Now our Preferred login method!

with your Facebook account

Coming Soon!

Login with your Google accounts

Original Member Login

You can now login with your Facebook account. A much easier way to view our Magazine! But if you prefer, you can still log in to Polite Society Magazine with your original user account.

Not a member yet?
Sign Up Now!

If you don't want to use your Facebook account (or don't have one), you can still register with us by using the original Login system.


Wisdom: A Tree of Life

Text by: Amy Carpenter

King Solomon, once hailed as the wisest man in the land, told his son, "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding… She [wisdom] is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her." Many people search for ways to achieve happiness, but in their quest, they become sidetracked, forgetting that pleasure is not the same as happiness. They look for happiness in the easy path. They want fast answers and fast results. They do not realize that happiness is not to be found in the fleeting things of this life but in the more enduring things: truth and wisdom. Wisdom comes through the hard lessons of life. It comes through study, through searching, through patience, and through experience.

This month's theme for the March issue of Polite Society Magazine is centered around this most elusive attribute: wisdom. Defining wisdom has been the project of countless philosophers, scholars, religious leaders, and scientists. Even dictionaries cannot pinpoint the exact definition of wisdom, but a glance at a list of synonyms might give us an idea of what it could be: balance, common sense, discernment, experience, intelligence, knowledge, learning, logic, reason, street smarts, understanding. We can also learn what wisdom is from what it is not: ignorance, stupidity, foolishness. Researchers have recently tried to define wisdom and found that, although there seems to be some neurological basis for wisdom (not surprising given psychology's current trend towards neuroscience), wisdom cannot be attained by taking a magic pill. There are no short cuts to attaining wisdom. It must be earned and learned by the sweat of the brow.

© Peri Musser

This month's issue focuses not only on what wisdom is, but how we can learn wisdom. The sage Chinese philosopher, Confucius, taught, "By three methods we may learn wisdom: first by reflection, which is the noblest; second, by imitation, which is the easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." Reflection involves setting aside the time to meditate and ponder. It requires a quieting of the mind, shutting out the confusing noise of the world in order to listen to the quieter thoughts of our minds. Times of reflection are times for asking the big questions about life and attempting to find the answer to those questions.

Imitation occurs as we emulate wise teachers. We imitate as we practice and do what we are taught. Imitation can also be applied to education. Wisdom can only come after knowledge is deposited in the mind. That knowledge most often comes from others who have already walked the road of life. There is also much wisdom to be gained from the examples of other people.

© Peri Musser

Experience is the most difficult and demanding teacher of wisdom. As we experience life, we apply our hearts to understanding. Adversity and trials refine our characters and our understanding of life. We broaden the horizons of our minds as we enlarge upon our capacities through learning new skills and developing talents. There are moments in life which also cause huge paradigm shifts — new lenses through which our spiritual eyes can view the world.

Merely soaking up whatever knowledge and observations come our way without filtering them through Confucius' three methods will never teach us of wisdom's ways. We must be discerning in what we accept as truth. As Buddha taught:

Believe nothing merely because you have been told it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be kind, conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings—that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.

As you read through this month's articles — indeed, as you glean knowledge throughout life — discern the good and add it to your mind's web of wisdom. Let wisdom enlighten your life. Let it reach down and pull you up to new levels of understanding. Let it fill your spirits with light. Let it be your tree of life, sheltering you with its laden branches and imparting its glowing fruit of happiness.