What else is wisdom? To stand from fear set free: To stand and wait.

This is a line from The Bacchae by Euripides. I saw it written on the wall of a church in Covent Garden in London. It was a favourite saying of a modern-day theatre director who is interred in the church.

It stuck with me because it prompts the question – wait for what? Wait for what transpires? OK, but what should one do meanwhile, while that which will be revealed is deciding whether to address us?

Or perhaps that which will be revealed is revealing itself in every given moment if we have eyes to see and ears to listen.

According to the dictionary, wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

Yes, but wisdom about what? If wisdom is a ragbag that reflects what we see, then for some people the horizon is far off and mysterious and for others it is here and now and down to Earth.

Wisdom promises to be a shelter, a guide, and a springboard. But is it just a reflection of desires? Even the desire to conquer desires is a desire.

When I was a young man, hardly a man, I had a phrase that helped me encapsulate something of what I thought of the human condition. The phrase was ‘It’s time for tea.’

The little phrase meant that no matter how far one went in exploring the meaning of life, one inhabits a body and it needs feeding.

Wisdom promises a way out. But this is predicated upon our belief that there is something beyond our ignorance. And if there is not, then that wisdom is built on sand. And that is not a happy place to end.

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) says the enquiry after wisdom is a thankless task.

I set my mind to study and to probe with wisdom all that happens under the sun. An unhappy business, that, which God gave men to be concerned with!

I set my mind to appraise wisdom and to appraise madness and folly. And I learned—that this too was pursuit of wind. For as wisdom grows, vexation grows; To increase learning is to increase heartache.

Originally published 26 Aug 2013

Remember the back and forth over the legality of President Trump’s travel ban?

Trump said it was not a travel ban that targeted muslims but a ban that targeted countries that might send people who posed a risk to the USA.

No one bought that argument because of what he had said previously and because the countries affected were Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela – most of which are countries with majority muslim populations.

Courts ruled against the legality of the ban, and the Trump Administration re-crafted the wording. Courts ruled against that and the Trump Administration re-crafted the wording of the ban again. It is that third iteration that went before the Supreme Court.

What happened in the end?

The Supreme Court first decided that it would proceed as though it had jurisdiction to decide the case even though the granting of visas are matters of sovereignty, and might therefore be seen as being beyond review.

To me that reads like a decision to trundle along and see whether they hit any bumps in the road to their substantive decision. In the end they rule with the Administration, which is unlikely to challenge their jurisdiction, so the court gets home safe and dry.

The substantive decision:

In a 5–4 decision the Supreme Court ruled that the third iteration of the travel ban does not exceed the president’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act and that ban does not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

A win for the Administration.

The dissenting voices said that whatever the wording of the ban, when viewed together with what was spoken about by the President and the Administration about the intent of President Trump’s travel ban, it was clearly not about security but about religion.

The question for me is what the practical consequences have been? What is actually happening in terms of who can and cannot get into the country and in terms of who is trying or no longer trying to get in?

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