The word wisdom according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online is defined as: (1) accumulated philosophic or scientific learning; (2) a wise attitude, belief, or course of action; (3) the teachings of the ancient wise men. I think the third definition is the one I’ve subscribed to most of my life. Thinking that wisdom was something unattainable for myself or others. I have since learned just the opposite. Wisdom is attainable and usable right here and now, in the present, where it can have the most impact in our lives and those around us.
Throughout my life, I have always questioned why and how people do things and tried to make sense of it. It’s like an endless thirst that never gets fully quenched. I’ve discovered that through this course and possibly the reason I took this course is because that thirst is for wisdom and cannot be quenched. Not as long as I’m alive and possibly not ever. The pursuit of wisdom is the life-long attempt to quench that thirst.
The introspective journaling exercises were of great help in deepening my understanding of myself in many aspects. I was able to honestly write about myself in a way that I’ve only kept safe inside my head and heart. There are plenty of people in my late adolescence and young adult life who have said “you better wake up” to me or have told me “you’re dreaming.” What I didn’t know at the time was that they were the ones who were sleeping in their complacency. They had lost their zeal for dreaming and achieving those dreams. Another favorite of mine to hear when I would question the how or why of a bad situation was “Because that’s the way life is.” As an educated, thinking adult, I can now surmise that’s what people who have allowed themselves to be beaten down say, or strict traditionalists.
I am a human being interested in promoting the good of humanity and can see the beauty in everyone if I allow myself. I am a spiritual being filled with love and light. I am a Pagan, Druid, Shaman, Lover, Brother, Son, Uncle, Man, Friend, Student, Teacher, Artist, and Healer and all of these are true simultaneously even if I’m not utilizing all of them at once. I don’t think I believed that before. It seems to me that from a young age, many adults try to tell children who they are and what they think they should be, rather than give them the tools and skills to discover who they are and all they are capable of giving to the world. I don’t know how I was able to break the mold that was cast for me by my upbringing and society, but I’m so glad I did.
I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Ever since I made the effort and conscious changes in my life toward finding my own view of happiness, I have felt so incredibly blessed with boons from the universe. I don’t fit in with the mainstream views of our culture. Most times I feel as though I’m in direct opposition to those views. Though optimistic about our future, I think there are old ways of thinking and old regimes that either have to change or die out in order for humanity to have a more harmonious and sustainable future.
When I was younger, I liked art and decided in high school that art was the direction I needed to go in. I think I thought I would become a famous artist, not knowing that computers had already taken over in the realm of graphic arts. Why weren’t we drawing every day? I thought, “This isn’t what I signed up for.” But it was. When I came to grips with that, I thought I would become an award winning designer. No one tells you that you’ll be scrambling to get a job in anything even remotely related to art when you get out of art school. I was beating that same dead horse for just about eighteen years when I realized for the third time that it isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing.
My mom’s death in 2011 was a catalyst for me in many ways to change my life for the better and to seek my happiness. I knew there was so much of myself that wasn’t being utilized. I started journaling and asked questions not unlike those we are asking ourselves for these exercises. The last question I asked myself was “What is my life’s purpose?” I wrote in response to that question for hours until I was sobbing uncontrollably. That’s when I knew I hit my answer. In that final answer were four qualities about myself that when combined, could only translate to an Art Therapist. I started working almost immediately to figure out how to become that. That journey of self-discovery was so important and continues to be. I’m on my way and will have finished my undergraduate degree by the end of next year, then I will be applying to the Master’s degree counseling program for Expressive Arts Therapy.
When I was a child, the first thing I wanted to be was a doctor. All I knew about doctors at that point in my life was that they made you feel better. Looking back as an adult with a much broader understanding of what a doctor is, I think I’ve achieved and will continue to achieve many of the aspects of what I thought a doctor was as a child and may still yet become a doctor in the realm of mental health.
The things I’m most passionate about are spirituality, truth, and the inclusion of all the good humanity is capable of. In that regard, I think Gandhi and I have a lot in common. I’ve learned to include anything in my spirituality that is good and works for me and to quickly close the door on anything that would cause me to feel superior in my beliefs or divide myself from the greater whole. I tend to largely leave the word god, gods, and goddesses out of conversation and rather use the terms divine and divinity, as well as universe which I find to be far more inclusive.
When thinking about my own life path, I also think of the offshoots of that path and how they were an integral part of my discovery or rediscovery, recognition, and acceptance of who I truly am and what I incarnated for. Sometimes, I think we need to walk a path that is not our own to lead us back to the path that is our own.
My life path still unfolds as I walk it and although I know it involves Art Therapy, it also involves social justice, metaphysical healing practices, and being a light-worker, which may or may not be separate from Expressive Arts Therapy. I feel like everything is falling into place to allow me to manifest my highest self and the journey thus far has been nothing short of amazing.
I can’t say I had any opinion or thought of Henry David Thoreau before this course and I found the reading of Walden to be difficult. Though I struggled with reading Walden, I was able to gain an understanding of timeless wisdom that comes only from immersing oneself in nature and the natural world, as well as simplifying one’s life. During the time he spent in his cabin on Walden Pond, he gained an understanding and morsels of wisdom that he didn’t go there with. They only came out through his writing when he had the time to be honest and forthcoming with his thoughts. The fact that we can read his writings and musings, and gain wisdom from them that we can apply to ourselves and in today’s world, only makes them more important in my eyes. After reading Walden, I felt as though I had discovered someone I shared a sort of kinship with. Spending two to three weeks camping in the woods every July for most of the last twenty years really has given me an appreciation for the simple things in life. I didn’t build my own cabin or house but I did build my own platform for my tent with the help of a few friends who are better with the mechanical end of things who could teach me while we built the platform. Through that experience, I gained a respect for builders of every kind. It took almost two whole days to build, largely because of being less prepared with all the necessary materials than I needed. I didn’t know I would need eighty seven dollars’ worth of cinder blocks to hold and prop the platform up in the corners as well as in the center. It simply never occurred to me, but if I ever have to build another platform, I know exactly how to do it and what materials I need. Having that very stressful experience is worth more to me than I would have ever imagined prior to having it. I learned much more than how to build a platform or decking for a tent that day. I learned the strength of my own determination, that I have friends on my side who are willing to tell me when I’m being unreasonable, that I can get through stressful situations without the crutch of smoking, and that everything doesn’t have to be perfect the first time you build it. You can fix it or improve upon it later. That lesson continues to be very valuable to me.
My ideas and views of Gandhi changed quite rapidly when I learned and was shocked by how he treated his wife and children, largely or even entirely based on his own feelings of guilt and shame. I had this idea of him as saintly and a hero who embodied all the good of humanity; the peaceful warrior. That image of him was crushed by reading his autobiography and a new image of him was built, possibly an even better one than before, because it now includes his humanity. He is no longer an extraordinary being, but a human being that was capable of facilitating and carrying through great, positive change on a global scale. The truth is we all are capable of such amazing feats! That is both empowering and incredibly scary when I think of those who were also capable of making great, negative change on a global scale, like Hitler.
Watching the movie about Gandhi helped to solidify my understanding of him as a human being and also gave his wife, Kasturba a face to her enigmatic presence in the book. I think it’s safe to say that many of us in this course had difficulty dealing with the dynamic between Gandhi and his wife while reading the book and a few scenes in the movie really helped to bridge that gap for me. The most memorable scene for me was when Kasturba assertively protests cleaning the chamber pots and Gandhi becomes enraged, attempts to throw her out of the house, and with a few words she is able to diffuse the situation. He then sits down, deeply disturbed by his actions and asks “What is wrong with me?” Kasturba puts her hand on his cheek and says softly “You are human.” I think it was easier for me to understand that he was human and understand that he could not live up to the idea I had of him once I saw that scene from the book play out. I understood more about how much of a backbone she was to him and witnessed the love she had for him.
In light of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, I feel like we need to now more than ever, stand up and show the world the power of passive resistance as Gandhi did. I feel like it is crucial to walk the talk or forever be silenced. There’s not many people I know who are not outraged by what is happening there and the tragic injustice that has recently occurred. Racism in this country is alive and well despite those who would say otherwise. In this country, racism still has a face because we still classify people by their skin color. To me, that is like classifying people by their blood type. Why don’t we do that? Because that would be absurd. I can almost hear you say it. It is with the same, if not more absurdity level that we classify people by their skin color. There is only one race and we all belong to it; the human race. I feel like we are on an extremely slippery slope with this problem and it must be at the forefront of our collective efforts to make a positive change for the good of the human race. I fear a tragic outcome is in short order if we do nothing.
Through my experiential service project, I was able to create pieces of art known as Ekphrastic Poetry. The pieces are made using a method I stumbled onto and have really grown to love. It was a pleasure sharing the method of making these pieces with everyone. Each piece took a total of about twelve to fifteen hours of work. It takes longer than one might think to painstakingly chisel out letters of hardened Plaster of Paris. I really enjoyed making the pieces and will continue to experiment with this form of art. It’s a beautiful way to create art and I hope to foster that creativity in others one day. One of the pieces ended up being a cathartic process for me and the other simply needed to come out of me and turn into something beautiful. I’m thankful I was able to turn these art pieces into a meaningful project for myself.
I wonder what life would be like if everyone dedicated their lives to the pursuit of wisdom and tried to be the highest version of themselves they could be. I used to get upset about people who simply were content with living their life in a box and never want for anything more meaningful. What I know is that it’s ok if they don’t. They may not be ready to embark on that journey. Wisdom isn’t something tangible and it’s a conscious decision to walk that path. That is why I think it eludes many people. With reality TV being the source of entertainment for so many people instead of immersing themselves in their own reality and understanding who they truly are, it’s not hard to understand why that could be true. I believe that I have a responsibility to become the highest version of myself I can be and though I wish everyone felt that call, I understand that not everyone does. Perhaps one of the ways we can overcome this complacency is by changing the way our entire educational system operates in this country.
I have decided that I must continue in my own life-long pursuit of wisdom. I understand that what that means to me can and likely will change and evolve as I change and evolve as a human being.
At the close of the rituals by the Druid Fellowship, Ár nDraíocht Féin, which I was a member of for almost twenty years, we sang a song called Walk with Wisdom. The lyrics seem more prevalent to me now after taking this course than they ever did before:
Walk with wisdom from this hallowed place.
Walk not in sorrow, our roots shall ere embrace.
May strength be your brother, and honor be your friend,
And luck be your lover until we meet again.
I’m so thankful that from my late adolescence well into my adulthood, I had a strong spiritual community to fall back on. Many of these people are closer to me than my own family. They have fostered my growth in ways my family couldn’t have and maybe shouldn’t have. I can’t imagine I would have turned into the person I am today without them and I honor that connection every chance I get. It’s not hard to see how much influence for better or worse one can have on another person and I try to live my life in that way. Knowing that I am able to brighten someone’s day just by being kind is enough for me to do just that. Sometimes it’s as easy as saying thank you or smiling. When simple gestures like that can make or break someone’s day, that is reason enough to be kind to everyone. One can be a positive, building force in life or a negative, destructive one. You get to make that choice in every situation, every day. I for one, refuse to lend my energy to harm another human being. We are all unique and as such, come with unique gifts for the world.
I am thankful for all who shared their own wisdom and journeys with me throughout this course. I do believe that we are capable of enriching each other’s lives in ways we wouldn’t necessarily be able to at a traditional university. We really do have our own innate wisdom that we can share with others and if I take away nothing else from this course, which is impossible, it is that.
Ár nDraíocht Féin: https://www.adf.org/rituals/chants/recessional/walk-with-wisdom.html
Gandhi, M. K., & Desai, M. H. (1993). An autobiography: The story of my experiments with truth. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Thoreau, H. D., & Cramer, J. S. (2004). Walden: A fully annotated edition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
© 2015 Anthony Boyd