Wisdom and Sorrow

In one of my ethic’s classes in university we discussed whether or not the “collective good”, or if you want to call it the “overall happiness”, of a culture would be greater if there was one person suffering greatly somewhere (and if it would matter if everyone was aware of that person). In this example, the span from good to bad would be greater, instead of everyone experiencing the same amount of happines, thereby the good would be “more good” because the bad was very, very bad. I’m not sure where that conversation ended up, but, in some ways, I bought into that analogy.

For awhile I looked at wisdom and sorrow in terms of dogs and cats. You look at your standard household pet, they don’t know a whole lot. I mean they know some things, but they aren’t going to go out and takeover Microsoft or anything. I always thought that because they didn’t have a lot of “wisdom” that they couldn’t experience joy or sorrow in great portions — because they just weren’t aware enough.

One night, a few months back, Marc was making Olivia laugh and I told him what I just wrote about the philosophy class and the dog/cat bit. And then I said, “But I don’t think that’s true with people. I mean, look at Olivia, how can you see anything but pure joy in her face? She is completely happy.” That’s when what’s been growing inside of me for a while began to make sense.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m losing my “spark”. I feel like this year I’ve really become a “grown-up”. And it’s hard. You don’t want to lose all of the ideals of youth, as juvenile and impossible as some may be. You end up having to find (continually) a new balance between hope and reality. And that’s not easy. But, in that moment with Olivia, seeing her so readily have the pure happiness that I experience only in rare moments, the words of a Steve Bell song based on 1 Chronicles and Ecclesiastes made sense to me:

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow
So the more that I know the more sorrow grows

So I guess the older we get and the more that we know, the most “pure” happiness we can experience is always a little bittersweet. Because of what we know. Our wisdom doesn’t take us to a new level of “awareness” that allows us to experience joy in a more profound way. In the end, it is our wisdom that taints the joy. Because we know of the suffering and the hurt of so many individuals and cultures and countries in the world. And our “wisdom” makes it hard for us to simply trust and live in the notion that God can make it all right somehow, sometime.

But perhaps, in the end, it is best to look at the joy that we experience in all of our “wisdom” as special and good simply because we must overcome so much to have those pure moments — all the while trusting that untainted, unencumbered joy will one day again be ours.

Posted in Life & Faith, Philosophy | 7 Comments

7 Responses to Wisdom and Sorrow

  1. Tal says:

    Hmmm. I don’t disagree necessarily (and am kind off in awe that you remember stuff from university like that). But I do think that you don’t necessarily appreciate true joy unless you’ve had the experience of the bittersweet, the moments that make them shine even brighter, you know?

  2. Dixie says:

    See Tal, that’s exactly what I thought — and exactly what that scenario from class was about. And then I looked at Olivia and thought, “how is her finding out that the world sucks and life is hard going to allow her to experience joy any more than she is right now?” You see what I mean?

  3. sil-1 says:

    Maybe that’s the difference between happiness/contentment and joy. Happiness/contentment (Olivia’s current state) comes because life is good and it’s shallow and temporary; joy comes on a deeper level in spite of life, because of life, and is often the ship that carries you through the good and the bad.

  4. Dixie says:

    Then this turns into a problem of terminology. And maybe that’s what it comes down to — that happiness and joy are different and we can’t experience something deeper, like joy, until we have knowledge of loss and pain. But, in the moments of absolute bliss/joy/contentment/happiness, do WE feel them more b/c we know that children are dying of starvation every second? Does a baby feel the same amount of joy? But then how do you measure joy, anyway? Anyway…

  5. sil-1 says:

    No final wisdom from me for the night – in fact, that’s a good question for which I have absolutely no answer!

  6. Linea says:

    Deep stuff. You get me thinking.

  7. Jamil says:

    I agree with you…it’s a good subject..you know how to tell your thoughts…Regards, Jamil

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