The Wisdom Page 


Published on the Editorial Page of the Orlando Sentinel, August 11, 2006.


by Alan Nordstrom

The highlight event of my summer has been to participate in the inaugural conference of the World Wisdom Alliance in Toronto, the goal of which was to gather and galvanize support for the development of a new vision of civilization made necessary by the evident breakdown of our current systems: ecological, economic, political, moral, and spiritual.

It seems more and more clear to thoughtful and informed people that how human beings are behaving, largely unconsciously and unintentionally, is causing great harm to our Earth's vital systems. It is past reasonable dispute now that our production of greenhouse gasses has significantly elevated our atmospheric temperature, which is now causing the polar ice caps to melt in ways that will raise coastal waters worldwide, inundating shorelines, will alter temperature and weather patterns causing more violent hurricanes and cyclones, and will vastly change the character of our land masses and agricultural capacities.

We are razing rainforests, we are fouling fresh and sea waters, we are destroying thousands of species, we are permitting millions of people to starve who might be fed, to suffer and die of diseases who might be cured, to live in poverty who might live comfortably, to be ignorant who might be educated, to be exploited and dehumanized who might live humanely, to be victimized by war and political oppression who might thrive in safety and freedom.

We, who call ourselves homo sapiens, are behaving stupidly, foolishly, recklessly, arrogantly, unethically, inhumanely. Sapient—wise—we are not yet.

But we may become more so. We may wise up in many ways, especially when forced to recognize the folly of our current course. But doing that will take a major upgrading of our global consciousness. More and more of us must wake up to a compassionate and ethical mentality that assumes responsibility for the havoc we are wreaking on each other and on Earth's vital systems.

If wisdom is the ability to realize what is of value—to understand what is truly valuable and to make it a reality—then our rising wisdom will guide us to help all people prosper and flourish equitably on a planet whose vital systems are also flourishing.

If we soon behave more sanely and humanely than we have been doing, that will be a function of perceiving our present peril and of taking responsibility for it. Shame and revulsion at our species' blatant failures to govern ourselves wisely plus the vision and hope of a better way to live on Earth, in peace and plenty, may work to elevate our collective consciousness to a new level of ethical maturity.

Is this a utopian pipedream? Perhaps, but "in dreams begin responsibilities." And, as the old song says, "If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"