If you are familiar with the Enneagram, I am rooted in the 5 – the observer or the investigator. The “typical” 5 is like a vacuum about knowledge and information. “I read a book” is a typical refrain from a lot of 5s, me included. So there’s a lot of knowledge and information that we pull in. But wisdom is an entirely different critter. Proverbs is a beautiful book in the Bible and so much of it is rooted in the personification and affirmation of wisdom, not simply knowledge and information. Wisdom isn’t independent of knowledge but it is not rooted in it. Wisdom is rooted in experience, in openness, in listening, in humility.
One person who exemplified wisdom for me was a dear friend who passed away several years ago whose name was Phil. I came to know Phil through a unique small group with three dear friends – Bill, Rick, and Phil. For several years we shared life experiences and we dug deep into writers such as Richard Rohr, Bill Plotkin, Rilke, and Alexander Shaia. Through these writers, but even more so through the wisdom of these dear friends, I began to see the path of wisdom and the need to pursue it.
Phil, especially, exemplified wisdom and that was nowhere more evident than in his final months in hospice care. As he made a choice to stop fighting MS, he chose how he was going to spend his final days. In his room at Maple Knoll, people surrounded him it seemed day and night and simply listened to him share and speak. There was rarely a time when I’d come by and there weren’t at least 3 or 4 others there. People saw and experienced wisdom in Phil and couldn’t stay away. One of my fondest memories was a brief window of time where it was just Phil, Rick, and I. We sat together and read a few passages from Rilke’s Book of Hours, and we said goodbye. It was one of my final times seeing Phil alive and I am grateful for the wisdom he imparted and exemplified and encouraged in me and in so many others.
But Phil’s path was not a straight one with rigid lines but instead something far different. He reflected something that I read in Diana Butler Bass’ latest book, Freeing Jesus. She writes:
Yet for all their [mystics] diversity and the uniqueness of their experiences, they tend to express what is within through circles and spirals, poetry and revelations, in visions of love rather than dogma.Bass, Diana Butler. Freeing Jesus (p. 188). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Wisdom isn’t about straight lines and rigid edges but instead spirals, paths, curves, and wonder. Wisdom is the slow journey, not the fastest way to arrive. Wisdom recognizes the complexities of life and doesn’t prescribe simple answers. In this section of Proverbs, Wisdom calls out and speaks against simplistic notions and instead credits the wise and those who pursue her.
I found something beautiful this morning that I did not expect that speaks this to me. After walking the labyrinth this morning, I was walking through the parking lot next to it when I saw this paved-over arrow. What a beautiful contrast – the straight lines and sharp point of the arrow covered over next to the curved, natural lines of the labyrinth.