In the television show Friends, after dumping a barrage of advice upon Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, and Chandler, Joey proclaims, “I am pretty wisdomous!”
Joey’s that character we love to laugh at and with, and sometimes his simple logic makes sense. But, after guffawing it up watching the show, I wondered,
“What is wisdom?” and “How do you get some?”
What’s Human Wisdom?
Saint John of the Cross says wisdom has three components:
We read the wise words of others and gain new insights.
We learn from our mistakes; for example, when we touch a hot stove with our finger, we learn it hurts.
This is the lightbulb type of sagacity that comes upon us from God.
It often surprises us with deep understanding. It develops out of a regular practice of contemplation/meditation as God takes over our prayer and we receive loving knowledge communicated directly to our spirits. (See the article: John of the Cross’ Teaching on Contemplation.).
Joey’s good at exercising human wisdom—as described in the first two components above. He uses what he’s read and experienced to offer his wisdomous to his friends. But the third component moves us beyond human logic into the heart of God’s Divine Wisdom. That’s where we find true inspiration, freedom, and joy.
What’s Divine Wisdom?
Divine wisdom is transmitted by the Holy Spirit. It’s the guiding force of love that shows us how to live. It’s the whisper that let’s our hearts hear God’s silent voice.
It’s like the wind—we can’t touch it or see it—we just feel it on the inside of our bodies and come to trust it’s real. And when we experience and follow it, our lives unfold in surprising ways.
When I’m writing and get stuck in a funk of writer’s block, I take my fingers off the keyboard, look up to the sky, and ask God to show me what he wants to say through me.
When I sit in morning quiet time, I talk with God about my problems and ask for his insights to know how to move forward. And somehow I hear a mysterious—yet familiar and loving—voice reveal answers.
The other day, I was filled with anxiety and worry. I brought all the yucky stuff bothering me into meditation. I asked God to help me let go of it all.
An image of three boxes appeared in my imagination.
One box was the powerless box. Into that one, God invited me to place things I have no control over. Politics, other people’s negative attitudes, and the flurry of corruption that seems to win—all of these I dumped into the powerless box and closed the lid.
The next box was a toy box. I dumped my to-do list and the things I want to accomplish into it. I closed the lid and heard God whisper, “When it’s time, we’ll get to those tasks. For now, just rest in me.”
The third box was the box of truth. That box was for pearls of wisdom God reminds me are holy truths. Things like: I am a good person. We are the Original Blessing of God. God invites me to love and respect myself so I can open my heart to the Creator and be a loving vessel for others. Turn the other cheek and forgive.
In Praise of Fools
St. Paul writes, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18).
The word “fool” in our day suggests someone who’s an idiot. But, in ancient times a fool was akin to a prophet. According to the Daily News article, In Praise of Fools:
“Our society does not have enough real fools. Lots of idiots and people who try to fool us, but not true fools. Fools, like prophets, have the job of truth-telling—real truth . . . .
“Fools share this truth-telling with prophets, but there are important differences. Prophets are driven to tell their truth regardless of whether it is heard or even if they survive. Most prophets do not survive . . . . They cry out in the wilderness and, as John the Baptist and Paul, often lose their heads.
“Fools have a different mandate. They, as jesters, are inside the society and establishment and sometimes inside the Court itself. They are subversive and try to speak their truth to power in ways that get heard—using the laughter to create insight. They also try to speak their truths in ways that let them survive . . . .”
I’d say Fred Rogers was a fool. He was simple, practiced mindfulness and meditation, and taught both children and adults the basics of living a happy life, including honesty, sharing, and being devoted to something greater than ourselves.
Jesus was another fool. He went around doing good and God was with him. With his life and death, he taught an angry, misguided culture how to love.
How to Get Wisdom: The Real Fools’ Tools
It’s foolishness in the world’s eyes to wait for and follow a voice that’s often as elusive as the wind, something unable to be grasped. The world doesn’t understand that with practice, the Voice of Wisdom can become as familiar as our beating hearts.
As April Fool’s Day draws near, let’s pick up the real fools’ tools and put them in our spiritual toolbox. Reading spiritual books, prayer, and daily time in solitude create the sacred space for us to connect with God. These spiritual practices create an inner stillness that let us tap into the flow of Divine Wisdom. We become empowered by the Holy Spirit. We hear the Voice of God.
We can’t make wisdom happen. It occurs naturally, organically, when we empty ourselves and create space for our relationship with God to deepen and grow. In moments of quiet and solitude, Wisdom find us and leads us with Guiding Love.
Maybe being a fool isn’t all so bad. Like Joey, we can become wisdomous if we practice.
—brian j plachta