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Saturday, March 5, 2022

Wisdom, If You're Smart. Or Mom

      "We grow too soon old and too late smart."

     My mother used to say that, in her version of a Pennsylvania Dutch accent. I have never heard an actual practitioner of that vernacular, but I suspect Mom's rendition of it was atrocious. Not that she would have been all that bothered. All she cared about was making the point. And make the point she did. 

     She was, in fact, the very exemplar of the wisdom/wise smarts illuminated by the quote. She knew an awful lot, having produced a lot of smart kids after marrying a wise man. Her own formal education had been stunted by the need to learn and carry adult responsibilities as the oldest child in a family that needed her to do that. But she became a human encyclopedia over decades of conversation as we kids came home from school brimming over with new knowledge.

     In the latter half of her adulthood, as a widow, she made it her business to repair some of the  shortfalls in her formal education. But for me, going back to my earliest memories and continuing through her long life, my mother was unfailingly smart and wise.

     The smart-wise combination is not all that common, you know. Smartness can grind on wisdom, and wisdom tends to suffocate smartness. But the two depend on each other, and in the long run you operate on a dynamic combination. Succeeding at it requires attention.

     As we navigate life, we need to keep learning fresh stuff to deal with new challenges and opportunities. But what to put in, what to leave out? And some of what we already know and do becomes obsolete, sometimes dangerous. What to weed out, what to keep? What to change and how?

     Familiar old skills and practices need tuning and refreshing, trimming and remodeling. Why, when and how to do that?

     The how-to is not particularly easy, and it most definitely is not quick. Earning and applying it calls for conscious. persistent effort. Judgment is the working engine of wise, smart change. Patience is its fuel and discipline is both the gas pedal and the brake. My lifetime is the trip. 

     Thanks, Mom for the roadmap. 



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