A classic cartoon genre features a mountaintop sage interacting with a wisdom seeker. The captions spell out possible absurdities in those interactions—seekers or gurus engaged in humorous missteps. Something similar may occur when those of us who are older—sometimes considered to be sage-like—don’t quite measure up to the hopes of those who seek our counsel.
That’s how I’m beginning to feel during this sequestration time. Away from regular interaction with others, I’m not sure that I have maintained my value as a friend or advisor. That I’m not as helpful as I would like to be.
The observations and viewpoints of cherished others have remained an essential ingredient in my own versions of insight. But without ongoing face-to-face contact with my rogues’ gallery of friends and former colleagues, I’m not getting the benefit of their wisdom. It’s possible that, left on my own, I may be meandering around inside a smaller universe of self-curated thought.
I also question whether I’m losing some of my relational instincts, those intuitive sensibilities that guide wisdom-seeking. My listening skills—necessary for perceiving the subtle subtexts under other people’s words—feel like they’re a little rusty. My awareness of others’ feelings feels dull from not being practiced frequently enough. And my need to share my own thoughts seems sometimes to override others’ need to do the same.
One practice that helps: Praying honestly, humbly. Another: Reading more conscientiously—especially the Scriptures. Still another: Observing how my family, advisors, mentors, friends and colleagues have sustained their own roles—looking for behaviors I can mirror.
To be sure, I am NOT an actual guru—I do not live on a mountaintop. But I’d still like to hold onto whatever mojo might be helpful to others.
For as long as possible…..