The Lord said to Solomon, "I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you."
Eugene D. Genovese, in his book Roll Jordan Roll, the world the slaves made, tells the story of a plantation owner who strolled about his estate and met his wheelwright, a very happy man. The slave showed him how he could arrange twelve wooden rods of equal length into a circle of six equilateral triangles and make a wheel!
The master told, "We have known that for thousands of years."
Shocked and saddened, the slave replied, "Sir, you would have saved me a lot of trouble if you had told me that!"
I've been reading a book lately by a well-known psychiatrist who has done much research on how the brain works and the mind arises. He has much to say about consciousness and learning but he says nothing of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Freud, Marx or any of the great thinkers of the past. He is reinventing phenomenology, and delighted with his own brilliance.
He dwells much on intellect; I am halfway through the book and he has yet to say anything about the will. He doesn't seem to know he has taken his stand in the Platonic tradition, as opposed to the Aristotelian.
This Sunday's readings invite us to ponder Wisdom, and to ask God to bestow that gift upon us. Wisdom is a treasure buried in a field and a pearl of great price. This divine gift teaches us to sort out good from evil and wisdom from foolishness in a world inundated with Too Much Information. No individual, no matter how clever or blessed, can do this alone. Only a community under the guidance of the Holy Spirit can hope to hear music in this world's cacophony or detect God's whisper in the thunderstorm.
The Christian churches have always invested much in learning. We are not anti-intellectual; we do not cultivate stupidity; nor even, like some politicians, the image of stupidity. Although "book learning" without lived experience may spawn noxious attitudes among some people, especially among young people as they take their first steps into the adult world, time, maturity and continual study ripen their learning into wisdom.
Wisdom "is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old."
The apostolic generation of the Church, those first missionaries who announced the Resurrection of Jesus to the world, strove mightily to discover the antecedents of the Gospel in the Hebrew tradition. The Jews had not yet formulated a bible, (an "Old Testament") and the "New Testament" would not emerge from the letters, treatises and gospels of the Way until several centuries later.
That first generation studied, discussed and quarreled with each other as they made sense of what had happened in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit kept sifting them through the colander of the cross to separate kernels of truth from nonsense. Often what appeared absurd to the worldly-wise and sacrilegious to the pious was the Way of the Spirit.
As we pass through this desperately troubled period, when learning seems to have split into polluted streams of "conservative" and "liberal" we ask God's Holy Spirit to help us bring from God's storeroom of wisdom both the new and the old.