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A Reflection on Becoming Wise an Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

Region IV-W
November 6, 2020 Peter Smithhisler Valley City State University

Musings.  That’s what I call them.  Some people call them daydreams.  Others call them reflections.  Whatever the label, I catch myself in musings often in 2020.  I’m not sure why it’s different this year, but it is.  Perhaps it’s because I am alone more often; perhaps it’s because I’ve read more books this year; perhaps it’s because there’s so much happening in the world that needs thought and reaction.  Whatever the reason, it has impacted both my work and how I work.  I imagine that you have had your own journey this year, too.  I’d be interested to hear about your journey.

One book I read this year has sparked significant thought and personal reflection for me.  It’s a good book.  I’d only recommend it to you if you’re in the right headspace and mood.   It is titled Becoming Wise An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett.  Tippett also has a podcast that I find inspirational and compelling called On Being.  For me, Tippett imparts an authenticity and curiosity that draws me to her thinking and calls for action.  It’s perfect for a long walk or car drive.  Not so perfect when you have lots of distractions around you.

In the book Tippett uses essays, her life examples, and interviews with experts to share wisdom.  Because of today’s world, the injustice that exists, our collective unknown futures, and the need for leadership, I want to share three simple passages that have truly impacted me.  Together, I think the three passages help weave a fabric that might comfort us, especially those of us who work in student affairs. 

I don’t know about you, but there have been many conversations this year that have left me feeling powerless and stuck.  Other conversations have kicked my passions into overdrive, perhaps propelling me too fast down a path that others aren’t ready to walk.  At the end of the day as I lay my head down, I know that I need to humble myself, to harness the energy of hope, and find the good around me.  That’s what I gleaned from Becoming Wise. 

Sit with these passages for a moment.  Try not to react, enact, or act too quickly regarding them.  Try reading them separately and as one continuous thought.  Read it once all the way through emphasizing the nouns as you go.   Now, read them through again, emphasizing the verbs this time.  Did anything change for you?  For me, the verbs make my spine tingle; the nouns cause me to feel grounded and bring emotion to the forefront of my mind.

Passage One:

“Humility is a final virtue to name and beckon here.  It is woven through the lives of wisdom and resilience.  It’s another word that has acquired a taint of ineffectuality. But my life of conversation has reintroduced it to me as a companion to curiosity and delight.  Like humor, it softens us for hospitality and beauty and questioning and all the other virtues I’ve named in these pages.  Spiritual humility is not about getting small, not about debasing oneself, but about approaching everything and everyone else with a readiness to see goodness and to be surprised.”  Krista Tippett

Passage Two:

“Hope is not an emotion.  Hope is a cognitive, behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when people have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.”  Brene Brown as quoted in Becoming Wise

Passage Three:

“Still, I am dazzled by the great good I can discern everywhere out there. I have a heart full, arms full, a mind brimful and bursting with a sense of what is healing us even as I write, even when we don’t know it and haven’t asked for it.  And I do mean healing: not curing, not solving, not fixing, but creating the opportunity for deepened life together, for growing more wise and more whole, not just older, not just smarter.”  Krista Tippet

As much pain, angst, uncertainly, and discomfort that 2020 has brought to my life, I have learned a great deal about the person I am, about the reasons I come to work, about the struggles of my journey.  Some days I feel centered and focused; other days I feel anxious and unsettled.  Neither feeling is better or worse than the other, however, I am surprised sometimes that I can actually notice and name how I feel.  I think that’s a good thing.  And because I can notice these things in myself, I’m more aware of these things in others.


Humility has brought me clarity.

Hope has fueled my actions.

Discerning good has focused my heart.