You can encounter clever people anywhere, in any profession, sometimes every day. There are hours of and hours of clever videos that you can watch on the internet. Cleverness seems to like to stand out, to draw attention to itself, to be on display (or on YouTube) and to be acknowledged, if not applauded.
Wise people, though, seem to be camouflaged. They blend in. Wisdom is mostly understated and uses a quiet observation, a subtle suggestion, a soft reminder.
Cleverness can mask itself as wisdom. Cleverness can surprise, delight, entertain and intrigue…as can wisdom.
Cleverness, however, grows old and stale quickly whereas wisdom only ripens and deepens with time. Cleverness is situational specific and often times a once and done event. Reusing a cleverness isn’t clever anymore. It’s only repetition. Wisdom, on the other hand, is often timelessly refreshing.
The goal of cleverness bears no resemblance to the goal of wisdom.
Cleverness looks to impress and, in doing so, usually aims to convince others towards a course of action or beliefs. There’s the clever sales pitch or commercial, or a clever solution to a problem, or a clever preacher, rabbi or imam working with their respective Good Word, or a clever come back that drops mic and ends that line of conversation. We all can appreciate cleverness in the moment.
Wisdom looks to expose and to invite others towards a truth. We rarely appreciate the voice of wisdom from others or from within our self. Wisdom often makes us uncomfortable, partly because it calls for us to have enough courage to heed it and partly because wisdom prompts us in counterintuitive ways, away from our initial knee jerk reaction, away from what we’ve tried before unsuccessfully.
We would gladly be thought of as clever. To be thought of as wise is almost embarrassing. At best, one seems boring. At worst, pretentious.
When you tell someone that they’re clever, there’s a twinkle of satisfaction in their eyes and smile of recognition towards you…that you were bright enough to notice what they just said or did.
When you tell someone that they’re wise, there’s a slight shrug of their shoulders and a gentle shaking of their head from side to side along with a heart felt sigh and disclaimer.
A person can practice being clever, although for some, it’s seems to be more of a innate talent such as dancing, doing math or having a good sense of direction. But learning to be clever isn’t really learning much about life or yourself.
That is the realm of wisdom.