Deadman's picture

    Brother, can you spare some wisdom?

    I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth. - Umberto Eco

    Where the fuck is my wisdom?

    Seriously, wisdom was supposed to part of the deal, the salve that soothes amidst aging's unceasing, unending parade of insults and torments. I am now well into my 36th year - my hair is thinning, my back is creaking, my sex drive is waning.

    Wisdom should be accumulating, dammit.

    I should know more about who I am, what I want to do, and why I'm here on this Earth. I should know more about how the world operates, more about love and relationships, more about politics and economics, more about morality and religion, more about culture and art.

    I should know more.

    And yet I feel at least as uncertain and confused about life as I've ever felt.

    It's not like I haven't tried finding wisdom. I'm always searching for it. I am at least wise enough to know that more gray hairs don't automatically translate into more gray matter. So I listen, I observe, I travel, I read, I muse, I cogitate, I study, I analyze. And yet the answers are as elusive as ever.

    (I blog as well, obviously, though that's a process I've come to see as mainly an attempt to convince others you have wisdom. Faking wisdom is of course a mighty poor substitute for having wisdom, but in a world populated mostly by fools, it will at least likely get you through the days.)

    It's scary how little I know and how contradictory my beliefs are. When it comes to religion, I'm an incredibly superstitious agnostic who prays when danger nears. When it comes to love, I'm a romantic who doesn't quite believe in monogamy. When it comes to politics, I'm a bleeding-heart libertarian who has done nothing to change the world for the better other than exercise a wildly underappreciated right to vote.

    Most days, I don't even know who I am. What makes me happy? What is my purpose? Will having a family fulfill me or stultify me? Am I wasting my days away?

    When will the wisdom come?

    Sometimes I feel I'm right on the edge of being struck by some tremendous, life-changing insight. It's hard to explain but I literally can feel wisdom's presence hovering around me, just outside my grasp, like that of a pleasant, long-forgotten memory which I just can't quite summon for recall.

    My biggest fear is that one day very late in my life, I will finally grasp that elusive wisdom - the clouds will lift, the light bulb will go off, the angels will sing - only to find in the very next moment, before I can even share my hard-earned pearl with anyone, aging will exact its cruelest trick, and I won't be able to remember what was so wise in the first place.



    I feel for you Deadman, been there done that.  But I will tell you what no one told me when I was there (unlike you I didn't have the wisdom to ask!) No one has that mythic wisdom you think they do, repeat, No One.  You are there all ready.  You display more wisdom then you think because you are looking at others in a little slice of their time.  If you watched them 24/7 like you get to watch yourself you would see the writer that pulled all the philosophical threads together can't communicate with his 4 year old son so he gets frustrated and hits him.  Relax, if you got people that love you, aren't too big of a financial burden on society and a little time to help someone, you are doing better than 75% of the population.

    I think what you're feeling is what drives many men your age and a little bit older to get divorced, buy sports cars, and marry 20 year old blondes. And what drives many women to get divorced and get medicated. Nobody told us when we were kids that when we got to Oz, we'd find out the wizard was a sham.

    Come to think of it, they may have tried to tell us, but we were too enthralled with the Lollipop Guild to get the message.

    I'm coming to terms with the fact that there's no magic ending, but what I really wish people would talk about more is how hard it is to deal with a parent who is sick, and how that could happen a lot earlier than you thought. It was a shock that I'm not sure I'm over, 15 years in.

    D, perhaps, like the scarecrow, you already have wisdom but don't know it. In Plato's Apology, the oracle of Apollo pronounces Socrates the wisest of men. Socrates responds:

    When I heard of the oracle I began to reflect: What can the god mean by this riddle? I know very well that I am not wise, even in the smallest degree.

    People say that I am "a wise man." For the bystanders always think that I am wise myself in any matter wherein I refute another. But, gentlemen, I believe that the god is really wise, and that by this oracle he meant that human wisdom is worth little or nothing. I do not think that he meant that Socrates was wise. He only made use of my name, and took me as an example, as though he would say to men, "He, among you, is the wisest who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is really worth nothing at all."

    One other apt Apology quote for a Deadman post:

    For to fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise without really being wise, for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For no one knows whether death may not be the greatest good that can happen to a man. But men fear it as if they knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils.

    I am reminded of the Wizard's words of wisdom from Taxi Driver:

    Wizard: Look, look at it this way, you know uh, a man, a man takes a job, you know, and that job, I mean like that, and that it becomes what he is. You know like uh, you do a thing and that's what you are. Like I've been a, I've been a cabbie for seventeen years, ten years at night and I still don't own my own cab. You know why? 'Cause I don't want to. I must be what I, what I want. You know, to be on the night shift drivin' somebody else's cab. Understand? You, you, you become, you get a job, you you become the job. One guy lives in Brooklyn, one guy lives in Sutton Place, you get a lawyer, another guy's a doctor, another guy dies, another guy gets well, and you know, people are born. I envy you your youth. Go out and get laid. Get drunk, you know, do anything. 'Cause you got no choice anyway. I mean we're all f---ed, more or less you know.
    Travis: Yeah, I don't know. That's about the dumbest thing I ever heard.
    Wizard: I'm not Bertrand Russell. Well what do ya want. I'm a cabbie you know. What do I know? I mean, I don't even know what the f--- you're talkin' about.
    Travis: Yeah I don't know. Maybe I don't know either.
    Wizard: Don't worry so much. Relax Killer, you're gonna be all right. I know I seen a lot of people and uh, I know.

    That's about the dumbest thing I ever heard.

    Great quote, though.

    "You only live one life, and you make all your mistakes, and learn what not to do, and that's the end of you." - Richard Feynman

    Latest Comments