Am I wiser?
I can't really tell. Sure I know better. I have mature in some measure. I understand widely, deeply. I see clearer and further. Knowledge wise, I have read more, much more, since my school days. At 45, married for 15 years with three children in tow, I have definitely grown. I have grown through making mistakes and learning from them - not all of them but most of them.
Life has been both kind and unkind to me. I could have done better with regrets. I could have acted with more understanding and grace towards friends, loved ones and my kids. I could have given more, humbled myself, demonstrated patience, reflected holistically, and lived with more optimism, faith and trust. All of that are in the past. The time spent is irredeemable. They are gone.
Although I would not consider it a wasted journey thus far, it was surely a journey that could have been more transforming for me and the people whose paths I had crossed. Taking stock and looking back from where I stand now, I realize that I have made some good choices and some bad ones. And I am here today because of the choices I have made.
Overall, my life has been a fair game and the hand that has dealt me the deck of cards has been both punishing and rewarding; with the former being a rite of passage of self-discipline to the latter. I thus accept it all as growing pains and I have nothing much to complain about.
But am I wiser? Am I?
Coming back full circle, have I learnt enough about life to know, think and act with wisdom, with love and with hope? This is hard for me to say. For me, the goalposts keep moving back as I strive towards it.
I guess the greatest battle is really inside me. If anything is standing in my way, it is me. I am the one that either screw things up or makes things better. Didn't Shakespeare say that the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves?
Ultimately, the best lesson in life is how I choose to respond to it. Isn't that the only reason why I am alive? Every moment I consciously - even unconsciously - choose life, and by virtue or default of that choice, I live. So responsibility is responsibility for living. And living is all about responding. That is, how I deal with a situation? How I behave (or ruminate) when my pride or ego is slighted? Am I a hostage of my desires-torn emotions or a commanding captain of them?
What do I think about when I am tempted? Do I give in to greed, lust or envy and allow them to ruin me? Am I feverishly solving one problem after another instead of astutely avoiding them? Is wisdom about mindlessly trying to live up to a concept, a belief-system, an ideal, or is it about admitting that I am not able to live up to them and then be realistic, even pragmatic, about it? Is wisdom about taming my expectations or taming me? Am I in control of my feelings or am I the weather that changes with the climate?
I read one definition of wisdom from John A. Meacham that intrigued me deeply. It goes like this:
"The essence of wisdom is to hold the attitude that knowledge is fallible and to strive for a balance between knowing and doubting. To be wise is not to know particular facts but to know without excessive confidence or excessive cautiousness.
Wisdom is thus not a belief, a value, a set of facts, a corpus of knowledge or information in some specialized area, or a set of special abilities or skills. Wisdom is an attitude taken by persons toward the beliefs, values, knowledge, information, abilities, and skills that are held, a tendency to doubt that these are necessarily true or valid and to doubt that they are an exhaustive set of those things that could be known."
All this dovetails to this quote which still resonates deeply in my heart: "Doubting everything and believing everything are two equally convenient solutions that guard us from having to think."
In short, wisdom is my attitude, my response to knowledge acquired or to a situation that presents itself to me, and it is tempered by humility and deepened by an open mind to all things. It is to be humble enough to acknowledge what I don't know and will never know. To be humble enough to admit that I may be wrong and to change course thereafter - and not cling on to dead-end desires. And to be humble enough not to rely on what I know as the gospel truth and close my mind to views that may contradict or threaten my jealously-guarded beliefs or pet-peeves.
And humility per se is why to that question "Am I wiser?" I hesitated. For if I were infallible, I guess humility would serve no other purpose except to make me even more infallible?
But far from it, humility is a treacherous journey for me where the way is narrow, the upward climb is steep and the road is arduous, long. I often take long, complacent rests in this journey, making little headway because arrogance beats another path for me; a broader path where the heart as a bottomless pit seeks recognition, the mind craves after fleeting praises from men, and the soul takes cover under the pretense of humility for its own sake.
And if there were a worthy mentor in this journey to the Calvary of my fleshly desires, in particular pride, envy and discontentment, it would come in the unassuming form of errors, mistakes and blunders to bleed and bruise me silly, in sheer soulish shame and torment, so that it may just make the narrow path more alluring for me than the broad way. And in doing so, I may come to my senses and embrace the enduring wisdom embodied in a heart that is made light by brokenness, made resilient by hope, and made whole by humbleness. Cheerz.