Friday, November 26, 2010

Pondering Wisdom

Anthony de Mello was a modern Jesuit who died young back in 1987. He was the Director of the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counselling in Poona, India. A member of the Jesuit province of Bombay, he was widely known in English-and Spanish-speaking countries for his retreats, workshops and seminars on prayer, and spiritual therapy courses—work in which he was involved for over 18 years around the world. He left a rich legacy of spiritual teaching through his written and recorded words.

Recently, I reread one of his works, One Minute Wisdom, (New York: Image Books Doubleday, 1988), which is in the tradition of classical wisdom literature—both biblical and non-canonical—as well as similar to the parables of Jesus. If you haven’t read this volume yet, here are three examples to spark your curiosity.

I. The Master gave his teaching in parables and stories, which his disciples listened to with pleasure—and occasional frustration, for they longed for something deeper.

The Master was unmoved. To all their objections he would say, “You have yet to understand, my dears, that the shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story.”

Another time he said, “Do not despise the story. A lost gold coin is found by means of a penny candle; the deepest truth is found by means of a simple story.” (p. 23)

II. It always pleased the Master to hear people recognize their ignorance.

“Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance,” he claimed.

When asked for an explanation, he said, “When you come to see you are not as wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.” (p. 97)

III. A woman in great distress over the death of her son came to the Master for comfort.

He listened to her patiently while she poured out her tale of woe.

Then he said softly, “I cannot wipe away your tears, my dear. I can only teach you how to make them holy.” (p.132)

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