a woodworker—that is how he makes his living,and also as a trekking guide—a woodsman a herbalist and tree medicine specialist. When I first met him he didn’t have a toilet—he had an outhouse, but he had a bathtub. D doesn’t rely on any fossil fuels, using just a wood stove to heat the house. He built his house around the heating system, without drafts. They heat all their water for baths on the stove. He built a life that doesn’t create much impact. They spend a lot of their time gardening and developing the soil. D and his wife giving classes on wild crafting, finding food and sustenance from the wild.

Most of his life he has lived below the poverty line, but nothing is poor in his world. He saved so he wouldn’t go into debt. If he wanted to add an addition (octagon room for teaching, bunkhouse for guest, wood shop) he saved for the building materials. D home schooled his kids. He was mindful of socialization and made an effort to have kids participate in local sports, and they are some of the most mature, well-rounded people I know.

He knew how to say no, he was polite. A lot of people wanted his attention, but he spent a lot of time with himself–improving himself  and his relationships and spending time with nature. This is a reflection of his values and putting his values into action. Exercised—cool lifestyle. Balanced. Not stressed. He worked hard and was focused. A lot of his friends were a lot like him. They have a community of awesome people, people he felt comfortable around. An important part of the community is people’s connection with the natural world. Our society is disconnected from natural cycles. The wisdom in reconnecting is the benefits it brings to a person—fresh air, exploration, diversity, and fascination of the natural world. Something in us wants that connection to make us happy.

D lived on an island without electricity for 10 years. I don’t know what happened but he went from being a teenager with a large family–all his brothers and sisters got high-powered jobs–and he saw that they were unhappy and somehow that led to his own identity. He was shaped by the 60s and 70s and the changes going on then that drove him to be mistrustful of the governemtn and social goals and information. He had a healthy dose of not believing everything. D often said that if there was anything he would have done differently was that he would be farther from people. But he has not withdrawn from society, he is a teacher. D is more connected than I am to the community. He has his sanctuary, but a balanced interior life and exterior life.

Another wise person I knew, I didn’t know for very long, but he was my first host father in Kazakhstan. (Q volunteered in the Peace Corps). L was a politician with a diverse toolbox, but he was also, he was just friendly. He lived in a difficult environment, the politics in KA and especially that city were changing very fast and he was a head of the curve. He seemed to spend less time fighting anything and more time understanding and observing, figuring out where his place was going to be. I played chess and could see how his chess strategy mirrored his life strategy. He was friendly, but way ahead of you in the game. He knew where he was going and where the game was going.

L was wise, but wise from experience. An optimist, idealist, but very much a Soviet, so his ideals kind of clouded his observations.

I think you don’t need a lot of experience to be wise, but you need good observation skills and the ability to draw the right conclusions. You have to ask—what do you want to get out of life and how do you want to get there.

Introspection, humility, honesty, observant, balanced, mindful of your influence and how your actions affect others, calm – not buffeted by storms of emotions but also very true and aware of your emotions. Selflessness. Wise people care about others, but think about the collective good. Everyone has a mix of these qualities. But wisdom is rare in this world.

Can you describe someone you know that seems wise?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2011 9:54 pm

    First of all, great post.

    My brother is very wise. He is a philospher/writer and works as a manager at a performing arts center in a great city. He doesn’t own a car, has a small amount of debt (unfortunately, you can’t live and enjoy this world without a little debt, at least the way it is currently structured), and his work schedule is very flexible so that he has strings of days off to pursue his writing endeavours. He does have a strain of selfishness, but his gift to the rest of us is his writing. He reminds me of my favorite musician and composer — Beethoven. Although Beethooven struggled to get along with other human beings and could be seen as self absorbed and selfish, the music he created for himself and his audience, the public, was from a another world. If you have never heard the Ninth Symphony, you are missing a real treat.

    My grandfather was another wise man. He was a science teacher and football coach. He was never rich but was independent. He was fascinated with the universe. He taught me three important lessons.

    1. I became a teacher because I felt like I could make a difference in other peoples lives.

    2 Look in the mirror and see if you like the person looking back at you.

    3. When ever you are getting a bit full of yourself, go outside on a dark clear night and look at the stars.

    • roese permalink*
      September 22, 2011 2:41 pm

      I’ve had a hard time thinking of a wise person I know personally. I think I am being too exacting in my definition. Like you said, even the wise people we know might struggle with a flaw or two.

      Great advice about the looking at the stars. I took an intro astronomy class as a freshman, which my friend said should be a pre-requisite to deflate the heads of incoming students. Every class was a ‘mind is now blown’ experience. I like to go outside and imagine falling into the sky. Perspective on your life and your troubles is a good thing.

  2. September 23, 2011 1:12 am

    LOL…the universe is humbling but should also be a means or setting direction. Unfortunately, humbleness is not currently a rewarded trait. Keep on writing…enjoyed your post.

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