Reflection: Stupid Things
By Jane Lee Wolfe
Lots of stuff is stupid. We believe lots of stupid stuff. Sometimes we were indoctrinated with the stupid stuff from birth on up to adulthood. That doesn’t mean it is or has to be there forever. We do have the ability to get rid of stupid stuff or override it in the interests of moving our lives forward and out of the ditch of stupid.
What are some stupid things? Racism is stupid, anti-Semitism is stupid. Thinking your nation is the greatest in the world is stupid. Thinking “anything” is the greatest in the world is stupid. Or thinking anything is the worst. “Greatest” and “Worst” are not words that have any eternal value. They probably shouldn’t be used at all if we want to be exact about anything. At best they are personal limited opinions based on personal limited experience. “The greatest sunset I have ever seen,” is about the limit. “The worst pain I have ever experienced.” That’s about the limit on the negative side.
When we are “the greatest” or our race or nation or faith is “the greatest,” we immediately set up a divisive system that regulates respect.
When we are “the greatest” or our race or nation or faith is “the greatest,” we immediately set up a divisive system that regulates respect. We accord ourselves and ours the greatest respect, then parcel out our respect in a downward flow till we get to “the worst,” worthy of no respect whatsoever. We are masters of our own universe, knowing Good and Bad better than anyone else on earth. That is stupid.
Another stupid thing is to think that “the good old days” were the best and that effort should be made to restore them. The good old days are gone. Gone for better or for worse is an opinion. And the truth is, the good old days are never quite as good, though often as old, as our memory of them. Difficulty is generally airbrushed out of picture, along with sorrow, grief, bad decision making, failure and disappointment.
How do we get rid of stupid?
We get rid of stupid by developing some universal values and commitments. Respect for life. This includes all human beings. Respect for what is important to people, whether it lines up with our notions of “important” or not. Getting rid of stupid means more: it means a commitment to listening to others, a commitment to sharing with everyone, a commitment to equal justice under the law.
Re-formation of ourselves takes awareness and work, honesty, and a belief that equity for all is a finer value than superiority for some and inferiority for others.
Some of this requires pain, especially if we have been brought up to be prejudiced, bigoted, entitled, and disrespectful of people different from us in ways that render us superior and arrogant, whether we are conscious of these handicaps or not. Re-formation of ourselves takes awareness and work, honesty, and a belief that equity for all is a finer value than superiority for some and inferiority for others. To un-stupid ourselves, we have to join the human race as an equal member of the species. We have to lower our ego-driven opinions when necessary; we have to raise our self-sharing behaviors when needed.
Wisdom is knowing what it takes to be a presence for peace and justice, joy and kindness, love and humility.
Wisdom is what happens when stupid goes. Wisdom isn’t being “smart” or “right.” Wisdom is knowing what it takes to be a presence for peace and justice, joy and kindness, love and humility. Wise is a pretty good thing to be. Life depends on it; life that includes all of us, not just a few stray souls we happen to get along with.
Jane Lee Wolfe is a parishioner of St. James-Woodstock, Vt. and Director of Bog Chapel, Inc., an educational not-for-profit organization that focuses on the spiritual health and spiritual fitness of human beings, from youth through old age.