We are made by what would break us. In every life, inexplicable things happen.
It is difficult to respond to these challenges, but I’ve noted before that we learn to walk by falling down. The beginning of wisdom often results from “the dramatic and more ordinary moments where what has gone wrong becomes an opening to more of yourself and part of your gift to the world.”
Those words were written by Krista Tippett, the Peabody Award-winning broadcaster of On Being and a 2014 recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President Obama. She has published a new work based in part on her years of conversation with poets, scientists, philosophers, theologians, and activists. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, is a thoughtful book, full of insight. Tippett indicates she wrote about wisdom because “one of its qualities…is about joining inner life with our outer presence in the world. The litmus test of wisdom is the imprint it makes on the world around it…”
In this new work, Tippett writes about one perhaps surprising aspect of a wise life.
“I have yet to meet a wise person who doesn’t know how to find some joy even in the midst of what is hard, and to smile and laugh easily, including at oneself. A sense of humor is high on my list of virtues, in interplay with humility and compassion and a capacity to change when that is the right thing to do. It’s one of those virtues that softens us for all the others….There is a science helping us to see a sense of humor in the brain as an expression of creativity, making unlikely connections, and leaning into them with joy.”
I like the idea of making unlikely connections in the brain, and then “leaning into them with joy.” A sense of humor doesn’t always revolve around a back-slapping joke, although I enjoy those as much as anyone. But a wise sense of humor can be as complex as delighting in paradox and as simple as a smile in the voice. It is not cynical, but instead might be described as generous or nourishing. I am certainly nurtured by those colleagues and friends who are wise. Consider reaching out and telling someone with a generous sense of humor how much you appreciate their wisdom! You’ll both have a good week.
More to come…