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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

8 - Sage: the work of wisdom


He will speak these words of wisdom

Like a sage, a man of vision

Though he knows he’s really nothing

But the brief elaboration of a tube.

Leonard Cohen, ‘Going home’ (2012)

Sage: intellectual shamans’ work of wisdom

Intellectual shamans serve as sages – wise men and women. Indeed, in a sense, they are the wise elders of their various communities, for wisdom typically comes with maturity. The sage is a person of wisdom and clarity who realistically understands the systemic implications of situations and events. The intellectual shaman as sage is a seer who appreciates the beautiful and design elements, sees ‘what is’ holistically and systemically, and understands the moral implications inherent in any situation, combining the aesthetic sensibility, moral imagination, and systems understanding in the service of the greater good that it takes to attain wisdom.

The term ‘sage’ is often used to refer to the ‘wise old man,’ yet the word applies equally to the wise woman. It is applicable to the intellectual shaman who uses his or her work to make some things in the world better. Sages are the elders of most communities. It takes time, experience, knowledge, and insight – i.e., maturity – to develop the wisdom, and the breadth of its perspective, that is associated with being a sage.