Narratives of Adversity and Wisdom in Ancient Ethical and Spiritual Texts
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Never neglect the charms of narrative for the human heart.1
The intimate relationship between experiences of adversity and the cultivation of wisdom shows itself in many venerable ethical and spiritual writings. Subjection to adversity and suffering is a pervasive theme of the exemplars of wisdom presented in religious scriptures, philosophical writings, and other literary sources that offer guidance on living well. The range of adversities is diverse, ranging from emotional distress, spiritual anxiety, illness and injury, torture and physical abuse, and much else. Crucially, such experiences of adversity are integrally related to the wisdom that these exemplars evince in their lives. Sometimes, adversity is a source of wisdom, if it can teach deep and important lessons about human life. Sometimes, adversity is a test of wisdom, if it subjects a person to conditions of acute stress. Many modern readers consult those writings to explore the ways that wisdom can emerge in and through...