Understanding Wisdom

Wisdom belongs to all of us, not just the great sages of the world.

What does wisdom look like? Let’s look at a couple of familiar complex systems—
a tree and a fern. First, the tree shows us how wisdom requires the interaction
of many elements.

A tree:

Trunk: Discerning—insight and deep understanding. Strong and upright.

Leaves: Respecting—caring and compassion. Interacting with the environment: blowing in the breeze, photosynthesizing sunlight to live. For wisdom, caring about others and the world around us.

Fruits: Engaging—fair and just actions. Wise decisions contribute to the common good, just as the seeds from the apples of the tree grow into new ones.

Wisdom Institute, Carrie Bassett, practical wisdom, wisdom, organizations, communities

Roots: Reflecting—personal integrity, self-knowledge, recognition of interdependence. Unseen but vital, a tree’s roots are crucial to its organic unity.

The tree: Without all of the interrelating parts contributing to the whole and to each other, you don’t have a tree. Wisdom works the same way.

Wisdom Institute, Carrie Bassett, practical wisdom, wisdom, organizations, communities

A fern:

Second, the fern shows us that wisdom continuously unfolds and evolves as a complicated pattern that gets repeated over and over from tiny to large. In a fern, each frond looks like a leaf whose leaflets resemble the leaf and so on down or up the scale of the plant.

With wisdom, all of the elements in the Emergent Wisdom Model need to be present, no matter the size, import, or scope of the decision being made. The frond is Discerning, the leaves Respecting, the spores like acorns or apples for Engaging, and the roots Reflecting.

Copyright 2011 © Caroline Bassett, Ph.D.

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