Wood into Wisdom
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Wood into wisdom
by Kj Maguire  

The setting is part of it. People, places, purpose and timing all play a role. But overall, itís the setting. Not just who is there but why theyíre there. Why they want to be there. In some cases, they have to be there. Itís a vacation, yes. But itís not really voluntary. These are people that are drawn to this place against their will. But make no mistake, if you ask them they will insist they came willingly. They would be shocked, appalled even if you tried to convince them that they were here for any reason other than free time. They are here by choice. Unconscious choice.

What do they get from this place? Why are they here, really? Are they here to receive something? Or are they here to bring an offering? Is it that certain satisfaction they get from being exactly where they should be? Is this place already a predetermined part of them and theyíre here because itís right, because itís natural and because itís who they are?

PossiblyÖ probably. Itís pretty likely actually. Because this is who they are. This is the place. This is the setting. This is the exact moment in human history that was created by millions, billions of unrelated events all leading up to this, a fireÖ. a camp fire. Years and generations ago, people did things which at the time, were in no way related to this place or this setting. But actually, they were.

Luckily, Iím a part of this too. Iím here and I get to live this night. I look around the fire and itís striking how obvious it is that each of these faces is part of this night. Not observers, not passers-by or visitorsÖ these men are one with this night. And without sounding too emotional, they are one with each other. Thatís pretty much why theyíre here. Absolute balanced freedom. This is a unique and very rare place between destiny and complete abandon. Wouldnít it be neat to find out that when you let go of all your socially required behavioral limitations you accidentally turn into exactly the perfect person? Perfect. Calm, comfortable, open and wiseÖ perfect.

They would laugh if you attempted to portray it as some manifest destiny. They would raise one eye brow and flick their cigar ash into the fire and snicker if you were to suggest that this was some grand plan. At least of some of them would, but not all of them. In fact most of them would agree that this is magic. This is some special span of time and a very special collection of people and given some time and some distance most of them would agree with this portrayal, but not now. Not in the night. Itís too close. It doesnít really seem all that special when youíre in it. But later, when youíre back at your desk, back at work, or back home 1,600 miles awayÖ then itís very easy to see the value and spontaneously covet the special nature of this time. Appreciation and regret are never separate by much.

Imagine that youíre given a gift. Youíre given a chance to go where ever you want for a week. Any country any continent any climate is open to you. Go. Go now. Where would it be? Ok Stop. Before you answer out loudÖ. What did you picture? It probably wasnít a city or a town or a resort. Chances are it was a place that youíve seen only in your plans. Itís a combination of a couple places youíve been, coupled with the perfect weather or the perfect sunset and the right temperature. Chances are itís not some automatic click that gives you a clear snapshot of your destination.

If youíre lucky, itís a place that you know. The re-creation of a night or some place that youíve been a part of or at least been close to in the past. If youíre lucky itís a place with others present. If your dream location is an empty meadow or empty cabin or empty beach, youíre still learning. You havenít really arrived yet. Youíre still a kid trying to prove that youíre special and that all you really need is you and quiet. But thatís not right. No one is complete alone. Keep tryingÖ.

Whatís special about our fire is that it happens a lot. Itís not a singular event that only happened once in your lifetime, never to be repeated again. But rather itís an easy, automatic, almost addictive thing that comes anytime you want, causes no harm, and asks for nothing in return. Ironically, itís what we take from these nights that draws us back again. And again....Wisdom.

A balanced view of our selves and our world and our lives. What is it about a college education that is supposed to move you forward in life? What exactly do you gain from training or lecture or education that makes you better prepared for tomorrow morning? There are far too many variables in life to be prepared for all of them. The best you can hope is that you get a good foundation built on reason and right. That way, when challenges appear, youíre ready. Not ready to bark out the answer, but ready for the process of facing a challenge and working the problem through to completion.

So what is wisdom? You cannot connect it to experience because then our ability to comprehend ourselves would be limited by our longevity. Anyone older than you would very likely be wiser than you and so youíre permanently subordinate until all of your peers are dead. What fun is that?

No. Wisdom is out there. Itís everywhere. Wisdom litters the streets and itís just waiting for someone to pick it up, collect it and recognize it. Itís not math, or business or politics. Itís a thoughtful and flat connection with who you are. Anyone distracted by the noise and struggles of modern life is very unlikely to step into the bright blue shroud of wisdom. It requires some peace, yes. But more importantly it requires comfort. You have to be comfortable with where you are before you can hear beyond the noise.

That is why man is drawn to the woods. The long tall trees above give you measure for your movement. The changing face of the lake gives you an appreciation for your own collection of faces. Itís easy to be one person at work, a different person at home, and yet another person at play. In fact thatís almost required if not expected. What if it turns out that itís OK? What if thatís exactly how itís supposed to be? After all, the lake is that way. So is the sky. Even the fish are capricious. What in the world makes you think that you can be happy being one person, one way all the time?

Not very realistic. So we go to the woods. We go outside and prove that even in nature, we can find comfort. In the cold we create heat. In the heat we swim to coolness. In the dark we spark a light. And below an empty night sky, we gather to cancel out the empty.

There is no such thing as man-made. That implies that what we do is unnatural. Nonsense. We are a part of this process and a part of this place. It wasnít put here for us but maybe we were put here to admire it. Maybe we werenít put here at all. Maybe we came here by choice. Maybe everything we have and everything we are is our own choosing.

 You can live a long and full life. You can experience all that one man can stand. You can read, travel, dream, and even fantasize. But until youíve pulled up to a nice fire surrounded by your friends and spent a long hour or two saying nothing, youíve never really accepted anything of lasting value.

Weíve come a long way as a people. We can turn water and sand into cement. We can turn cement into freeways. We can turn bricks into schools, and states into nations. But itís a lucky few of us that have personally witnessed the quiet miracle of a camp fire turning wood into wisdom.

Leave your desk. Leave your factory. Leave your work. Find a nice lake with a loon calling from across the water. And find a couple of people that would fit around a fire with you.  You want answersÖ. Thatís where theyíre born.