As I head into the later decades of my life, I consider wisdom as one of the gifts of aging. Years of experience, countless relationships, unfettered time and still-bubbling curiosity can combine to bend my soul towards insightful living that could be useful. I think of it as ageless because I’m passing on the legacy of other’s knowledge. Most of what I consider wise comes directly from the mind of God as Scripture reveals it. (The late-in-life observations of Moses in Psalm 90 come to mind.)
While the foundations of wisdom seem to remain unchanged over eons, there’s also the possibility that, as it’s applied to current situations and contexts, useful wisdom requires continual fine-tuning or updating. For example, I may have finally learned to be patient, but as that gets fitted into decisions about medical treatment, my reactions to climate change or the presence of specific developments in today’s culture—patience/wisdom may be more difficult to discern.
I feel that tug especially strong as I try to figure out how to live within—or without—the boundaries and promises of technologies. Even if I count myself as moderately perceptive about what’s truly important or useful, I don’t always know if my decisions about technological matters pass the tests of ageless wisdom.
For example, it took me years to finally purchase a smartphone—and the perpetual services that accompany it. I asked myself wisdom-related questions—Is this just male toy-accumulation hiding behind imagined usefulness? How does this technology change my relationships? Where does smartphone use fit with the precepts of simple living? What might be the hidden dangers or vulnerabilities that come along with this technology? To this day, I still don’t know if the smartphone purchase was an example of applied wisdom.
An easier technology-related decision: After signing onto Twitter when it first appeared many years ago, I realized fairly quickly that this variation of social media didn’t add much value to my life. I could see then—as I see now—that much of what Twitter might bring into my life was not good for me—or perhaps for the society as a whole. I parted company with Early Twitter and counted that as a wise decision, at least for me.
Dependable wisdom remains elusive for me in other current matters: What to think about artificial intelligence, how to be part of the healing process in our divided society, how best to calm anxious church leaders or whether to downsize our lifestyle now. I’m still searching for wisdom as a spouse, friend or mentor. In each of these cases, I have tried to connect years of experience and learning with today’s world, so that what I knew to be bedrock truth could be instructive for current situations. Because experience and wisdom are not always the same thing, my history of accumulated capabilities does not necessarily equip me with useful wisdom for what’s going on right now.
It’s probably a good thing to admit this about myself—humility is always a helpful trait. It’s also good that I can continue to seek and discover people, perhaps younger than me, whose wisdom about today’s world is up-to-date and anchored on their unchanging virtues and values.
Both ageless and new, wisdom remains an ongoing gift of a timeless God, a quality of life that I will always be grateful for.