Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wise Old Woman

This is a Russian woman, not me. She seems to me a more stereotypical image of the "wise old woman" than I am. I was interviewed today by a young woman doing a college project about older people. She asked many of the questions one would expect about life experiences and I enjoyed talking about myself. Toward the end she asked how I would define wisdom and what words would I like to leave for those I care about in summary of the wisdom I have gained in my "long" life -- which feels exceedingly short to me.

I told her I could not summarize "wisdom"and I could not devise a statement of what I have learned from life. She was a little stunned -- I was not being modest and it had been established that I have lived a varied and interesting life and that I am a thoughtful person. I told her I thought the life I live has to speak for itself and the example I set for both family and acquaintances must reflect any wisdom I have. I strongly believe this is true. I will continue to write novels, essays, poems, whatever and they will contain some of what information and experience I have gained but none will ever summarize a kernel of wisdom to be passed on. Having been asked those questions I suppose I will mull them, but I doubt I will come up with answers.

I will mull instead probably why people seek wisdom distilled in a few words or sentences when great wisdom exists in the holy books and guide books of civilizations going back several thousand years and constantly expounded upon ever since. If they want wisdom, let them live thoughtfully and study, think and consider. Great wisdom, as in the I Ching, the Bible the Buddhist sutras and other writings has never stopped wars because it existed, never fed the hungry, not saved the Earth from destruction. Every wisdom formulation has lead some few people to live meaningful and compassionate lives -- far too few. I cannot be a wise old woman; I hate the word crone, witch is very negative, shaman suggests rituals of a primitive sort. No I want no category and refuse to summarize. Poor girl ... she'll have to ponder a little or simply shrug and go on to the next interviewee.

1 comment:

Kass said...

A woman after my own heart! Good for you. Let no one try to summarize the life of an "older woman." - Especially as a tidy college assignment. Can't be done. At least you made her think. Maybe in 50 years she'll get it.