My sister suggested I do a follow-up post about Wisdom in stories, and after looking it over, I do think there is more to say:
I used Pyrrha Nikos as an example of a wise character, and one who caused wiser writing decisions. ( see post here –https://drybonestruth.wordpress.com/2019/07/05/the-element-of-wisdom)
But the question I didn’t really answer was What does Wise storytelling actually look like?
We know what it doesn’t look like.
Often, I think writers sometimes make wise decisions that are misunderstood by fans. Mostly by the nitpicking ones.
I’ve seen analysts actually complain that a story had too much of a message, and that it should blur the lines between right and wrong.
In fact, some fans are defending the new Star Wars movies on just such grounds, that they made it more grey.
It might be best to make a distinction then between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom.
Worldly Wisdom: It is wisdom that consists of knowing how to work the system, how to get what you want, how to climb and succeed in this society. How to not be duped by scammers. Worldly Wisdom can look like caution and common sense, but the one thing it can almost never look is Unselfish. Even when it says it is helping you, you are really helping it.
“Here we go again, give it one more try, don’t believe the system’s on your side”–Switchfoot, Rise Above It.
Worldly Wisdom can be good in small amounts (running a successful business is no sin,) but it must be tempered with other virtues, or it makes you into a selfish, arrogant, cynic.
Godly Wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 8:10) this wisdom is based on knowing right from wrong. It focuses on the meaning of things.
“Do you ponder the manner of things? In the dark?”–Glitter and Gold.
Proverbs is the book of the Bible that talks the most about Wisdom, and it always connects it to being able to do what is right, and to happiness.
Interesting then, that Solomon, the wisest man in the old testament, also wrote Ecclesiastes. The most pessimistic book in the Bible. In it, he admits that he turned his heart from God, and found that every other thing was, in the end, empty.
He would have been better off living a simple, hardworking life, he thinks. Like the Happy Peasant, but even this, he says, is vanity.
Eccl 12:1, 8-11, 13-14 “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come… Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.”
And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.”
Solomon wrote proverbs and they were good, he says, but they are like goads to drive us forward and like nails that hold things in place.
Wisdom, one might conclude, is about limitation. Knowing how to control yourself, how to stay away form evil, having a compass.
There is something about doing right that I find very few people outside of Christianity seem to understand. There are traces of it in the idea that it is better to give than to receive, which people still embrace, but not much place else.
People in the bible speak of doing good like it is their greatest pleasure, David says he delights himself in God’s commandments.
People tend to assume this means being a prude, a stickler for rules, maybe even OCD about them.
But this is not about panicking if rules are broken. Rule lovers can be more stressed out than rule breakers, we all know that.
This is about literal joy in doing what is good. In knowing what is good.
I pity people who do not know what that joy feels like. It is no coincidence that this pluralistic society is also a depressed one.
Depression has always followed moral depravity, because people miss that Goodness itself is the greatest joy, and that is why good people are so reluctant to step out of it.
Think of your favorite show, and if it has a character that the fandom world calls “pure”, that character is almost always a happier, cheerful one.
Proverbs 8:35 says “For whoever finds me [wisdom] finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord.”
Proverbs also repeatedly says that wise children will make their parents rejoice.
“Happy in the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” (Prov 3:13 emphasis mine.)
There is also pandering, which is a huge problem with popular shows. Especially in anime.
Fans can push for wise decisions, but a lot of the time they are only thinking about what they want, and not what is best for the story.
It may seem silly to say fictional characters deserve some consideration, but I’ve never noticed any discrepancy with how writers treat fictional and real people.
Charles Dickens was known to not treat real people very well, and his characters he treated even worse.
People who work at loving other people tend to write stories than incorporate that theme. Hannah Hurnard is one example. So is C. S. Lewis.
And my values of helping people be the best person they can be are certainly reflected in all forms of my writing, including this blog.
So when I say writers need to be unselfish with their characters and story, I mean it quite seriously.
All this is wisdom.
Until next time–Natasha