This post might turn out to be more of an interesting exercise than I expected. It’s one that I started nearly three weeks ago only to get knocked off track. In the meantime, my conclusion is different that what I was expecting. (I’ll show you where the break came when we get there).
A few days ago I made a couple of comments about my own lack of wisdom. Nothing unusual, I tend toward self-deprecation on anything remotely serious, a pretty common defense mechanism I guess. Truth is, though, I think I might actually be getting little wiser than I used to be. I’m not bragging or anything, it’s likely a sign of just how far I had to go as much as anything.
Aristotle said “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” After spending close to three decades trying to figure myself out, I think I’ve got a lot of that part covered. In some ways that goes back to the self-deprecation thing, there’s nobody who knows my faults better than I do, I’ve spent plenty of time examining them. Truth is, if I didn’t get me figured out reasonably well, there were pretty serious doubts (and fair reason to doubt) there was going to be much left of me to figure out.
But this really isn’t about how wise I’ve supposedly gotten, it’s about why I believe I might be a little wiser and, moreover, how I think I’m getting that way.
“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”
― Marcel Proust
And that’s where my train of thought derailed.
In hindsight that was almost predictable. I was probably almost to the point of being cocky, feeling good about the sudden surge of insight and self-improvement or whatever the heck it was.
I was heading for something along the lines of “I’ve spent all these years trying to figure me out, suddenly I seem to be getting some real insight into other people”. The good part about this wave of knowledge or wisdom or whatever was — the part that had me feeling a little giddy — that I was actually learning as much about myself through them as anything. It’s a little hard to explain without going into far more detail and specifics than I consider appropriate, but suffice (maybe) to say that through some of these encounters & learning experiences I honestly felt like I grew as a person. I was able to set aside some things that had bothered me for literally decades. It doesn’t seem healthy to me for anything to be stuck in your craw for that long, logically I figure anything that old has to spoil or even become downright toxic.
That’s the good part.
The not-so-good part is when I got a stern reminder of just how much further I have to go. My increasingly evolved, oh-so-wise, new-and-improved self stumbled headlong into a situation that left me with a furrowed brow and a definitely deflated ego. In the grand scheme of life it’s really not something that’s a big deal … but it was something that fit precisely into an area where I was so proud of all my new-found development.
When this entry started, I said I wanted to talk about not only why I thought I was getting a little bit wiser and how I thought I was getting that way. I think I’ve managed the first part of that, the second is tougher now that I’ve come back — or been brought back — to reality.
What I was going to say was something along the lines of how I thought that maybe self-awareness only gets you so far, that I was starting to believe that maybe some lessons required other people. Certainly some of the quite random interactions that had taken me toward this supposed enlightenment were the catalysts for the new understanding. These were things that had been unresolved, or at least unsettled, for years until those people & situations came along. In each case, I really came away with this sort of mystical sense that “this was not accidental, this was what you were supposed to learn and this was the time for you to learn it”. To be honest, it was all rather cool, it’s a good feeling to know that you’re being taught AND that you’re learning the lesson. Quite satisfying.
And then … this. Smacked upside the head by the realization that you’re still somewhere around mastering subtraction with single digit whole numbers but the End Of Course Test covers something like vector calculus. And no, I really don’t even know what the hell vector calculus is, much less how to do it. But it sounds complicated.
See why this entry stalled out? I mean, what’s the point here? I had one when I started, honest. But when the very premise I was working from unceremoniously popped like a cheap balloon from a 3rd-rate pizza place, this was pretty much adrift. And then tonight I wandered back around to this and figured maybe the ending, or the lack of a happy ending, was actually THE point in the first place.
See, I started out to talk a bit about the journey. Maybe it wouldn’t have been much more than my usual rambling, but it at least felt like it had some purpose or point. What hits me now is that this is also just part of the journey. My next lesson to be learned was something like how the journey never ends, that there’s several ways to advance toward Go! (and $200), and that sometimes “You have been elected chairman of the board” just means you have to pay each player $50.
Less fun that the $11 prize for winning second place in a beauty contest … but the game continues.