Wisdom offers great rewards, but nothing beats love

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 23, 2008

In concluding last week’s column on wisdom and the origins of these columns, I said: “You have become mentors to me in the beautiful journey of life. You have my ears and my heart.”

“And you have ours,” responded Cochrane coffee companion Elaine Phillips.

Well, since we seem to have each other’s ears and hearts at this moment, let me share more of the beautiful responses I’ve received this past week.

From Calgary, Leo Peters, a motivation specialist and lover of Cochrane coffee houses, wrote:

“Thank you. By sharing with us your own journey, you have let us discover that all of our wisdom comes from others. We learn from our children and grandchildren, our friends and our soul mates, our students and teachers, our coaches and those we coach, our mentors and protégés, our authors and readers, and our coffee companions.

“We learn from our mistakes and our successes and by walking our talk and experiencing life, observing, reflecting and sharing. Life is a continuing education of lifelong learning. Just when we think we have the answers and pathways to learning, along comes reality and teaches us again.”

Cremona coffee companion Kathie Reid picked up on my special tribute to elders of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation for launching me into a wisdom-way of thinking. She wrote:

“I've been pondering your April 16 column all week. Why does wisdom seem like such a scarce commodity these days? It seems like the general population is ‘blown about by every wind of change’ with little ability to think things through. You were attracted to the wisdom of the Stoney people. Was it because they had a slower pace of life that they were able to find wisdom? It's a constant challenge for me to slow down enough to listen to my own thoughts. Thanks for pursuing wisdom and for leading us, too.”

Gloria Jean Skinner, a manager at Calgary and Area Child and Family Services, agrees with Kathie, especially about the wisdom among First Nations elders, adding:

“I work in Child Protection in the Native Office. I am tired of the stereotyping and the ignorance of the ‘public’ who speak of what they do not know. I know so many wonderful, educated and not-so-educated people of First Nation descent and I get enraged when I hear the criticism. My friends tell me not to waste my energy on anger but to try to educate whoever I can. They tell me, if I got angry at every racist slight I got, I would not be able to live and have peace in my soul. How sad that our society prefers to stay ignorant than to take the opportunity to learn about these First Nation communities and the many wonderful people who live amongst us.”

At the heart of wisdom, then, is the quest to become fully human, and as both Kathie and Gloria stress, elders within First Nations oral traditions have much to teach the rest of our society about this vision.

Cochrane coffee companions Paul and Angela Morel picked up on the folksy style of such wisdom when they wrote:

“Learning isn’t always lofty ivory-towerish pedantic soothsayings. (There’s plenty of that in dusty tomes – or now in Wikipedia.) Rather, for most of us it’s usually quite down to earth – on the street or on the rez. Just like the things you write about.”

Speaking of “dusty tomes,” I must clarify something I said in last week’s column. I unintentionally implied that wisdom was not likely to be found in university library stacks. I was referring primarily to arcane technical works. Edmonton bibliophile Yo’vella Mizrahii has in mind a different kind of book:

“I had a light chuckle when you mentioned the obscure, dusty books in the library. Over the years I've had the pleasure of finding old, dusty books and they always seem to be treasures of wisdom. These older books really lead me to think about life in ways I never have before. There is something transforming about the writings in these older books.”

I’ll give the closing word to Cochrane coffee companion Nancy McLeod, who bases her response on the Book of Proverbs, from the Hebrew Wisdom Literature:

Wisdom, she wrote, is founded on the knowledge of God and is characterized by “understanding, uprightness, happiness, fearlessness, peace, mercy, grace and truth.” It is “confident, giving, caring, trustworthy and pleasing,” and yields “length of days, favour, sweet sleep, security, blessings, abundance, joy, health and true wealth.”

“The journey into wisdom is amazing,” she said, “but first take the Love journey; it will lead you to all wisdom and truth.”

Thank you, coffee companions. Once again you have my ears and my heart.

© 2008 Warren Harbeck

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