What Does the World Need Now?
By NANCY PATRICK
There are so many possible answers to that question. A popular song has a great answer: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” I certainly wouldn’t argue with that suggestion. Love can forgive many sins and transgressions and would go a long way toward calming the world’s turbulence.
I have given the question a lot of thought as the world I knew changes into a world I do not know or understand. An acquaintance recently mentioned that she had decided to retire because she realized that she could no longer relate to the mindsets of the young people with whom she worked.
I suppose that idea suggests that the people in this world need adaptability. True, we do need the ability to adapt, but if we continue to adapt, might we mutate into an organism foreign to our original form?
Many words could answer the title’s question, but I have a suggestion based on my current obsession with Louise Penny’s novel series set in Quebec, featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as the main character. He heads the homicide division of Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force for Quebec.
Inspector Gamache embodies kindness, empathy, morality, loyalty, unselfishness, and wisdom. Though all those qualities are important, I find the one that best fits the inspector is wisdom. Perhaps what the world needs now is wisdom more than just about anything else.
When God offered King Solomon in the Old Testament anything he desired, Solomon asked for wisdom. Why would someone choose wisdom over wealth, power, or love? What does wisdom offer that other gifts might not?
Wisdom does not necessarily relate to intelligence. Whereas intelligence can be measured in concrete terms, wisdom’s characteristics are abstract. In broad terms, wisdom contemplates and uses knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight into solving problems.
Wisdom involves a combination of unbiased judgment, compassion, self-knowledge, the ability to transcend and detach from oneself, as well as virtues such as ethics and benevolence.
If you closely read the two preceding paragraphs, you will realize that few of us possess wisdom according to those descriptions. Most of us know the difficulty and rarity needed to assess serious situations fairly and without bias.
Most of us enmesh ourselves in many aspects of life: career, family, religion, politics, friends, finances, and perhaps other areas. Because we commit strongly to our loyalties, we find it difficult to take a stand that differs from those we love or care about.
Gaining wisdom comes through self-discipline and humility. Chief Inspector Gamache wants to lead his young protégés to wisdom but realizes that only some would reach that level.
He used four declarative sentences as the basis for his curriculum on wisdom: (1) “I was wrong.” (2) “I am sorry.” (3) “I don’t know.” (4) “I need help.” Unfortunately, many people find themselves unable to say those simple statements.
Why? (1) We arrogantly believe that we know more than others and find admitting fault very difficult. (2) Offering an apology requires humility. (3) We tend to think we know more than we do, so admitting we don’t know something requires our acceptance of our limitations. (4) Telling others we need help allows them into our lives.
These four sentences form the basis of community. Our families function by using the concepts in the sentences. Unfortunately, the larger community—local, state, national, and international—rebuffs the ideas of interdependence.
All around us, we witness the results of arrogance, greed, selfishness, prejudice, intolerance, and hubris. As a world community, we face many serious problems that agitate emotions related to our backgrounds and values.
There are too many issues to delve deeply into any one of them, but I will mention one as an example to illustrate my focus on the importance of wisdom in dealing with life’s fundamental dilemmas.
That is the matter of migration of poor and often abused populations to more affluent, more peaceful, stabler countries. Americans currently face divisive problems of mass migration of people from South America.
Politicians loudly proclaim solutions to the problems of housing, education, medical attention, employment, and crime related to the influx of migrants. Border towns express frustration and anger about the untenable situation lack of border control places them in.
This refugee problem occurs all over the world as desperate people seek refuge in countries perceived to be safer or offer chances for a better life. I am sorry this situation exists in so many places.
Are we wrong to close our borders to those who will starve or be tortured in their own countries? I don’t know. I need help.
Other dire situations include poverty, climate change, food insecurity, health care, mental health, LBGTQ issues, reproductive justice, children’s rights (foster care, domestic violence, substance abuse), cybersecurity, disinformation, debt crises, corruption, authoritarianism, and global cooperation.
Would King Solomon have had the ability to solve these problems? Inspector Armand Gamache would not presume to solve them on his own. With the support of his team members, he might offer some solutions, but he would never claim to possess the wisdom and discernment to solve such immense issues.
Unfortunately, I have heard many politicians boldly claim to know the answers to these massive dilemmas, but none of these people employ wisdom as the tool to solve the problems.
The world needs wisdom in discerning how we all share the same planet. We will not achieve this wisdom until we recognize and acknowledge our own limitations.
We all become a little nervous and anxious when we contemplate giving up some of what we have to others. We don’t even know these people. Many don’t speak English. They will deplete our financial resources because they cannot pay for housing, food, or medical care.
Why should I get involved in these huge problems that do not directly affect me? I need to consider these statements.
I was wrong. I am sorry. I don’t know. I need help.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing