How a Teaspoon can Transform Worry and Fear

We are not living in an easy environment, right now. There are few places to hide, less distractions and more ability to stay tuned to the absurdities, atrocities, and problems around us. So much so, that our emotions have taken us into the realm of fear and unabated worry.

A question, framed in frustration and a yearning for true connection, keeps echoing in my mind: When will we ever learn?  Pete Seeger, a folksinger and leader in the peace and civil right movement of the 1950s until his death in 2014, asked this question in a song he penned in 1955, Where Have All the Flowers Gone with lines that are as relevant today as they were then.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

He may have written in a different environment, but the relevance of his question resonates today. When will we ever learn? Pete Seeger responded to the essence of that question in this way:

I tell everybody a little parable about the ‘teaspoon brigades.’ Imagine a big seesaw. One end of the seesaw is on the ground because it has a big basket half full of rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air because it’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. Some of us have teaspoons, and we are trying to fill it up. Most people are scoffing at us. They say, ‘People like you have been trying for thousands of years, but it is leaking out of that basket as fast as you are putting it in.’ Our answer is that we are getting more people with teaspoons every day. And we believe that one of these days or years — who knows — that basket of sand is going to be so full that you are going to see that whole seesaw going zoop! in the other direction. Then people are going to say, ‘How did it happen so suddenly?’ And we answer, ‘Us and our little teaspoons over thousands of years.’

Our duty is to grab the teaspoon located in our hearts, fill it with wisdom and then bring the actions that express the illuminating facets of wisdom to the world. 

Wisdom Informs Knowledge

I’ve been thinking about wisdom, knowledge and fact. I wanted to understand and differentiate between the three, for the purpose of clearer contextual engagement.  My thinking has led me to the following about these three concepts.

Wisdom is not knowledge and knowledge is not always fact. And facts are not always fixed, static or absolute.

Okay, so if that is what they are not, what are they? My understanding informs me that wisdom is clear and correct insight, like a revelation Wisdom, in action, applies that which is most suitable, most just, most appropriate at the right times. It is the ability to measure, discard, keep and reveal appropriately. 

Knowledge is derived from the process of experience, learning, and understanding. Knowledge is bestowed upon those who study and who test who distinguish and discern. Knowledge, in action, separates the meaningful, relevant, and important.

Fact is visible as an event, a thing done, an occurrence, achievement or thing evidenced. Facts, in action, are used in data compilation, data research and in providing evidence when appropriate.

Okay, now that we have that taken care of what motivates me to even bring this up? I find, in conversation, it is important to distinguish between the three, so opinions and points of view can be more easily understood. For example, when it is raining outside, I can point to the observation of the action. That is a fact. That the phenomenon is rain is based on knowledge.  Wisdom applies in knowing the purpose of the rain, what it is best suited for and whether or not to act on the knowledge of “rain” and how I share this information and whether I share it.

Wisdom is a behavior I encourage my clients to explore. To do so requires one to reflect, to discern, to examine life from a purposeful and value centric way as wisdom encompasses our values and is feeds purpose. Although wisdom can be confused with knowledge, evidenced by the phrase “I know” so easily spoken, wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom involves illuminative insight.

That’s what I’ve been thinking.