On my way to class, I discover the first topic on the syllabus of a Practical Philosophy class I’m taking is wisdom. Gulp. It’s been a long time since college when I took a philosophy or theology class. A really long time. I don’t have the physical skills to look up definitions and follow Google maps, especially when I’m crossing the road, but I did it anyway. I found some erudite words. Knowledge. Discernment. Perspective. Gulp 2. In class, I heard the same. Wisdom was the discernment of knowledge that enables us to live well. Gulp 3.
I took a breath, which is the old school, underdeveloped version of what people do in mindful meditation. In the moment I tried to secretly look up discernment of knowledge from the back of the class, Google Maps got temporarily confused thinking I was looking for another way to get to class and changed to street view. Huh. Google Maps wisdom had this superior point of view called street view, a bird’s eye view of what I decided was, perspective. Insight.
And then I got to thinking, because I do that still, sometimes, that perspective is a kind of wisdom we have when we don’t take things personally. It’s the wisdom we practice when we say things like, “I’m going about it a little philosophically.” Perspective is detachment in psychology and third person in literature. It’s distance in layman’s terms. Insight 2. I was onto something.
By the end of the class, I’d learned something, meaning, I had developed my own bias about perspective. Perspective is Chihiro becoming Sen in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away: Do we get on the uncharted train or don’t we? Do we take No-Face or don’t we? Every decision bears a risk. But take one and gain perspective – get a tiny bit closer to that holy grail of wisdom, that discernment-of-knowledge thing. That’s it. Insight 3. Over and out. My wee takeaway from yesterday’s philosophy class I’m renaming here, TLP* 101, short for 3 Little Pigs 101.
*TLP is accountable for any errors or discrepancies from the things said by Aristotle, Plato, Proust, Hadot or any other one of those big wigs mentioned in the Introduction to Practical Philosophy class.