Wise men came from the East

The Feast of Epiphany. Christmas is over officially—at least in the Western calendar. Today the tree comes down, the ornaments and Christmas mementoes are stored for another year. Walking our pugs around the neighborhood, seeing discarded Christmas trees on the roadside, shorn of their finery, is always a little sad. (In our town, trees are picked up and recycled as mulch for the spring.) The first tree cast aside this year was on Boxing Day. Clearly, by the Feast of Stephen, someone had already had enough! Then, by dribs and drabs, more trees have appeared each day. The end of Christmas where we live is a movable feast.
Epiphany is the appearing, and traditionally is when the wise men from the East came to see the infant Jesus. Wise men. Reading the ancient story I was struck by the phrase, and mused how we need wise men and women to guide us. Without the wise we flounder. Without the wise we are doomed to repeat mistakes. Without wisdom we paddle in the shallows and know nothing of the depths.
But what is wisdom? Clearly wisdom knows stuff. But wisdom, too, knows how to. Wisdom is both knowledge about and knowledge how. Wisdom is not mere theory. The ancient Greeks made a distinction between sophia and phronesis—wisdom generally and practical, applied wisdom. It is phronesis wisdom that has pride of place in the four cardinal virtues. Wisdom seems to belong more to the elders than the youngsters. Wisdom comes with years, but not necessarily so. You can be old and stupid. You can be young and "wise beyond your years," but that seems quite rare. It's likely years then, plus hard work, plus experience, plus the ability to learn from experience, and the humility that comes from having made too many mistakes to allow pride to creep in. Wisdom knows how to deal with change, to balance the constant interweave of opposites, to recognize that opposing principles are both necessary, to listen to all sides in a dispute, to let go of incidentals for the sake of harmony. To compromise.
In 2009, academics in the journal Research in Human Development defined wisdom as:
a practice that reflects the developmental process by which individuals increase in self-knowledge, self-integration, nonattachment, self-transcendence, and compassion, as well as a deeper understanding of life. This practice involves better self-regulation and ethical choices, resulting in greater good for oneself and others. 
Wisdom is a practice—long term, daily habituation, a process of becoming. Wisdom will lead us to the greater good, a better world. "Wise men came from the East." How we need the wise today. Why not make it a goal to become one?

Be well and wise,

+Ab. Andy

The definition is from Carolyn M. Aldwin, "Gender and Wisdom: A Brief Overview," Research in Human Development, 6(1), 1–8, 2009, 3. If any readers have access to academic journals in full text, this is a fascinating edition on wisdom.