From Philosophy Now magazine, “Hegel on History” by Lawrence Evans
“As he famously writes, “the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.” In other words, philosophy (or ‘wisdom’, hence his reference to the Roman goddess of wisdom) can only analyze history retrospectively, from the standpoint of the present.”
Hegel was speaking of philosophy, but I’m going to take it personally and apply it to personal wisdom.
“The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.” Wisdom can only come at the end of events, not before or during. As the sun rises and makes its way across the sky, we’ll have to rely on our wits and keep working. But once the sun sets, the owl comes out to hunt.
What is “wisdom”? The dictionary says, the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. You can’t have wisdom without experience. You can borrow someone else’s wisdom though and, adding it to your own experience, have greater wisdom in the long run, but you’ll have to have some negative and positive experience to have real wisdom.
So, while I’m having one too many drinks with a friend over lunch and going a bit too far, and afterwards texting a bit too many of the conflicting thoughts that are running through my head in words that are not that clear, I’m making some serious mistakes that may cost me a friendship. Maybe some better laid out principles would have made this situation go more smoothly? Listening to the wisdom of another friend may have spared me. But here I am muddling through voluntarily on my own. The least I can do is watch for the owl.
What wisdom have I gained? I’d elucidate, but I’m afraid it’s far to personal. That’s a rarity for me. Why write about it here if I’m not going to tell you what I learned? Because everyone gains their own wisdom from their own experiences. The key is to know that you can learn instead of just getting up and falling down again.
Experiences are just that, experience. What I wish I could do better is have patience with myself and wait to react after I’ve taken some time from the experience. Instead of reacting right away while I and those that had the experience along side of me are still…recovering…maybe I could have some key phrases and responses that will give me time to process and then say something helpful.
Writing that down for next time, although, at this age you’d think I’d have already learned that and would remember. Some days I wish there was a smart phone app that listened to everything I said and knew where I was and with whom and would pop up with great reminders as a text from a friend. It would say things like, “Do not order another drink.” and “Remember what how she reacted last time?” or “Your mother doesn’t appreciate that kind of language.”
Well, here’s to experience and (hopefully) wisdom!