Wisdom comes with age. Wisdom comes with experience. Wisdom comes with knowledge. Wisdom comes from living and learning; making mistakes and learning from them. True wisdom is the application of knowledge and experience in meaningful and appropriate instances for the betterment of all. Idol wisdom is a waste.
While we know what wisdom is, so many of us don’t have the sense to gain the wisdom from their experiences. Wisdom is often transient. We can be wise but not always practice what we know. So often, we are the ones saying “do as l say not as l do.” But we know that wisdom is proportional to experience. Wisdom can’t be taught.
We can create opportunities to experience things that help us become wise but we must experience, process and learn from it to become wise. It is not possible ‘to put an old head on young shoulder’s.’ Older men feel that younger men have no regard for the wisdom they have to share. Yet younger men are looking for wise old men to guide them.
Being wise means knowing when we are to act and when we should not. It is about us having the courage to respond without a vested interest in the outcome. We have true humility when we know we know but don’t necessarily display it. “The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he saw” is our motto.
Our ability to understand how we make decisions and take into consideration the effect on all those affected by those decisions is part of the process of becoming wise. But, we have the added expectation that being a man means that we will be right when we are wise.
Wisdom is associated with us knowing what we are talking about. We want others to look to us and follow our advice because they trust us and we are seen as wise. It is often why we like to give our opinion, even if it isn’t wanted. We gain a lot of pride from our knowing what to do. As men, we like to share our knowledge with women and children. We like to give them opportunities to learn what we know.
But wisdom also comes from looking inside ourselves and knowing who we are. We need to be insightful. Our intuitive knowing is reinforced through our experiences and knowledge. There is a balance between a trained mind and our gut feelings. Using all our resources we run our lives on the smell test. ‘If it doesn’t look or smell right then we don’t do it.’
Foolishness is not the making of a wise man. Being ad hoc in our lives does not give way to wise learning’s. To be a wise man we must not only be a thinker but we must act on what we think about and observe around us. We need more wise men. That is who we seek wisdom from. We aim to imitate older men. We learn how to be men by watching and imitating other men. This keeps our patterns repeating and as younger men we question how we can be different while wanting to be accepted in the world of men. To do this we have to be like the older men.
Yet, for some of us, it was our mothers who we learnt about wisdom from. It was our mothers who shared stories about the qualities valued in a man and helped us develop our value system about what are good qualities in men. It is our mothers that talk to us about how men behave and treat women and what she thinks of men is what we want to be. We have done this out of our disappointment in our male role models. Fathers who have been violent or absent have let us down. We do this because we want to be better men than our fathers.
While the inherent flaws in the patriarchy combine with the shaming of men by feminists, men today struggle to find their wisdom. Maybe men have always struggled to find it. Positive roles models have been lacking. The history of man is one of conquer, destroy, control, maim, rape and kill. Two world wars and hundreds of civil, minor and major wars, the erosion of the environment, the ozone layers demise, salinity, water shortages, extinct animals and plants, the destruction of native cultures, not to mention a world economy that has more debt than assets. People are living in poverty; the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Famine’s in Africa that no amount of world aid seems to fix despite there being sufficient resources to feed the world’s people.
All that we know of in our so called modern, westernised, civilised society has come from male dominance. The structures that have supported that dominance, the church, the legal system, the education system, science and the political system have failed to provide examples of wise men and wise leaders. How can we know how to be wise if there has been a lack of wise elder role models? Is it possible that in our desperate drive to express the achiever archetype we have lost connection to our elder archetype?
Is it possible that the competitive nature of the patriarchal system prevents men from really learning from each other yet that’s how men learn and what they long for most?
One of the things that really stood out for me in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was her portrayal of the character Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, because he displays the wonderful qualities of the wise old man. I think he is a great elder archetype.
What are your experiences of wise, elder-type men?