It is a technology that works, this new thing I have heard from Elizabeth Gilbert; whose every word I read with slavish devotion as with Krista Tippet, Brene Brown, Anne Lamott and Maya Angelou. I read what men say too but there are fewer of them worth the time. Jesus, Merton, David Sederis, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Kai.
Krista says that wisdom is the leaven of intelligence and, when I heard that line from her new, breathtaking audiobook Becoming Wise, I had to sit down on the grass with Kai who, though pleased, seemed confused. I know so many intelligent people; but she is right. Some of them are wise and those people I want to sit with and just listen to everything they have to say. But the intelligent, unwise people talk and talk and talk and I begin to loose the will to live and also I constipate. And I hate prunes unless they are in tea cakes. And unless there’s tea to go with them.
The above-mentioned “technology” (which I just forgot to mention in my excitement about wise women) is the notion that choosing curiosity over fear is life-improving. And so if I can find wise, intelligent people and then exchange fear with curiosity when I am not near them, I think I’ll have it made.
Our church is soon to choose a new Dean. We will sort through the braggers, the posers, the bullies, the saints (dull!) and the scholars to find someone honest and kind. At least I hope so. Everyone is a study in rehearsed-calm, but the tiniest scratch through the veneer, and there is fear beneath. Who will “they choose?” Who will “we get?” It feels like grade-school when everyone knew that the teacher was away on vacation but the substitute teacher had not yet made their grand entrance, so we all just sat there wondering, each with our own, individual list of qualifications. “Likes laughter, hates math” were mine. My friend Enzo, whose family name was on the cheese we ate at home, liked them “tall and thin with big books.” At least I think he said books.
Choosing curiosity over fear takes no small amount of courage. There is so much to fear. There are the many diagnoses, the possibility of plague, not getting my way in everything, the teetering economy, not getting my way in everything (it deserves saying twice), the Presidential Election, tooth decay, a melting ice cap, that thing that happens to men late in life, and my inability to smell bad salmon when about to sear both sides – regardless of the lemon. But curiosity is so much more gentle than fear. It winks, for one thing. And it seduces, which is pleasant. And curiosity is the gift that keeps on giving, making life a treasure hunt if we let it. And curiosity skips rather than processing. Secretly, I adore skipping.
I have baked bread and love to when I can. I favor an old roman recipe from about the time of Jesus and his momma. It needs no needing, but plenty of leaven. It rises over 20 hours and then gets turned into a screaming hot clay pot. When it is done it is crispy and crunchy and near black, but inside it is soft, steamy, moist and chewy. Hot, with butter and jam, it is a sacrament. Crackers, like intelligence, are ok in the right hands. But yeast and wisdom, they make flour into something gorgeous which we can take, eat.