The word wisdom is used frequently every day, whether it is spoken and heard or written and read. Yet it is debatable, in my opinion, if most of us know what it is. In most dictionaries it is defined as “the quality or state of being wise, sagacious, discerning and insightful.”
There are wise people in the world from all walks of life, from many nations and cultures. But there is one unalterable reality: No one who is truly wise is young. By the same token there are many old cultures on this planet of ours. Therefore, if we universally regard elders as repositories of wisdom, than those old cultures would have much to offer.
Many indigenous cultures were already populating every nook and cranny of what came to be called North America when the migration of Europeans began, roughly 500 years ago. Those peoples that greeted the newcomers with varied degrees of curiosity and apprehension had, by then, lived on and with this land for thousands upon thousands of years. Consequently they had evolved societal values and ways that enabled them to not merely survive, but thrive for all those millennia. Without going into the sad and difficult details and consequences of the interaction between Europeans and indigenous North Americans, it is important to note that the indigenous people were deeply and traumatically impacted; to the point where our cultures were diminished and, in some cases, entirely lost. The good news is that some of us have survived: just over 480 ethnically identifiable native tribes or nations in the United States.
Among our ancestors there were some values that were held very high, among them humility, compassion, courage and generosity. But all values lead to the one we consider the greatest: wisdom. And it is our hope that one day wisdom — rather than might, arrogance and bluster — will rule the world.
Editor’s note: ameen