In the course of writing what I hope to be my masterful memoir, filled with wise, spiritual epiphanies and clever, somewhat off-beat observations of life, I have made an important yet unsettling discovery: It appears that the transformative lessons bequeathed to me by what I have deemed my “cosmic kick in the pants” have actually all been written and philosophized and quoted about ad nauseam throughout human history already.
Here I am considering and pondering and putting things together in my mind to arrive at that moment when a lightning bolt strikes my brain, sending electricity through my gray matter, neuron to neuron, until the circuit is complete and my proverbial “light bulb” lights up. Excitedly, I jot notes and phrases, determined to properly capture and convey one of life’s truths by weaving it into an entertaining story.
But now I find myself wondering… Could it be I’m late to this party?
Did I awaken into this Universe to view life with new eyes and an altered perspective in order to learn what everyone else already knows, having learned it somewhere on their own journey?
It certainly feels that way when I go in search of quotes to include in my various chapters. It’s all been discovered, explored, analyzed, and summarized in succinct yet profound statements and prose, some paired with ethereal pictures in shareable, social media-ready e-cards.
Initiating a quote search on any given topic is like entering a room full of writers and philosophers, artists and musicians, comedians, actors, and less than famous folk to boot, all standing around sipping wine, martinis, lattes, or tea (depending on the crowds they run with), discussing in somber tones about “empathy” and how they “found light in the darkness”, or talking with animated excitement about “enlightenment” and “finding bliss”, or stroking their chins and nodding thoughtfully at the idea that “every person has a story” and, by that virtue, “every person is the hero of their story”.
Truth is, I feel as though I’ve been wandering amongst these fellow searchers and dreamers my whole life, listening in on conversations that were fascinating, tantalizing, yet frustratingly beyond my level of understanding. Their knowledge, shared in poetic verses and allegorical tales, were simply words and ideas to me. I was a “wannabe” at this party, smiling and nodding politely, laughing self-consciously at jokes I didn’t get, while making mental “notes to self” to read up on certain names and concepts later, wanting desperately to taste the peace and happiness their knowledge would surely bring by revealing to me the clues to the mysteries of life.
So I suppose I’m really not late to the party, just the conversation. At this point in my life I feel a bit more like an actual guest, though underdressed and far less refined than the others mingling and murmuring thoughtfully, engaged in deep discussions of philosophy, religion, spirituality, and mythology.
As I listen and learn and reflect on their words I’m struck by a new epiphany: The reason I did not understand before was because it was knowledge that was handed to me by someone else with no effort on my part. I hadn’t earned it. I could not fully appreciate the meaning in their teachings, not on the same level as discovering those truths by being and doing and struggling and sacrificing. By living.
And when learning comes through experience, it’s no longer just knowledge – it’s wisdom. The lessons I’m learning in this Universe may not be new to the rest of humanity. But my story is my own. The wisdom is my own.
Yet any wisdom I may have gained only leaves me with the uncomfortable and humbling awareness of just how flawed and unfinished I am. I still have so much to learn.
So now I raise my glass to my fellow partygoers. Maybe someday one of my quotes will be shared as a Facebook e-card, most likely with tongue planted firmly in cheek and inappropriately paired with some dramatic, inspirational scene of a tranquil forest glen or powerful ocean wave or mysterious less-traveled path.
Until then, I will read and listen, live and learn, jot notes and await lightning bolts.
Still searching. Still dreaming.
For the sake of curiosity, following the completion of this post I did a Google search for quotes about wisdom. I present a small sampling:
“Sometimes when learning comes before experience it doesn’t make sense right away.” -Richard David Bach
“Wisdom is the daughter of experience.” – Leonardo da Vinci
AND… Seriously, I kid you not:
“Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living.” – Anthony Douglas Williams