the silence of wisdom

When I was a younger woman, I thought of wisdom as something like ‘knowledge gained from experience’ and imagined the sage offering words of it, if not exactly from a cave then at least from a rocking chair. Now that the wheel of life is gradually turning me toward the stage of elderhood, I’m beginning to see how foolish that definition of wisdom was, at least as I see it today (and I am humble enough to realize that my understanding of wisdom will surely change over time, that some day I may look back upon this little treatise with loving amusement, as in some way it is hubris to even speak of it) However, today I recognize wisdom as something more silent than speech and deeper than words.

Wisdom as witness is perhaps a more fitting description of the way I understand it today. The wise woman (or man) is one who has indeed seen and gleaned much of life, but who needs not shout it from the stage or revel in others sitting at her feet. She is content now to bear witness to the unfolding of wisdom in the other, for she understands that it is the journey of life that imparts it, not words of advice or analysis from another.

I correlate this in some way with the great letting go that comes with this stage of life. There is a natural stripping that occurs for most of us around this time. I remember my own grandmother’s house being minimalistic, my mother’s move into a simpler home acheiving the same. We no longer need things to affirm our identity and our worth, to be mirrors of our value. This detachment seems to go along with a quieting and a deepening, a stripping of need for defense or definition. Personally, I experience it as a deepening sense of knowing oneself as made of Love, which requires nothing outside of oneself to fulfill or define it. Rather I am coming to simply experience Love as Who I am and to relaxedly let it flow from within outward.

That outward flow need not be in things, or words, or even deeds (as no doubt my ability to perform will naturally fade with time). What I am noticing now is that the flow of Love can be as simple as this simplicity to which i am drawn — a simple gaze of grace, a glance that embraces, a bearing witness to belovedness, an offering of gracious understanding, which allows the other to blossom under the warmth of that sun.

Another noticing that relates to this one, i think, is this aspect of seeing: I no longer need the other to see me. It is true that there is an invisibility of age, one which we often lament, in our culture. I feel it at times too, of course, the way that our culture reveres and uplifts the achievements and prowess of those ‘pinnacle’ years, and discounts the substantial gifts that other stages of life bring to this place. But from this seat, where i sit this evening, I need not have eyes or ears turned upon me in admiration or reverence to know that I am…offering Love and the Wisdom of Seeing with Grace to this world. I suspect this is the All-knowingness which is true Wisdom.

Nor do i need the affirmation or reception of another to prove (or to speak for me) my truth, to make me feel substantial or real (or right!). I can see how I tried to do that, even not so very long ago, if I am honest, from a feeling of voicelessness or lack of self-agency, when I dressed up my words as ‘wisdom’ and expected the other to don those fancy clothes I offered, believing it was the clothes that made the woman. (I also suspect those clothes were at times defense or deflection, not wanting to be projected wrongly upon…desiring to be understood and seen as good) Now I know it matters not what the other sees. Those foolish clothes have been packed up and sent to the thrift shop along with the other things that I am in the process of relinquishing.

This will make sense to you, or it won’t.

And so, I fall silent more often now. Let things be as they are, unfold as they will. To let go and let another grow under a gaze that honors the beauty and wisdom of humanity and of life itself, is the epitome of Love. Wisdom needs not either ‘do for’ or be seen, rather, as I am coming to understand, it Shines Upon, a witnessing presence that dwells in the ‘all is well’ so deeply that there is no fear of disappearing. An ‘all is well’ that emanates and assures and encourages and safeguards, a safe space in which all are welcome.

And that is all I can see…. or say.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Colleen Passard
    Apr 12, 2022 @ 00:14:13

    This is a beautiful exquisite deep bow to wisdom. I love your writing Emma — it is truly medicine. So, deep bow of gratitude to you.,



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