The Principal Thing

“Wisdom is the principal thing,” Solomon says in the book of Proverbs, “therefore get wisdom. And with all thy getting, get understanding” (4:7).

Wisdom? What an antiquated word.

What exactly does it mean? Would any three people today agree on a definition? And, oh, wise King Solomon, where on earth are we supposed to get it?

Wisdom has been called “the woolly mammoth” of concepts – “big, shaggy, and elusive.” Those who dare to seek it might concede, too, that it certainly seems to be in short supply in our modern, high-tech, gyroscopically swirling world.

Does age, as has been commonly thought, automatically confer wisdom? Not always, the experts say. However, in the time it takes to grow old, one’s chances of gaining emotional maturity and cultivating some wisdom increase. Are older women wiser than older men? Not necessarily. But older women often exhibit to a greater extent the three main ingredients many researchers attribute to wisdom — cognition, reflection, and compassion – gained, perhaps, at least in part, by overcoming obstacles in what is still a man’s world.

The purpose of “the WOW factor,” then, is to shed some light on individual older, accomplished women who have gained a measure of wisdom in their three score years and ten-plus lives. It will strive to give these women some well deserved recognition, and at the same time inspire the rest of us to gain a little wisdom – like droplets of blessings on our heads — from their stories. We all need such mentors.

We might be surprised to realize that such inspiring older women can be found everywhere – in our communities, in books, in the classroom, in our family circles. Sadly, however, they’ve gone largely unnoticed because older women tend to be dismissed by our youth-obsessed society as having outlived their sexual and procreative usefulness. They’ve been sidelined from the game.

This “WOW” blog aims to show that as long as we’re alive and well we’re meant to be players – if not in the same game we played when we were younger, then in a new, equally important game. We have new roles to play, new contributions to make. My hope is the true life stories that flow out of “WOW” of active older players in this new game will point the way.

In the process, perhaps, we’ll see that wisdom isn’t in such short supply after all. Maybe it’s just that we haven’t been looking in the right direction (if we’ve been looking at all), or asking the best questions (if we’ve been asking at all), or listening for the lower-keyed female voices too often drowned out by our culture’s loud, clanging noise.

It’s curious to me that Proverbs uses the feminine pronoun for wisdom: “She [wisdom] is more precious than rubies,” Solomon says (3:15). “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her” (3:18). “Exalt her,” Solomon continues, “and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her” (4:8).

So let’s seek to find her, exalt her, and embrace her. Let’s let wisdom speak quietly through these women’s words and lives, and let’s see what we can learn about living wisely in the process.

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