“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” – James 3:13
Nathan Coulter had a great way of putting things into perspective whenever a crisis arose in his family – as happens in all families. He would simply say, “Well, we’ll live right on.” In other words, life goes on and we’ll figure out how to live into it in spite of the circumstances. Even in his last days, aware he had only a short time to live he used the same words to comfort his wife, Hannah. “Dear Hannah,” he said, “I’m going to live right on. Dying is none of my business. Dying will have to take care of itself.”
Nathan and Hannah Coulter were people of great wisdom; fictional characters though they were from a wonderful little novel by Wendell Berry entitled Hannah Coulter. The setting is a small village – also fictional – in rural Kentucky during the middle decades of the twentieth century. Yet the situations and characters in the story are as near real life as any of us has ever experienced or imagined, thus in reading the book it does not feel like fiction at all.
How did the Coulters have so much wisdom? Neither was well educated nor have a particularly extraordinary upbringing. They in fact were rather simple folks who struggled to raise their children, maintain a modest home, raise crops on a small farm, and keep their bills paid. But their wisdom was evident in their good deeds and humility.
What exactly is wisdom, though? I posed that question a couple of weeks ago. One thing I’ve since concluded is that no human ever gains perfect wisdom, but that the wise person is the one who is in constant pursuit of it. Furthermore I would hypothesize that a fool is not one who lacks wisdom; rather he is one who makes no effort to seek it.
Hannah Coulter is a book worth reading if you are searching for wisdom, or read almost anything else by Wendell Berry. What you’ll discover is that “we’ll live right on,” is but one of many little hidden treasures of wisdom you will find.