Reflecting on the ordinary events and circumstances of our everyday lives can, with the right frames of reference, produce deeper insights into our existence. In fact, the extraordinary “revelations” produced by many of our sages are the results of a deeper analysis of events and circumstances that most of us bypass, or otherwise gloss over in the course of our own experiences. We can connect with our “deeper” selves by cultivating a more acute awareness of the implications of ordinary events and circumstances that occur daily in the various facets of our living. A deeper appreciation of the ordinary lays the foundation for better decision-making. It allows for extraordinary interventions on our part, when faced with critical situations.
Take for example the “wisdom of Solomon” as demonstrated in the case of two women who came before him in a dispute over a child. Both women had given birth to sons within a short time of each other. While they slept one of them overlaid her baby, resulting in his death. Now they were before the king, each claiming that the surviving child was hers. After considering the dilemma before him, the king proposes to split the surviving child in two with his sword and give each woman a half of the child. A horrendous proposition, but one readily approved of by the woman who was clearly not the child’s mother.
What mother in her right mind would say yes to such a thing? In a culture where the definition of womanhood is tied to the ability to bear and raise children, some women become desperate about attaining and maintaining that status. But even in that desperation, the bond engendered between a mother and child during the course of gestation remains more often than not, durable and unmistakable. A caring mother would never casually or otherwise agree to such a proposition to resolve this or any other crisis involving her child.
The other woman, heartbroken and going out of her mind about the possibility of such a fate for her baby, begged the king to give the child to this other heartless person in order to save its life. This was a demonstration of that motherly affection which we know to be almost universal, and with which most of us can identify. The king, recognizing her motherly instinct, gave the child to this woman. She had, without doubt, authenticated her motherly claim by being willing to save her child’s life even if that meant she was going to lose custody to this desperate person.
The king’s action was that of a wise judge. Solomon demonstrated wisdom derived from an in-depth knowledge of his society’s norms, a real appreciation of the dynamics at work in the socio/cultural environment, and an intimate connection with the complex workings of the human mind and heart. We rightly applaud such great judgement. But as we do so, it is vital to realize that each of us can give ourselves the benefit of this kind critical ability. We do so by cultivating a deeper awareness of the world around us and its workings.
To get a real grasp of the world outside the one we inhabit we must become daring. We must be willing to delve beneath our own ingrained superficiality. It demands that we unlock the gates of our old familiar comfort zones, and venture into the uncomfortable realm of mindsets and experiences that are foreign to our own experiences and unkind to our vulnerable sensibilities. Solomon cultivated this critical ability. To be a good king, he had no choice. His was a groundedness wrought in the inconvenient, and at times agonizing business of governing. This is what it takes to be the masters of our domain.