Yesterday I noted that wisdom was as much a matter of the heart as it is of the mind. Today I would like to focus on the role of the mind, in an effort to provide a balancing point between those who see wisdom as principally an intellectual exercise and those who suggest that wisdom comes as a result of getting one’s mind out of the way and following one’s heart.
To begin with, heart and mind are designed to work together. Heart predominantly connects us to the eternal, while mind provides us with a means of navigating the temporal. There are overlaps, of course, but in the sense of primary function heart allows for a connection to the invisible impulses of spirit while mind allows us to translate those impulses into meaningful, coordinated words and action, into the world around us. They are meant to work, as we say, “hand in glove.”
The trouble comes when heart is oriented primarily downward and outward, rather than upward and inward. When this occurs the mind is forced to search for that connection and must compensate for its absence. Some translate this imbalance as feeling “lost” and they spend their lives searching for meaning and purpose, both of which originate above and within. These are the spiritual seekers. Religions are fueled by this pattern. Others suppress the discomfort caused by the imbalance by throwing themselves headlong into the intellectual pursuit of meaning and purpose. They try to define themselves from the outside in and from the bottom up. Science is largely powered by people thus driven.
Wisdom is a flowing brook. It courses from within outward, from above downward. Knowledge is a snapshot of wisdom, a lifeless picture of what is flowing, living, and revitalizing. Like the edifices man builds to protect him from the elements, man also attempts to build mental constructs, a worldview, out of scraps of wisdom he has culled from the earth. He surrounds himself with dead forms, desperately trying to create the appearance of mastery, security and happiness, but without the correct use of his heart his quest for wisdom stops short at cunning.
That said, heart cannot function in balance without mind. These are true “yin and yang”, unlike life and death, light and dark, which are in truth presences and absences, not opposites. Mind translates the spiritual impulses which move through the heart into words and action and thereby articulates that which is above with that which is below and that which is within with that which is without. In other words, mind, in concert with heart, completes the circuit between heaven and earth.