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