Perhaps because of my name and its derivation, wisdom (philo-sophy: the love of wisdom), I have a special relationship with wisdom. I remember when I was a teenager that my prayer — with heart-yearning anguish — was “To Understand.”
“Understand what?” someone might have asked, had I opened the secret tablets of my heart.
“All of it!” I would have cried dramatically, “Who am I?” “What is this Universe–and Why is it here, not there?” And these were only the simple questions. “Why do plants grow petals in odd numbers?” “What if something is faster than light?” And always, Einstein’s question: “Is the Universe a friendly place?” And then one day, sometime in my middle years, I realized with a burst of joy that I would never understand everything–and what a gift! There’s always more!
Now I am an old lady, and I am supposed to have acquired some modicum of wisdom. Whatever I know is very small. But curiously it circumambulates Female energy, sex, fertility, creativity. And the fact that so generous is the Universe that it gives us . . . everything. For example, I’ve just been asked to write a blog for a special site: Look it up: faithshapes.com
The other day, I found myself putting on my ruby-and-diamond engagement ring from my long-ago marriage. Because the mind works by association, slipping it on my finger brought to mind the Book of Proverbs, where a ruby is the metaphor for Wisdom — and also for a virtuous Woman. Do you remember the proverb (31:10-31)? A good woman is more precious than rubies. She rises while it is still dark, cooks and cleans, feeds her family, buys and sells in the marketplace, acquires land that increases in value; plants vineyards, weaves, sews, dresses her children in red and purple, heals the sick, and is still awake working by candlelight late into the night. She is cheerful, kind, generous to the poor. Whew! It’s exhausting just thinking about her while her husband attends to his pipe and pals. (Actually he is being important at the city gates.)
The other famous ruby is found in the proverb on Wisdom (4:6-7), and again it pertains to a woman, for Wisdom herself is said to be female.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who searches understanding,
for… She is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
It was Wisdom (Sophia) who told God to create the earth, divide day and night, and fill the universe with life.
The Lord by Wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.
Yet his knowledge was worth nothing until she told him what to do. (Isn’t that the way of it?) Which is why the Holy Spirit in the Christian Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) is considered female: Wisdom whispering invisibly in your ear. Google “Knowledge” and you find 1,100,000,000 results. Put in “Wisdom” and only about 252,000,000 crop up.
And what is wisdom? One friend of mine defines it as Intelligence backed by Experience, and another announces, facetiously, that it’s good table manners (chew with your mouth closed), which is smarter than at first dismissal since anyone with that courtesy probably extends it to all other aspects of life. Still a third says wisdom is Listening to your Intuition or Inner Voice, which surely obtains so long as your Inner Voice is filled with loving kindness. I distrust those intuitions that tell you to go kill your mother in law.
One friend says it’s Discernment–especially of when to shut up. Listen. And some people in these greedy times of ours would trade wisdom any day for a few handfuls of rubies.
The Book of Proverbs describes wisdom with precision: To do good, and do it right now; to not betray or take advantage of the trusting neighbor; or argue, or be scornful, devious, cunning, contemptuous, brash, bragging, or violent; but upright, humble–and always, first and foremost, to put your trust in God that will care for you in every situation.
Maybe that’s all we need to know about wisdom: Discernment, Kindness. Good table manners. Awareness that the Universe is a caring place and on our side. Maybe wisdom is noticing how blessings pour down onto us — in bushels overflowing, because the Universe cannot help but give and give — and give us everything. I’m reminded of Goethe’s wonderful quotation:
“The gods, the eternal ones give all things to their darlings — all joys, all sorrows, to their darlings, everything.”
Perhaps wisdom is the utter and total awareness of that single fertile and creative feminine verb: what IS.