Jane Goodall's Definition of Wisdom.

June 13, 2022

Jane Goodall's Definition of Wisdom.

May 29, 2023

Jane Goodall went to Tanzania to study chimps the year I was born, 1960. During her six decades of championing chimps, she showed the world how much we have in common with these beautiful primates. Her compassion toward wildlife and nature has led her to be considered one of the world's leading futurists.

My friend Doug Abrams interviewed the now-88-year-old Goodall to compile "The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times." His book is filled with the wisdom of a woman who has experienced and given so much. Here's a sampling of her perspective on wisdom, which is aligned with my growing sense that wisdom doesn't exist without compassion and holistic thinking:

"Wisdom involves using our powerful intellect to recognize the consequences of our actions and to think of the well-being of the whole. Unfortunately…we have lost the long-term perspective, and we are suffering from an absurd and very unwise belief that there can be unlimited economic development on a planet of finite natural resources, focusing on short-term results or profits at the expense of long-term interests."

She goes on to express something that indigenous people have been saying for centuries:

"The hallmark of wisdom is asking, "What effects will the decision I make today have on future generations? On the health of the planet? A great deal of our onslaught on Mother Nature is not really lack of intelligence but a lack of compassion for future generations and the health of the planet: sheer selfish greed for short-term benefits to increase the wealth and power of individuals, corporations, and governments. The rest is due to thoughtlessness, lack of education, and poverty. In other words, there seems to be a disconnect between our clever brain and our compassionate heart. True wisdom requires both thinking with our head and understanding with our heart."

What if nature was our teacher? During the pandemic, I loved my three-hour saunters with my dog Jamie, where we would "Spy on the Divine." Whether it was marveling at the interdependency of various plant species in the Palm Orchard or witnessing the blooming flowers of a resilient cactus, I came to see the beauty of humility and patience, two qualities that have come to define my way of being, especially as we started exploring MEA campuses in New Mexico (as outlined in this past Wisdom Well post).

Goodall goes on to remind us that there is a walking encyclopedia outside your safe haven of home:

"Shakespeare says it beautifully when he talks of seeing 'books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.' I get a sense of all of this when I stand transfixed, filled with wonder and awe at some glorious sunset, or the sun shining through the forest canopy while a bird sings, or when I lie on my back in some quiet place and look up and up and up into the heavens as the stars gradually emerge from the fading of day's light."

C'mon down to Baja. You won't just get wiser in the classroom. You'll get wiser on a walk.

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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