Wisdom, Part II

As I was thinking about wisdom for last week’s post I turned to Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. Tippett’s framework for organizing her reflections consists of five “raw materials for our lives,” or what she calls the “breeding grounds for wisdom.”  They are: words, the body, love, faith and hope. What follows is a description of what these raw materials mean in my own life as a seeker of wisdom.


An insatiable reader from childhood on, I  intuitively understood that our lives are shaped by stories. I used novels to help me understand my life as a woman.  I saw in each of my college presidencies how the stories people told, true or false, shaped the culture in which they interacted and how they regarded change. As a leader I learned how hard it was sometimes to decipher the narrative and create a new one.

More recently, my attention has again turned to how words are shaping my life. The latest selection for my on-line book club is a collection of poems. Some members are apprehensive, but I am looking forward to dwelling with new words. Each week I think about the words I will share in my blog. I am striving for a balance between what I learn as I write and what I hope others will take away.

I also struggle to shut out the “noise” of words from politicians and others which can only distract me from this journey of discovery.

The Body

It is hard, as I age, to be fully present in a body that is more often a source of pain and betrayal than  a source of pride and wonder. My relationship to my body is mostly about its health, but too often it feels like work, not joy.  Accepting limitations does not come easily. I am often startled by own reflection, when the body I imagine is younger and stronger.


In her conversation with Eve Ensler, Tippet refers to Ensler’s idea of love as “the daily, subtle simple ingathering of kindness.” Blessed with a life that has experienced romantic love, the fearsome love for my children, and the supportive love of my parents and siblings, recognizing the power of the love of friends and perhaps more importantly strangers, is both enriching and daunting.

The vistas in the Berkshires are breathtaking. I have said they make me feel peaceful, but I think I can more fully describe the feeling as the capacity for love. The landscape makes me feel that love of the unknown is possible.


A Rabbi I knew once shared that he didn’t know if he believed in God but would spend his life asking the questions that, perhaps, would lead him to find out. I don’t know what I believe, but my religious tradition and practice is an important part of my life and provides me with a place in which to ask the questions.  Right now, I am focused on finding a community of faith, because although the questions are intensely personal, they are also collective.


Tippett defines hope as “a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not how we wish it to be.” Yet I believe that having a vision of ‘how we wish to be” is a prerequisite for hope. This morning I read on Twitter - usually a source of despair - about a group of young teenagers who have started Zero Hour, a movement to fight for “climate justice.”  About to inherit a planet in crisis, I expect them to fulfill my vision of a planet we care for. Like the Parkland students fighting for gun control, they are moving through the world as it is – learning to organize, lobby, recruit and speak in public. They will suffer setbacks in this world, but they give me hope.