The “mä’-gos” who traveled to Bethlehem to kneel and pay homage to the baby Mary bore, and to offer “gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh”, point the way for those who seek skills of wisdom for the journey of life.

The wise ones of Epiphany were not afraid to admit that they did not know where they were going:

wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?’ (Matthew 2:1,2)magi-with-herod

They do not begin with answers and solutions. Their wisdom does not lie in having it all figured out. Their lives conform more to the rhythm of questions than the articulatioin of answers.

When I was young, one of my favourite songs was by Johnny Nash who in 1972 sang,

There are more questions than answers
Pictures in my mind that will not show
There are more questions than answers
And the more I find out the less I know
Yeah, the more I find out the less I know

When that song first took my fancy, it was for me an expression of youthful disorientation and angst. I felt lost in an dark incomprehensible cloud. I could not figure out how life worked. Life was an impenetrable mystery. I spent at least a decade desperately seeking the answer that would point the way out of a conundrum that seemed to me unmanageable and deeply confusing.

I have not changed all that much from my Johnny Nash days. I am still deeply confounded by the strangeness of this peculiar enterprise we call “life” here in this material time-bound physical realm. There is not much that I understand.

But now I view my lack of understanding less as a problem to be solved, and more as a reality to be embraced, perhaps even cherished. Now I see the willingness to acknowledge the profound limitations of my ability to make sense of life is really the beginning of wisdom. To embrace the “cloud of unknowing”, is the gateway to a deeper perception or wisdom.

Wisdom is greater than understanding. It occupies a realm beyond any human capacity to make sense of what it going on. Wisdom requires more sensibilities than are available to intellect alone. It transcends our mental ability; it flows from a deeper source.

As they wandered, the wise ones of Epiphany, were not afraid to ask questions. They acknowledged that they did not have their journey entirely figured out. The star they followed was an imperfect guide. Its glimmer only partially illumined the way.  Their magical arts provided an incomplete road map.

All the road maps are incomplete. We move forward in faith. “We know only in part” and “see in a mirror, dimly.” (I Corinthians 13:9, 12)

Wisdom is content with this partial knowing. It does not demand a clarity that is foreign to this finite realm we inhabit.

Too often we look for guidance to people who appear to offer effective, compelling answers. But real wisdom resides more with those who ask the right questions and follow wherever the answers may lead, no matter how improbable.

Recently, I head a speaker say he no longer ends his talks with a “Q & A” session. Instead, he concludes with “Q & R”. He has come to feel that “Questions and Answers” are beyond his skill; but “Questions and Responses” feel more manageable.

Wisdom resides in the realm of responsiveness, not answers. If we are going to live with the wisdom of responsiveness, there is another “mä’-gos” skill we are going to need, which I will look at tomorrow.

 

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