Tuesday, July 29, 2014



AFTERWORD


Gentle Reader,

What you’ll find below is an upside-down anthology of sorts: a journal of my frequent morning musings from January 2008 till now, in reverse order.


Much of what I write here is verse in traditional rhymed iambic pentameters, old fashioned in form but contemporary in topics and idiom. It asks to be read aloud so that the effects of rhyme and meter may be felt.


Sometimes I write brief prose essays, but even my verses are essays, or attempts, pursuing a line of thought to some conclusion, though more sonorously than those in prose: discursive verses, I call them.


In either case, you’re the reader over my shoulder as I write, which makes my writing different than when I have no audience in mind but only a vague urge to express. So I thank you for whatever attention you give my words and thoughts and feelings because you might so easily attend to something else, and you soon will.


To beguile you to linger longer, though, I’ve coupled most of my compositions with a photo or image I’ve taken or borrowed, which often corresponds with my words of that day.

Thank you for visiting here.  I hope you enjoy your stay and are moved to come back soon.



—Alan Nordstrom



* * *

 WISDOM:

THE HIGHEST AIM OF HIGHER EDUCATION


The concept of wisdom pertains to conscious human decision-making, which can be either wise or otherwise (if very much otherwise, it would be deemed foolish).

In order to make wise decisions and to behave wisely, a well-intended person must possess sufficient circumstantial knowledge regarding what decisions are possible and feasible and most likely to achieve the benefits intended, deemed most prudent.

If universities, over and above their traditional role of discovering, clarifying and purveying knowledge in various disciplines of academic study, were charged foremost with instilling wisdom in their scholars, how then would such a curriculum be accomplished?  How would it be designed otherwise than now?

Attempting to answer my question, I would say first that the old notion that “college is for knowledge” must be rectified in our common consciousness.  “Higher learning” must come to signify not only mastery of subject matter and academic disciplines, but the motivation and ability to employ one’s enhanced knowledge and skills to achieve well-being in the world, as widely as possible: to contribute good goods and serviceable services, sagely reckoned.

To be fanciful, let me imagine a brief matriculation address to beginning university students:



“COLLEGE: A WISE CHOICE”

Welcome, incoming scholars!  Know this, above all: You have come here to grow in wisdom, which will be your lifelong pursuit and, as achieved, your most significant legacy to the world.

In whatever fields of academic inquiry you pursue—whether humanities, sciences or social sciences—know that your fundamental motive for such studies is to discover how life on Earth can better flourish, avoiding the perils of the past and meeting the challenges of the future. 

The wisdom you develop here and exercise hereafter will be your most valuable contribution to posterity.

If  “wisdom is the highest aim of life and of higher education” (as one notable authority on the subject of wisdom has declared*), what then is wisdom, and how may we attain it, particularly by means of a college’s curricular and co-curricular programs?

While “college is for knowledge,” as purveyed by its numerous departmental disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities; knowledge is not wisdom.  To be well-possessed of information, ideas and theories does not ensure one’s aptness for discerning what is most valuable and bringing that value into being—which is the essence of wisdom.

Wisdom is not a passive state of contemplation or saintly serenity; it is action devised to bring worthy aims to fruition.  To know what is of greatest worth and to know how to realize that worth and to do so—that is to be wise.

Therefore, students will rightly pursue their collegiate education expecting that every course will inculcate them in some valuable enterprise, some subjects and skills that will make them better able to comprehend the importance of such studies and abilities—not only to appreciate them but, if possible, to practice them.

For instance, to appreciate Shakespeare’s poetical and dramatic artistry is to comprehend its value; but to compose a sonnet in his style and to do so well is to add value to the world, to enlarge its wisdom if only by a little.  And so it is with each of the designated arts and sciences, from art history to zoology: each can provide valuable understanding and promote valuable enterprise in students—thereby enhancing their own potential worth in the world for wising it up.

What higher purpose could a human being have than to contribute to the thriving of life on Earth?

One current name for such an enterprise is “the creation of a global wisdom culture,” a notion that summons all human beings to become “cultural creatives” [http://culturalcreatives.org/], persons devoted to developing life-ways that respect and protect the flourishing of Earth’s biosphere and promote the advancement of human values and practices so as to evolve ourselves intentionally beyond conditioned inclinations to harm and dominate others. 

Rather, we must learn to respect others and revere all human beings’ potential to grow wiser: more knowledgeable and discerning, value-driven, capable and effectual.  To do so should be the highest aim of education, higher education in particular.

 “Ave atque vale!”


*Copthorne Macdonald: http://www.wisdompage.com/rollinstalk.html







*

Saturday, July 26, 2014


TOWARD WISDOM II

   How will we know that humans have grown wise?
   When Homo sapiens sapiens realize
   What is implicit in our hopeful name
   And can our clear benevolence proclaim.

   When humankind at last grows truly kind,
   The happy end for which we seem designed,
   And all our wicked waywardness is mended,
   We’ll reach that state for which we are intended.

   For what is wisdom but to realize
   The double prudence that our name implies?









*

Monday, July 7, 2014


TOWARD A GWC

        A Global Wisdom Culture will entail
        a full critique of all the ways we fail
        by principles and practices both sane
        and prudent, calculated to sustain
        a thriving biosphere and elevate
        the consciousness of all, setting us straight
        about the wisest ways we should behave,
        devised to liberate and not enslave.

        But as things are, our race remains enthralled
        to values that must now be overhauled,
        foremost of which in our new consciousness
        is our determination to own less
        and simplify our lives so all may share
        sufficiently, for nothing else is fair.







*

Sunday, July 6, 2014


THE HIGHEST AIM
OF HIGHER EDUCATION


for Copthorne Macdonald


    The quest for knowledge, one might well surmise,
    Is highest education’s highest aim,
    And yet one higher—that of growing wise—
    Makes an imperative and vital claim.

    Though learning all the truth of what may be—
    The what, the where, the when, the how, the why—
    Is a foundational necessity,
    It’s value that must finally apply,

    Which is the realm that wisdom comprehends:
    The judgment of what’s laudable and apt,
    Discerning what serves best the highest ends
    By which our errant species may adapt.

         Acquire first the knowledges we need,
         Yet realize: it’s wisdom will succeed.









*

SACRIFICE

   I think my sometimes muddled memory
   Is the price I have to pay for poetry
   I write by rummaging in my mind’s hoard,
   Deranging all to find the aptest word.
   Each rhyming sound my memory supplies
   Should seem inevitable yet still surprise.
   Such seeming ease means I must wrack my brain,
   Which suffers afterwards from undue strain,
   Refusing to serve up some needed fact
   No matter how importunately wracked.
   The only help is to relax and wait
   Until the strain and agony abate.
        Though writing poems may my brain abuse,
        That is a sacrifice I’ll yield my Muse.








*

Saturday, July 5, 2014


SIMPLIFY

     We’re brainwashed and addicted to our stuff,
     Induced to feel we never have enough,
     When what we need to do is simplify
     Our lives, reduce our needs and only buy
     The true necessities: good goods that last,
     Not bought in emulous fear of being out-classed
     Or motivated by unseemly greed:
     Goods only meant to serve a vital need.

     Why not indulge?  Why not acquire and splurge
     If you’ve the means to gratify each urge?
     Because the Earth cannot supply demands
     Of bursting populations in all lands
     With unchecked motivation to consume:
     For that way lies this glorious planet’s doom.








*