When asked as a child what superpower I would possess if I could pick any in the world, my response was always wisdom. While this doesn’t seem too imaginative or come across as a terribly fantastical response that you’d expect most children to provide to such a question, looking back it’s probably the most imaginative of all.
Growing up in a “Godly house”, my parents emphasized the role of the Bible as the leading narrative in our home. From an early age one particular story struck me so profoundly that it shaped me forever: the story of King Solomon (1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72). The parable involves two women arguing before the King in an effort to win ownership over a infant child. These women gave birth just days apart, but one woman rolled over on her child while sleeping and killed it, and now she was claiming that the other woman’s child was her own. King Solomon, being the wisest man who ever lived, listened to these women intently before he requested his sword. He reasoned, if both the women claim ownership over the baby, let them both have it: cut the baby in half!
At this the real mother fell before his feet and begged him to spare the child, to give her son to the other woman. The other woman was ambivalent, saying to cut the baby in half so that neither would have one. At this Solomon stopped the baby’s execution and pointed at the first mother, saying “She is the real mother, give the baby to her.”
Though simple, this story struck me powerfully in my youth. What was most curious about the stories of Solomon was that because he requested wisdom and judgment over riches and power, he was rewarded with all of these and more! In my youth I reasoned that wisdom was the key to achieving all other desires. More fascinating is that the motivation for his request of wisdom sprung from his desire to be a servant, to serve god. Being a servant requires humility, it requires that the subjective ego disappears in favor of another perspective, a more objective perspective devoid of bias or valuations or deires. This attitude of being a servant is necessary for learning more generally.
However, one must not stay a servant. Eventually, after accumulating enough knowledge and wisdom, one must become the leader, become the intrepid visionary who creates alternative realities for others to hope in; future worlds charged with the character of progress. George Bernard Shaw said it best: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself; therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” Be reasonable while you are learning, but tenacious and unrelentingly when enacting a vision. Being reasonable is a static state; being unreasonable is a fluid state. Adaptation requires the fluidity of change. The span of life is unreasonable and changing– only moments are reasonable, but there are far too many moments to reason.
Ironically, the downfall of Solomon was pleasure. It’s the same struggle told throughout history between mind and body. His lust for women, for pleasurable indulgence of the body, caused him to undermine his wisdom, his mind, and use poor judgment. This is a timeless parable between being caught up in the tangible short-lived things of the world and being obedient to the external qualities of mindful wisdom.
Now, I’m not a religious man. I consider myself very worldly, recalling the Socratic wisdom “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, I am a citizen of the world” and the quote by Thomas Paine “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” I believe in experience, not abstract symbolism and language with no immediate or demonstrable footing. I will not feign the metaphysical, the supernatural, the spiritual. There is one spirit, one universal consciousness that imbues all experience with meaning and power, and that is possessed by me alone. The Other minds aid as intermediaries in my journey, but no single Other nor text nor image nor experience will provide the answers I seek. It is the collective combination that yields wisdom; the synthesis of history with the present. And this task is reserved for me alone.
The above screen shot is from a psychiatric evaluation conducted when I was 14. Though my fascination with wisdom began when I was much younger, it has persisted throughout my life, leading me to study philosophy (love of wisdom) and economics (law of the house).