There is Deep Wisdom in the Search for Wisdom.
There’s a photo etched in my memory more vivid than any other from my childhood. I am 3 years old, grinning, leaning back over my highchair, craning to look at my mother who is sitting on my grandparents’ couch beside my father.
They are opening gifts on their 25th wedding anniversary. The image of my mother is what I remember most. She’s naturally beautiful. Slim and trim and modest in a simple and stylish shift dress of the early 1970’s. Her skin is sun kissed. She’s smiling her shy smile. She is 43 years old.
Looking back, what’s remarkable about that picture is not simply that she looks great in her forties, unlike how most parents seemed to look ancient by the time they were 30, but that her life experience up until that point was so…epic.
She’d married and had the first of nine kids (I’m the youngest) by 19, including twin boys. She had lost a son to a swift and cruel illness. The moment that photo was taken we were staying in a campground while dad looked for work, having impulsively relocated us halfway across Canada on a wing and a prayer in the back of a 1962 Ford cube van. Struggle was her companion. Yet bitterness never was. Over the years as she crossed into her 50s and 60s and beyond, I had a front row seat to the power of wisdom and its long-term effects on my life. It compelled me to seek it out.
Last year I found myself in another front row seat. I was interviewing Chip and Ben Rattray, founder of Change.org for a podcast exploring the Power of Wisdom in our work lives. They talked about heady heights and humbling lows they’d experienced personally and professionally. Their stories are unique yet similar; a radical response to unexpected, devastating life events which would transform them and their careers. I recognized their wisdom lessons from ones I’d learned growing up: gratitude, humility, other-centeredness.
One memorable takeaway from that interview (and there were many) came from Ben, “There is deep wisdom in the search for wisdom.”
Today mom is 91 and she’s still teaching me and her thirty-some descendants about wisdom.
Frances MacKinnon is the founder of Lightscope Creative which produces story-driven content for brands. You can listen to Chip and Ben’s episode of 3.5 Degrees The Power of Connection, here.