Great and unmatched Wisdom
Trump’s claim to be the custodian of “great and unmatched wisdom” must rank, even for him, as one of his most bizarre utterances. One would normally consider a person making such a claim to be totally devoid of self-awareness at best, and at worst, seriously out of touch with reality. The term madness is usually used of one suffering from a serious mental illness and therefore should not be used pejoratively. It means being unable to process experiences and data in a rational and balanced manner because of illness. In normal circumstances such a person should be worthy of considerable empathy and deserving of expert treatment. However, if such a person holds a position of extraordinary power, as Trump does, and is capable of inflicting untold damage on others, what is required is more than empathy, it requires that person being removed from their position of power. In the last few hours more than one hundred brave Kurdish soldiers have apparently lost their lives as a result of Trump’s betrayal. The US did not defeat ISIS. The heavy lifting was done by the Kurds and for them to be betrayed is unconscionable. This is but one, perhaps the most recent, example of harm being done as a result of grievous misuse of power
The search for wisdom is the Holy Grail of life. While traditionally the elderly are expected to be wise, others appear wise ‘beyond their years’.
According to scripture wisdom existed before creation began. As it emerged, the world became imbued with ‘pre-existing wisdom’. It is through wisdom that order triumphs over chaos, equally it is in the absence or ignoring of wisdom that chaos re-emerges, as graphically portrayed in the Noah narrative. Happy are those who find wisdom…she is more precious than jewels and nothing you desire can compare with her…Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace…the Lord by wisdom founded the earth…(Prov: 3. 11-19). Wisdom is the breath or wind of life. Wisdom is the capacity to understand, to make sense of, to be positioned appropriately in the ebb and flow of life. It is to know what company to keep. It is to appreciate the right time for holding and the right time for releasing. The reason why Jesus said: it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Mtt 19:24) is because the desire for power and riches almost always makes the attaining of wisdom impossible. How often powerful leaders appear to be far wiser when they have left the seat of office!
I would like to speak of wisdom which receives little attention in the creation narrative. According to Gen. 1: 1- 2:4 in the process of creation three entities were afforded sovereignty – the sun, the moon and humanity.
The sun is given sovereignty as “the greater light to rule the day”. The sun has sovereignty over all that is visible. Literally, the sun is the energy that makes living possible. Harnessing the sun’s energy for agriculture, power generation, and industry has been at the heart of civilization making for thousands of years. In the ancient past this harvesting was largely indirect, using natural phenomena such as wind and tides, indirect products of the sun’s energy. In more recent times the harvesting has been historical, through the wholescale use of fossil fuels.
Today, we know the sovereignty of this ‘greater light’ must be exercised in a contemporary fashion. For reasons we all understand we can no longer use the stored energy of the sun in fossil fuels without causing untold damage. We know this, we have the technological power to do something about it, but shamefully we lack the political will.
The moon is given sovereignty as the ‘lesser light to rule the night’. Its sovereignty is over what is unseen yet equally vital – rhythms and balances, times, tides and seasons. These rhythms can be ignored, but they cannot be abrogated. We observe them in the various seasons of life as well as the seasons of the year. There is very good reason to believe that Sabbath had its origins in celebrations associated with the new moon. Modern day liturgical sabbath is a million miles away from sabbath as expressed in the creation narrative. Sabbath is the cyclical celebration of creation and it provides rhythms that balance life’s journey so that triumph and tragedy are both kept in place and neither allowed to rule. Resting, enough, forgiveness, restitution, jubilee, hospitality, inclusiveness, equity, are all expressions of the sovereignty of this lesser light.
The sense of brokenness, alienation, loneliness and melancholy that many now feel, is an outward manifestation that these essential rhythms have been lost. 24/7 in all its manifestations is inconsistent with the sovereignty of this lesser light and is therefore unsustainable both in the short term in individual lives, and in the long term as far as our civilisation is concerned.
Humanity is the third entity to be given sovereignty. Ours is expressed in terms of dominion over the fish… the birds…the animals… What this sovereignty looks like in practice unfolds in the rest of scripture. Rather than making all living thing subject to our need, as some are wont to interpret, scripture makes it clear that we have a role as steward, shepherd, friend, carer etc. Ours is the responsibility of ensuring that harmony, balance, diversity in all its fulness is maintained.
In other words the sovereignty of humans can only be meaningfully delivered in light of the sovereignty of the first two entities, the sun and moon.
Herein lies great wisdom which clearly has escaped the purview of Donald Trump, Boris Johnston and Scott Morrison, despite at least the former and the latter claiming a Christin heritage.
Wisdom and the search for it is the human vocation. Science can inform contemporary parameters for the search, especially sciences of the body and mind. Wealth and ambition are mostly, but not always, a total distraction. There will be many pitfalls along the way, but to stay on the right path it is necessary to “live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God”(Micah 6:8).