Being a writer, I’m a man of many words. I love words — the great variety of choices, their origins and evolution. Although a picture may be worth a thousand words, I often prefer a thousand words because the words, if chosen and used skillfully, take you inside a situation with all of the history and hope that creates true experience and expression.
They can be like toys; I enjoy playing with words. But it isn’t always child’s play. Exploring and contemplating a word can provide insight and even peace in a way that sends me hunting for new words.
So recently, perhaps led by the Holy Spirit, I spent some time ruminating and praying about “perspicacious.”
It’s an intelligent-sounding word, isn’t it? Not exactly one you hear often. Fact is, it’s a word that might distinctly apply to an intelligent woman or man but doesn’t really require great education.
Here’s one definition for perspicacious: “having a ready insight into and understanding of things.” That sounds a lot like a definition of an extremely well-known Biblical word: wisdom.
Not only is that the name of an Old Testament book, it appears hundreds of times in both Old and New Testaments. According to the website www.blueletterbible.org, “wisdom” is used 234 times in 222 verses in the King James Version, including 50 in the New Testament. The word “wise” is used another 247 times.
Perhaps the biblical figure most associated with wisdom is King Solomon, son of David. In the Second Book of Chronicles, God told him: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” As God later noted with a tinge of pleasure, the king didn’t request wealth, honor or long life. Instead, Solomon asked for “wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people.”
God proceeded to go overboard with His gift. Instead of wisdom and knowledge, God made Solomon perspicacious.
“There is wisdom of the head,” Charles Dickens said, “and there is wisdom of the heart.”
Indeed, wisdom is a synonym for perspicacious in my online thesaurus. But that’s just the tip of the lingual iceberg. Others include discerning, astute, sharp-witted, farsighted, clever, sage and intuitive.
If God was pleased to be asked for wisdom, then I’m going to be bold and ask to be perspicacious.
I have reason to ask. I’m receiving twice-a-week psychotherapy in the skills of dialectical behavior therapy. One of the most-discussed skills is learning to identify and act out of a person’s “wise mind.” DBT developer Marsha Linehan observed that most human behavior is the result of either the emotional mind or the rational mind. Too much influence from either can have difficult consequences. But that middle ground, in which both emotional and rational thinking have balanced influence, is called wise mind.
Linehan stated that “wise mind is that part of each person that can know and experience truth.” That’s more than wisdom. That’s being shrewd, penetrating, canny, insightful, sensitive. That sounds more like perspicacious mind.
In the therapy, I have been taught to seek wise mind in certain situations of distress and anxiety or a particularly challenging decision. One exercise is to focus on breathing in and out, saying the word “wise” as I inhale and “mind” as I exhale, which should eventually bring about peace.
Another practice is to be used when you are about to act or say something despite a bit of apprehension. In such a case, a person can pause and ask silently, “Is this wise mind?” Then, listen for an answer.
Little do all those dialectical behavior therapy teachers and students realize, they are praying in those moments.
For years, I have calmed myself by focusing on my breathing. On my inhale, I breathe in the Father; on my exhale, I breathe out Jesus. And the air of my breath is the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, I know God fills my lungs and also surrounds me. As for those moments of discerning the right words or action, I simply will ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Then, I listen. If God gives me a moment of connecting with my wisdom of the heart, I will hear the answer of truth, the thoughts of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, please make us perspicacious.
Eisenbath is parishioner at St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles.