Wisdom, says the biblical book of Proverbs, takes her stand at the crossroads. She is found, not in the quiet glen or near the babbling brook where one might expect a wise word to be heard. “Wisdom cries out in the street,” Proverbs’ priestly scribes claim; “in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out.”
Sometimes the busiest corners in my life are the intersections I carry within – the crossroads where my values meet the realities of my life and the world, or the large round-about in my heart where my hopes and fears, joys and losses, anger and gratitude all co-mingle, waiting for Wisdom to raise her voice above the din of it all, before they peel off in different directions.
Every culture has its own methods of preserving and transmitting wisdom across time. Some have hitched it to divinity while others have embedded it in the secular search for knowledge and truth. Many, however, agree with Kahlil Gibran, who noted that while wisdom can be learned, it cannot be taught without awakening the wisdom within. The truly wise teacher, Gibran said, “does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” Wisdom, he suggested, is discerned when heart and mind engage together to perceive our place in the world.
So, seeking wisdom, we find ourselves waiting at the crossroads within, where Wisdom takes a stand and cries out, though often not in the way we might expect or want. Hers is not a single truth for all people and all time. Rarely does she advise which road to take, nor does she usually step out and stop traffic for our safe passage. Instead, her message is sometimes as basic (and as life-saving) as the old instruction for children crossing the street, which says plainly, “Stop, Look, Listen, Live.”
Wisdom is the deep knowing that comes when we stop curbside at the busy crossroads of our lives, within and without. When we pause long enough to know who and where we are, to remember where we’ve come from and to understand where we are going and how we are intimately connected to the traffic encountered along the way.
You can try it right now. After reading this, take a pause. Turn off your device. Sit quietly for just five minutes. Stop. Look. Listen. Live. What is the wisdom sounding in the busy intersection of your heart and mind today?
(Adapted from an earlier reflection by Karen Hering in CommUNITY.)