The Wise Men of Our Age

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Rethinking Christmas 


These days, if we have a problem, we consult Oprah, or a self-help book, or a professional counsellor. We trust them to speak into our lives, mold us, change us. We follow the examples they set out before us.

While there’s nothing wrong with this, I wonder what happened to the days when we consulted the wise people in our own communities, those whom we know personally and whose lives we see up close as examples to follow. Are there no wise people left in the circles in which we walk, or do we simply not know each other as well as we used to in days gone by?

There is, of course, a greater privacy and anonymity in seeking counsel on tv, in a book, or from someone we pay. This comes, however, at a price- the price of relationship. We get our need for a solution met, but have not used the opportunity to build further depth into an existing relationship.

And so, I challenge myself this year to seek out the wise men and women in my immediate circles, the up close examples I can learn from, and allow them to speak into my life louder than my tv set.

Image Source


Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

A Word of Wisdom

The longer the bus takes to get here the more time I have to just sit and re-run over and over how much I wish I could be smoother in speech, more genial in demeanor, kinder in thought and deed. I ponder my latest blunder and bite my bottom lip hard, hoping the pain will overpower the sting of the scene replay itself in my mind.

The street is empty, except a lone, staggering figure turning the corner toward me. He weaves on and off the sidewalk. I am so deeply immersed in my own head that I barely process his approach.

And then he is before me.

He stops. I look up, adrenaline kicking in. He has alcohol on his breath. He moves his head in close to mine, waves a finger in the air and pronounces slowly, “Just. Be. Yourself.”

He then straightens up, turns away, and continues down the street.

My heart rate regains its rhythm and I let out a long breath, letting go of my lip.  

Words more perfect for the moment could not have been spoken by a less likely Wise Man.

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Filed under Creativity, Writing

27 responses to “The Wise Men of Our Age

  1. edurhetor

    Yeah, I have always thought it odd that some people in a deep rich community still want to hire someone to be a friend or advisor. Objectivity and privacy are sometimes to be desired. But I agree — the closer one is to the advisor/wise, the more you learn by having a relationship with them. It holds you accountable to treat them with kindness too.

    • I like the additional point you make about relationships holding us accountable to treating each other with kindness. We must build our relationships within the boundaries of treating each other as we want to be treated. The closer we get to others the more easily we let down our guards and the harder it is to keep the ‘nice’ facade. We will likely step over the ‘treating each other well boundary’ without meaning to, and have to make our way back to kindness. Wisdom teaches us to forgive each other and continue to deepen the relationship.

  2. There is so much wisdom that the extra-ordinary, ordinary people in our lives have to offer us. Beautiful post. Thank you.

    • So true, and in so many ways. I have some folks in my circles that are common sense, straight-forward, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of people. There’s a lot of wisdom there that I need to learn from.

  3. I found both parts of this post to be insightful, and useful. I also think I know why we look to others rather than those closer to us for advice. I would not be surprised to find that people do not agree with me on this, but here it is: at this time in history we want to believe that we already know the answers to all of life’s mysteries–or at least we want those around us to think we do. To give over to another person, to ask someone who knows us for help, is to admit we NEED help. On the other hand, if we use some optimized media personality as a guide, we can feel safe in our secrets.

    Just think of the last time you purchased an item because a celebrity claimed it was good–even if it was clear that they could have no expertise in it?
    What a world.
    Good post!

  4. This resonates so, Zoë – there are times in life where I really want to bounce something off someone, but not anyone who knows me personally or a psychiatrist or dodgy self-help guru, but a wise old ethicist with a dispassionate moral compass. Never mind Adopt-a-Granny for kids, many of us adults could do with a program like this, too 🙂

    • A Dear Old Ethicist column instead of a Dear Abby column? Perhaps someone can start such a blog 🙂 Google says it doesn’t exist at present…

      • Exactly! I was thinking about the Agony Aunt thing last night. We have a section in one of national weekend papers where a question is put to the Ethicist, the Humanist and Jurist – the different responses are always interesting. My questions would take up too much space 😀

      • Ok, so, off course, now you got me curious about your question. Perhaps the blogosphere could propose an answer?…

  5. Wow! Did that really happen? Talk about serendipity! Wisdom can come from the most unlikely sources because it is borne of the breadth of human experience: there is always someone who had been where you haven’t; done what you haven’t, and they have learned lessons which, if they choose to share them with you, are pearls of great price. My greatest fault is shutting off and throwing the defensive wall up before I hear what they have to say.

    • Many years ago, yes, it did happen. My memory of it is a little vague, but I do remember the elderly inebriated gentleman telling me to just be myself and that the contrast between his state and the wisdom and timing of his words was striking. I think he followed up with, “I’m really drunk” before he walked off. It was quite a moment!

  6. Wonderful post, Zoe. “When the student is ready . . . the teacher appears.”

    That teacher can take any form . . . book, friend, quote, co-worker, and even the occasional wino on the street. The Universe is magical and mystical and offers synchronicities to us when we are ready to receive them.

    As to whether or not there are “wise people left in the circles in which we walk” . . . I guess it depends on the path we are traveling.

    Sometimes we need to foster relationships with others . . . sometimes we need to forge a relationship with our self and the wisdom waiting within.

    Great post!

    • True, depends on the path we are travelling. I like having a variety of different types of people in my life so that I don’t get stuck. The blogosphere opens up a whole new world as well.

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  8. Chloe

    Oh, this is so insightful…

    I think partly we no longer rely on the wise folks around us because, apart from the distractions you mention, and the other modern routes now available for seeking advice, there’s also a collapse of community and a growing feeling of distrust in those around us. Sad but true.

    I am a big believer in community, in reaching out to those around us, in smiling at strangers (so long as they’re not carrying an axe or other deadly weapon). People are usually surprised that somebody smiled at them, and I’d like to think that it makes their day a little brighter.

    Here’s a smile for you, from the UK 😀 xx

    • A smile can sure go a long way- all the way from the UK to here 🙂 Thanks for the smile, it does brighten up the day!
      Community is hard because it requires that we take the parts of people we like along with the parts we don’t like. Responding well can also be challenging. But without it, what are we left with?

  9. It drives me crazy the way so many people quote Oprah as their source for all knowledge. I have nothing against her, I’m just not sure she is the wisest of all. I like your resolution. You will be an example to others to trust the wise people in their lives, and do something I advocate completely, Ask for Help.

    • It’s easy to idealize people we don’t actually know in person, like Oprah. There’s something ‘real’ about seeing the faults of the wise ones in our lives and still seeking them out for their wisdom.

  10. I sat and thought about who the ‘wise people’ are in my life and how I could use their resources more. I think I agree with Richard, often I don’t turn to these people because that would be admitting I might need help and their perception of me might change…obviously something I have to work on. Thanks Zoe.

    • There’s something to be said for being ok enough with knowing our own need for help that if others see us differently because of it we are not crushed by their perceptions. We also need to choose these wise ones carefully. Truly wise people will accept us in our need- they know they need help in some areas too. Nobody’s perfect.

  11. I think people resort to TV personalities like Oprah and read books to get answers to questions because there isn’t time in our busy schedules anymore for relationship. And, after foregoing relationship for a period of time, the very idea of it is unsettling. You reflect this awkwardness that exists toward relationship in your sentence that says: ‘There is, of course, a greater privacy and anonymity in seeking counsel on tv, in a book, or from someone we pay.” We have become lonely people by choice. I think you are wise to butt this tendency by seeking relationship with people in your vicinity, the ones we all seem to purposely shun.

    I like your little story, “A Word of Wisdom”. This line is perfect: “Just. Be. Yourself.” Maybe this is why we have trouble with relationship. We don’t know how to be ourselves. We feel we must be, well, Oprah, or someone else that we all deem successful.

    Thank you for another great post. Blessings to you…

    • There is something in our society that has allowed us to drift apart. Busyness, yes, and also self-sufficiency. We each have our own ‘stuff’ so don’t need to build relationships in order to borrow each others’ things. A gain in the material has made for a loss in the relational.

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