Many years ago, I attended a public event and found, right there at my destined seat, a little silver ring bearing the word SAPIENTIA.
Latin for “wisdom.”
I cannot remember the event itself, or even the location … only that, as the ring had no traceable owner, it came home with me. A bit of metaphysical metaphorica: If you find wisdom, hang onto it.
This past week I sorted through some old things in my jewelry box and rediscovered the ring.
It’s somewhat tarnished but still glinted in the light when I picked it up. Cool little circle in my hand. It seemed to say: If ever there is a time for wisdom, it’s now.
Consider this definition of wisdom (also known as sapience) from Wikipedia:
The ability to think and act using knowledge, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgment, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence, and non-attachment, and virtues such as ethics and benevolence.
Meditate on those words a while, in light of recent weeks—as reeling, wounded, protesting America looks inward at its egregious wrongs of police brutality and racism, as more and more voices are raised for solidarity and reform, as people weep and pray for peace. We cannot act accordingly, cannot begin to heal and repair, if we do not think. We cannot advocate for justice and make concerted change if we are not deeply aware of what we think and how it affects our relationships with each other. We cannot obtain knowledge and understanding between us without hard conversations and self-examinations to find bias we didn’t know was there, like a cancerous lump that only grows and festers until it’s removed. Else all of society suffers. We don’t often think of wisdom as a matter of the heart; we don’t typically see it as the wrapping of real compassion and benevolence… not just in our distribution of these, but in allowing ourselves to receive them. Our wellness as a whole relies on our individual willingness to be healed. It begins with listening. In desiring better ways of seeing as the road to better ways of being. Reform is a long process… but with wisdom, it is possible.
Lastly, while wisdom plays an integral part in the relatively new field of positive psychology (what makes human life meaningful and worth living, seeking individual and societal well-being), it also has ancient spiritual roots. In the many religions of the world, wisdom is tied to balance, goodness, the future, seeing things for what they are, a knowledge and fear of God. My Sapientia ring carries the image of a descending dove; in Christian iconography, that represents the Holy Spirit. Long before Christianity, a dove represented… peace.
We pray for peace, as we cry out against injustice. As we advocate for systemic reforms, as we educate ourselves about ourselves. Yes, we have a long way to go, but we have begun.