So many voices.
All wanting my attention…
–the professional solicitor raising money for an entity I might have vaguely heard of.
–the advertiser suggesting their product can offer me security, contentment, sexual satisfaction, health.
–the pundit trying to gain more views and following by provocation, pulling on the strings of emotion so that I will keep clicking.
–the media personality trying to keep my attention by arousing my sense of outrage over everything from product defects to people who pose a threat.
–the politicians who play upon both my frustrations and aspirations to garner my vote, even though in the end, they may do little to address either, only deepening my disillusionment.
So many voices.
I wonder if they drown out the voice I most need to hear. This is a voice that doesn’t join the clamor nor tries to drown it out, but to capture the attention of those who realize that life isn’t found in the clamor. It is a voice that asks questions, probing us to explore the meaning of a life well-lived and what it means to live such a life in our broadband, two hundred channel, smartphone media world. It’s a voice that bids me to a life beyond being safe, prosperous, or hip; to ask the questions of what it means to seek not only our own flourishing but those of the neighbor, whether the one on my street, or the one with whom I share my planet’s food, water, and atmosphere. It’s a voice bidding me to a life of goodness, truth, and beauty, to work with skill and excellence and yet modesty, realizing it’s all but a small part of a larger plan. It’s the voice that pierces that clamor to help me understand the time in which I live.
I call it the voice of wisdom.
Where can we go to find wisdom in the midst of the clamor? I wonder if this is actually the wrong question. I wonder if perhaps the prior question is do I hunger and thirst for something more than the clamoring voices are offering? Do I value wisdom more than a flush bank account and all the baubles of affluence by which we are lured? Do I tremble when I realize the capacity I have for both great good and great folly, and that somehow I am accountable, whether to God, myself, or simply the rest of humanity, what the writer of Proverbs might have called, “the fear of the Lord?”
Alan Jacobs has written recently of the demise of the Christian intellectual, the long history of whom stretches from Augustine and Aquinas to C.S. Lewis and Reinhold Niebuhr. Now I will be the first to admit that not all intellectuals are wise, as I warned my son in his youth that you can be very smart and not very wise. But I wonder in the distraction of the clamor if we have lost sight of the value of the wise voices who may help us interpret the times and how we might live well in them. I equally wonder if such voices have retreated from the public square because they have been shouted down as anachronisms from a benighted past.
Perhaps the beginning is to listen for the voices of wisdom among us…
–it could be an elder in a senior facility, who has seen a good deal of life, and while failing of body retains the wisdom of years.
–perhaps it is found in the lives of those who have suffered, who know the loss of what others count precious, and the qualities of character and the intangibles of goodness that remain.
–there are the religious teachers among us–not the big flashy media personalities–but those who combine prayer and reflection on sacred scripture with caring for people in all the exigencies of life.
–and there are the voices inscribed, whether the writers of sacred scripture, or those who have thought deeply on the human condition.
Proverbs 8:1-3 speaks of “Lady Wisdom” in these words:
Does not wisdom call?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud (ESV)
The matter is not the lack of wisdom for Lady Wisdom may be found wherever we look. The question is will we hear her voice in the clamor of so many.
[Acknowledgement: my thanks for the inspiration for this post go to Pastor Rich and a conversation with a real life Sophia.]