Brody: The difference between being smart and being wise

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary tells me wisdom is the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships. It also says a wise person has a deep understanding of things in life.

A friend of mine recently suggested I look into this business of wisdom. It got me to thinking.

It made me question the difference between intelligence and wisdom. I learned they are two different qualities.

Email newsletter signup

As a former high school teacher, I had the privilege of working with many smart students. They were generally motivated and interested in learning. They were engaged and involved.

Wisdom, to me, takes smart further. The wise person wants to discover the meaning behind the learning. Most often, the wise one takes what he or she learns and finds the life lesson for mankind.

Fairly early on, I realized my brain always needed to go deeper to share. Thus, my first book, “Braille Me,” in which I try to go deeper into relationships.

In 1984, I wrote the results of going deeper, “Oh Lord, so you’ve made man. Men of Birch and men of steel and then you made me. But not of Birch and not of steel, you made me a sponge and then you placed me in the rain.”

The self-understanding of my own need helped me in my teaching career and in my research with wild animals.

The older I got, the more I experienced the path to what seemed like life lessons, thus I needed to share.

During this time I delved deeply into how it felt to lose a child, suffer divorce, lose a husband to death and finally to lose one’s health.

My own depth taught me. But, do you know it wasn’t until I moved to a Brookdale living facility six years ago I knew about discovering life lessons through simply living with people like me? They, too, were trying to live out the last part of life’s circle with wisdom and grace.

I had lived through loss and I knew how it felt. But, only through living with others like me did I see the loss as disorienting. Seeing others lose made me see and feel their lostness.

What we all had lost really was our sense of independence.

So I learned to listen, really listen and I learned that smart doesn’t cut it. But wisdom can show us how to restart.

We need to realize the importance of stepping onto a new path. Wisdom can show us joy is an inside feeling in the present lifetime.

Let’s realize we have so far surrounded ourselves with everything and everybody to make us who we presently are and then this huge life change comes. Wow. Hard? Oh you bet it is.

Another thing I understood was every resident is here for a medical reason or just needing more care. This meant I had to know constantly talking about my own pain was unnecessary and self-centered.

There is a resident who is 92 years old. He can barely see or walk, even with a walker. But, let me tell you, he laughs. He always asks the other person with him how they feel and he waits for the answer. He also gives hugs.

He is a master of positive attitude, no matter how he feels.

I see his wisdom he shares with all of us. It’s his life lesson to share.

Then we have a lady who taught music in the Denver schools for years. Now in her 90s, she has trouble remembering dates, names, whatever, but that lady can sit down at our piano and play anything you ask her to play.

She is always happy to share her music. Why? Because she has the wisdom to know the importance of music in our lives.

Also, every Thursday morning a group of us gathers to talk. We share what we’ve learned in our life.

Each of us has developed wisdom and we have learned to share it. Why? It helps us each to know better how to live what we have learned.

One of my daughters, after a terrible car accident, lost her leg. At the time she was earning her PhD degree so she could work with children in the children’s hospital with cancer.

She always volunteered her Saturdays to entertain and talk with the kids.

It got much harder with one leg and a cane. But she was smart enough to know the importance of her work. But then she had the wisdom to know she should still be with those kids.

She donned a clown suit and with her guitar she got on the city bus to continue loving those brave and scared children, one leg or not. That is wisdom.

At 87, here’s what I learned. Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the limits of our sight.

Let’s learn and then live it.

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.