The painting above hangs on the walls of Coffee-House Five here in North Portland. This is one of the finest public houses in the whole city. It is close by and a place where I stop for some daily conviviality. It has been the locus of my social activity. I never bring my computer there, just a notebook and a book I am reading.
Here is today's excerpt. I find it particularly rich.
The first lesson I came to understand was that in studying wisdom we must, first of all, know ourselves. We must know how we interact with different settings. Wisdom is an amazing field of study because one can study wisdom anytime, anywhere: while waiting in line at the grocery store, while out to dinner with friends, while cutting up potatoes and onions. As long as we have some level of self-awareness, we have already begun the study of wisdom.
When we study our own selves, we begin to know our unique individual selves, but we also become familiar with something deeper, something that connects us with humans across the globe. We discover our human nature, we begin to understand the universal elements to our human lives: laughter and joy, sadness and despair, and everything in between. Observing the interaction between our shared human nature with different settings can yield great insights into both our nature and the nature of our culture. And since we live in a time when culture changes as rapidly as it ever has, this practice of observing our unique selves, our human nature and our culture is essential work.
I have found that once we develop a practice of observation, we will naturally stumble upon true insights, even timeless insights. Many say that wisdom is unchanging, that there are some absolute truths about wisdom. What are these truths and how do we discover them? How do we try them out? How do we make them a part of our daily lives?