I’ve been wondering about the origin of the phrase “wise guy” and I don’t think it started with the Three Stooges, “Ah, wise guy, eh!” as Moe stuck a couple of fingers in some poor unsuspecting eyes. Its an underground crime term; the good fellas, gangsters, wise guys. Lefty (Al Pacino in Donny Brasco) said,
A wise guy’s always right; even when he’s wrong, he’s right.
This got me thinking. We all have an inner wise guy, a larikin voice that pushes us out of the comfort zone, with its biting humor, disarming questions, slap to the forehead street wisdom, and trickster pranks. The inner wise guy is right even when its wrong, even when its inconvenient, unpopular, non comformist.
It’s like the two fish swimming together who meet another fish heading the other way. The fish nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” The two fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What the heck is water?”
Most of the time we’re like the fish; swimming in an ocean of awareness, but its too close for us to see it for what it is.
A well timed question can make all the difference, stop you in your tracks, make you rethink your purpose, your motivation, your lingering baggage. That’s what awareness does so well; ask questions
Whys Make You Aware, Awareness Makes You Wise
Why is one of awareness’s favorite questions because the inner wise guy wants to get to the heart of things. Whys make you aware of who you are, what you value. Whys make you aware, and awareness in turn makes you wise.
Kids understand this well- why, but why, but why, but why…… Kids understand something that we easily forget as adults. The power of why.
The why question is so important. It creates a frame for all your whats, whens, wheres, whos and hows. Think about the power of why. If your why is clear, you WILL find a way. If your why excites you, you WILL find a how. If your why is clear AND excites you, you will solve any what, trust every when, meet all the right whos, find all the right wheres, and overcome any challenging how.
But there are two types of Why questions. The why that looks for pity, like “why me?” and the why that looks for clarity, like “why this, why now?” The first type of why question is fine for a while, as long as you keep asking the why question of your why questions. Why am I asking Why me? Awareness is more interested in the second type of why question because it leads to the big WHO question. Who am I, and who is it who keeps asking these questions, thinking these thoughts and feeling these feelings.
Awareness is all about space, inner spaciousness, zooming in like the Hubble Telescope to explore motivation and identity’s landscape. We zoom in and see the incredible capacity to watch ourselves, and it helps us see things that are right in front of our noses. Awareness is seeing life from a depth of 30,000 feet, where vision and purpose are so much clearer.
Without awareness, we flounder and drift through life like the fish who don’t even know they’re in water. With awareness, we learn to see the potential and beauty in each moment. Like the fish, we recognize who and where are now, and explore new edges of this reality. There is always more YOU to discover and become just as fish never swim in the same water twice.
Awareness takes us on a deep dive into oneness. We are one with the One who is aware, and sees through our eyes and thinks our thoughts. As Rumi said, We aren’t a drop in the ocean. We are the entire ocean in a drop, at this time and place. So really be there.
David Foster Wallace used the same analogy in his famous commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005
It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
“This is water.” “This is water.”
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.
It’s hard, but not impossible. Start by pausing to feel this very moment, become aware of who you are and who you are becoming. Wake up. This is it. Life is right here and now. Make sure you are living it fully.
As Eckhart Tolle said,
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”
I’ve put together some resources on awareness that I’m super excited about. This is the link to find out more. It includes wisdom from over 30 of today’s finest spiritual teachers, including Bishop Spong, Cynthia Bourgeault, Brian Mclaren and Joan Borysenko. It’s an exciting, helpful, transformative, insightful series and I’m pleased to share it. Click here for more info.