The Wisdom of Children


Our children are precious. Yet this week we saw and heard children being used as pawns for political purposes. Despite the outrage of the majority of Americans, others seem to think such a ploy is acceptable.

We usually talk about wisdom as something we gain through maturity. The young are often considered foolish and uninformed. But if you pay attention to children, you will discover that they possess wisdom which escapes us adults. Do you remember Hans Christian Anderson’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes?

It’s not just a story. Over the years, we may come to believe nonsense with which we are constantly bombarded or which we want to believe for various reasons. Sometimes children’s questions can seem embarrassing.  We have customs which prevent us from asking children’s questions or even thinking of them. “Why did Grandpa die?” or “Why is that boy’s skin a different color than mine?” or “Why do I have to wear clothes but our dog doesn’t?’

It’s not just their questions. Children share their observations as well. They often notice when adults act in ways they are told are not right. “That mother is yelling at her daughter. I thought people were not supposed to yell at each other.” They notice when people are different from them. “That man doesn’t have any hair.” They see what we miss or take for granted. “I just saw that bird pick up a worm with its mouth and eat it alive.”

Children have easy access to fantasy life. They can take on roles and be a character without the least discomfort or unease. “You be the prince and I’ll be the princess.”   They can imagine having unlimited powers and believe it for the moment. “I’m king of the world. You have to do what I say.” They can imagine taking different shapes and not just at Halloween. “I’m a fish and can live underwater.”

In play, a child can be a mommy, daddy, grandparent, doctor or astronaut. It is almost as if they leave their own identity behind for the moment and try on a new one. They can be a good guy, a bad guy, very smart or dumb.

Children remind us that in our fantasy life we can experience whatever we want to without limitation. Children can love others without reservation. They can be very open about what they see, hear, feel or just imagine. They can do all these things alone, with each other or with an adult who is willing to set aside “reality” for the moment.

Children can notice what we miss, imagine possibilities which elude adults or try on roles which adults dismiss as silly. Adults tend to become set in their ways as they age. They often become cynical and dismissive of childhood creativity. They see children’s imaginary exploits as, well, childish.

You may have heard of the suggestion to try looking at life with a child’s mind–no preconceptions, no prejudice, and no rejection of unexplored possibilities. You can learn to think this way by watching children at play. Better yet, get down on the floor and play with them. If you have that opportunity count yourself lucky and blessed to have the opportunity to enter the world of childhood wonder if even for a few moments.




Wisdom of the Aged

Mom and siblings

 ‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.

~Martha Graham~

In my early years, several older people became very important to me and stayed that way throughout my childhood. They are all long dead but I still think of them from time to time and remember the hours I spent with each of them them.

My grandmother was literally my second mother. My father was away in World War II and I spent my first few years at her house. I remember her gentle ways which my mother adopted. She was a quiet soul who preferred to be in the background rather than the center of attention. I remember large family gatherings throughout her house. She would sometimes withdraw to the kitchen for her single glass of beer. She would often invite me to sit quietly with her. I was away in the monastery when she died and I was not allowed to attend her funeral. That has always been one of my main regrets in life.

Her husband, my grandfather, was also jovial. I remember going to work with him at his drug store. Sometimes I sat in the back room with him as he counted out pills for his customers’ prescription. I always found something to do in the drug store but always stopped to survey the candy counter, considering what candy I would choose when it became time to close up the store. At his funeral, talk turned to whether he had ever been angry in his life. Once when they were young two of my uncles chased each other through the house after being told not to. The second time they raced by, he got out of his chair but then sat back down chuckling, realizing he could not catch them.

Mr. and Mrs. Slater lived next to my aunt and uncle. They had first names I am sure but I never knew what they were. For some reason, they and my aunt and uncle did not get along well although I never learned why. Once when I was very young, I was visiting my aunt and uncle and playing with a ball in the back yard. It went over the fence into the Slaters’ yard while they were entertaining guests. I sheepishly approached the hedge and was invited over to fetch my ball. I also stayed for watermelon and later visited them whenever I was in town. They had a copy of Land and Sea which I loved looking at with its drawings of real and imaginary sea beasts. I spent time with my favorite book whenever I visited. This was of course after our traditional cookies and milk. When I reached high school age, they gave me the book thinking I was old enough to care for it.

During my elementary school years, I met Mrs. Muckle, a widow who enjoyed sitting with me at her house sometimes after school. I don’t remember how I met her but was glad I did. We adopted each other and became fast friends. When my family moved to the suburbs, I thought I would never see her again. Then she answered the door at the local parish rectory one day and we renewed our acquaintance.

I met other older people but these were the ones I remember most vividly. They were all peaceful people. I never learned if any of them had faced difficult times. I assume they did. I have learned that most everyone does. Now I have reached the age all of these favorite people had attained when I knew them. They all brought joy to my life and helped me forget my childhood cares. I hope I can be of some comfort and encouragement to children and others I encounter as these five did for to me.

Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life Available Again

Joe: Good morning Calliope

Calliope: Good morning Joe, What news?

Joe: I have been working hard on my book for teens which is nearing completion of this round of editing.

Calliope: Anything else.

Joe: How did you guess. I finally finished formatting Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life. Now all my books are available in paperback and e-book format on Amazon. Here is the info for Commonsense Wisdom:

Description of Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life 

Consider this! Whatever happens in our lives ripples out to affect everyone around us and sometimes people far away from us. We have an opportunity to touch the rest of the world on a daily basis. Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life offers reflection on the thoughts, actions and relationships we all experience on a daily basis. We seldom stop to consider what we think, do and share with others and how these affect our lives and the lives of those around us. This book gives you a chance to spend a little time thinking about where your life is going and whether you need to make any changes in the course your taking.

Topics include:

  •  Your personal perspective on life
  •  Agreements for Life
  • Social Relationships
  •  Family Relationships
  •  Commonsense spirituality
  •  Holiday reflections
  •  Approaching addictions
  •  Dealing with adversity
  •  Understanding Evil
  •  Personal reflections
  •  Suggested related readings

Sliding Otter News 11/19/2011

Sliding Otter News

November 19, 2011

The Challenge of Getting and Staying Healthy

Allegany River Sunset

 It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease
than to know what sort of disease a person has.


My age finally caught up with me and my mailbox swims with ads for Medicare programs. Maybe it’s just the time of year but I can’t turn on the television without facing an onslaught of ads from Medicare insurance programs and drug companies. My next medical appointment also creeps up on me and it will be time to see what condition my condition is in. I will soon be asked to account for my efforts at keeping my body healthy.

Drugs abound for every conceivable condition and some conditions beyond imagination. I should ask my health provider about each drug and tell her if I have any conditions from a long list including, strangely enough, death. Ads tout each Medicare program as my best possible choice. I decide to check the Medicare website and find fifty-six different plans available to me. One most likely will be enough. Still, the other fifty-five vie for my attention.

I don’t review all fifty-six plans and fortunately narrow down possible selections of interest to a handful. I learn that the best way to keep medical costs down is to stay healthy. No big surprise there. I know my enemies: overweight, hypertension, cholesterol, triglycerides and too little exercise among others. These are the usual suspects. Then arrive all the other conditions typical of my age, some commonplace, some more exotic, and the screening tests to keep them at bay.

Lately my lunchtime conversations have turned to nutrition, the field of medicine, drugs and health in general. Fast foods keep popping up on TV, mail advertising, newspapers and billboards. We see and hear how quick, easy and tasty each one is. The effects on our bodies and health somehow don’t make the ads.

I wonder why the sudden need for such a variety of drugs and supplements. We can’t be so different from our ancestors who had little need for them. I stumble on a book about the Mediterranean diet and realize we have forgotten how to eat. Traditional Mediterranean communities took the time to incorporate their wonderful foods into their daily routines. Many of the lifestyle illnesses and conditions which plague us are rare among them.

Sugar, fat and salt have shanghaied our diets. Even the Mediterranean communities have started gradually moving toward our frenetic pace of life and seemingly easy but dangerous eating and lifestyles. Yet their traditional variety, emphasis on fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and a little wine offer to prevent or minimize the conditions we create for ourselves and then try to remedy with drugs and supplements. I for one have started exploring the Mediterranean option.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Spend some time thinking about how you eat.
  • Look at how you spend your leisure time.
  • What did you hear about your health last time you saw your doctor?
  • What is your health worth to you?
  • Consider Mediterranean, Hawaiian or other traditional diets.

Sliding Otter News: Choosing Wisdom for our Survival

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

~Immanuel Kant~

Vandas in Barbados

Vandas in Barbados

I just finished Michio Kaku’s book, Physics of the Future. I feared he might glorify technology to the exclusion of anything human. Near the end of his book, he predicts that technology might eventually take over most of our mundane tasks. What will remain for us to do? He concludes that our task will be to develop a sense of wisdom, often lost in our fascination with new gadgets.

He says, “Without wisdom and insight, we are left to drift aimlessly and without purpose, with an empty, hollow feeling after the novelty of unlimited information wears off.” I have been writing for ten years about commonsense wisdom. This has been the theme of most everything I have written.

I have enjoyed comments by my readers saying that my writing resonates with them and helps them focus on what is important in their lives. Still, I wonder whether my efforts and those of my readers will be flattened by the steamroller of technology and computers.

Then I realize that technology and computers are only tools. Infatuation or even worship of our tools does not give our lives a purpose. Our tools make it easier for us to do things, but what do we want and need to do?

Isaac Asimov said, “The saddest aspect of society now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” We can put men on the moon and probe distant galaxies but we can’t figure out how to stop killing each other with endless wars. It seems that things have become worse since Asimov’s observation.

Thinkers throughout the ages have tried to make sense of life and find a purpose for our existence. Religious and philosophical thinkers have pondered the meaning of life for many centuries. Yet we seem to still wander aimlessly as a society with no clear direction. It has been said that wisdom comes with age. Yet I have seen older people go to their graves still scratching their heads, wondering what it is all about.

Why is wisdom, so hard to come by and what must we do to find it? First we must shut our mouths and listen. None of us has the corner on wisdom or the final answer within ourselves. We must know each others’ struggles and dreams and find a way to forge ahead together. It sounds almost impossible, but could it be harder than sending people to the moon and back?

We could destroy ourselves with our technology and almost did in the age of nuclear weapons. We scoff at the effect of our “progress” on the environment on which we depend for survival. We could still slowly poison ourselves for the sake of short term financial gain. What if wisdom became our priority?We could join hands and lives in shared wisdom while exploring our future possibilities. What do you choose?

Life Lab Lessons

  • Close your mouth and listen to others around you.

  • What can they teach you about life?

  • Try to understand others.

  • Be patient with them.

  • Practice ways to compromise.