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Profiles of Wisdom

A look at the lives of exceptional people who exhibited qualities of wisdom

Why Profiles of Wisdom?   The best way to get a handle on wisdom — what it is, and how it is developed — may well be to examine the life stories of wise people. 

Portraits of Modern Wisdom: An Introduction (Word format)(or PDF)   Historian Walter Moss describes the need for this project, and extends an invitation to those who might want to contribute an essay. 

Wisdom portraits of well-known 20th century people

Wisdom from Russia: The Perspectives of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton by Walter Moss. A scholarly and yet personalized discussion, as seen through the eyes of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, of numerous significant Russian literary figures such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Berdyaev, Chekhov, and Pasternak, and their insights into the nature of wisdom.

Olaf Stapledon: Wisdom in the Cosmos by Tom Lombardo. My new book, The Psychology of the Future, includes a section on Olaf Stapledon, whose integrative breadth of vision encompasses futures studies, science fiction, and philosophy, and whom I believe was an exemplar case of a wise person. Having just finished reading a biography of Olaf Stapledon (Robert Crossley’s Olaf Stapledon: Speaking for the Future), I am even more convinced that Stapledon was a twentieth-century figure of great wisdom and immense philosophical significance.

The Wisdom of Dorothy Day Walter Moss has updated his “Wisdom of Dorothy Day” essay. It is part of the Profiles of Wisdom series, which also includes his essays on the wisdom of Carl and Paula Sandburg, Andrei Sakharov, E. F. Schumacher, and Anton Chekhov, as well as essays by him and Alan Nordstrom on the wisdom of W. H. Auden, Shakespeare, and others. The primary reason for Moss’s update was his desire to take advantage of Jim Forest’s new biography, All Is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day (2011). After reading it, Moss incorporated the new insights of Forest. Forest was also kind enough to read the revised essay and make suggestions regarding it.

Wisdom, Humor, and Faith: A Historical view (Word format) (or PDF)   Here, Walter Moss examines these qualities and their relationship as manifested in the lives of many prominent historical figures.

W. H. Auden's Wisdom, Faith, and Humor (Word format) (or PDF)   Anglo-American writer W.H. Auden is considered one of the 20th century's great writers, and in this essay Walter Moss looks at key aspects of Auden's life and character.

The Wisdom of Carl and Paula Sandburg (Word format) (or PDF)   The book's first essay, by Walter Moss, is a wisdom-focused portrait of renowned poet and Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg and his wife Paula.

Sandburg's Wisdom through Humor (Word format) (or PDF)   In this essay Walter Moss focuses on Carl Sandburg's humor, and indicates how that humor was connected to his wisdom.

The Wisdom of Andrei Sakharov (Word format) (or PDF)   Here, Walter Moss reviews the life and developing wisdom of this Russian physicist — winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and champion of freedom and human rights.

The Wisdom of E.F. Schumacher (Word format) (or PDF)   As Walter Moss puts it, this forward thinking economist and environmentalist "attempted to apply wisdom to numerous aspects of twentieth-century life, not only to economics and the environment, but to science, technology, culture, education, religion, and the relations of rich nations to poor nations."

The Wisdom of Anton Chekhov (Word format) (or PDF)   Maxim Gorky called Chekhov "a great, wise, and observant man," and in this essay Walter Moss tells us about Chekhov's "practical wisdom that enabled him to care for those he loved and to help others."

Portraits of pre-modern wisdom

An Introduction to Lao-Tzu by John van Huizum. A selection of quotations from "The Way of Life" with personal commentary and reflections on the wisdom and the value of the ideas of Lao-Tzu to contemporary life.

Shakespeare's Take on Human Wisdom (Word format) (or PDF)   This essay by Alan Nordstrom looks at what we can learn from Shakespeare's plays about his take on wisdom. 

Profiles of other wise people

Wisdom Writers: Franklin, Johnson, Goethe, and Emerson by Walter G. Moss. As the author states the main concern of this essay is to demonstrate how four prominent men, living in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, valued and greatly respected the capacity of wisdom. Another well-researched, thoughtful, and intellectually engaging essay by Walter Moss. Though the focus is primarily on how these four figures understood and pursued wisdom, the essay is highly relevant to our general understanding of wisdom.

An Invitation to Contribute the Story of Some Wise Person You Have Known   The person needn't be famous, just wise. Just tell their story in text, audio, or video format, and have it posted here. 

Howard McClusky: A Wise and Good Man  Deeply impressed by this man, Walter G. Moss tells us about McClusky's positive outlook on life, his concern with helping young people, his modesty, and more. (doc file)

My Friend Alice Burkhardt  Cop Macdonald presents a profile of this remarkable woman — a story that first appeared in his book Getting a Life