sagesse (saah zhess) noun, feminine
wisdom, (good) sense; discretion
Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read these expressions:
faire preuve de sagesse = to be sensible
la sagesse populaire = popular (or traditional) wisdom
agir avec sagesse = to act wisely
la dent de sagesse = wisdom tooth
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
(Note: I am away until end of next week. This story was written 6 years ago... )
I am sitting at the edge of the bed, looking out the window at November. Once the pomp and parade of fall colors fade, what is left are the ashes of autumn. The earth turns in on itself and so do those who trod upon it. In the darkness, questions come to light, nagging issues such as, What is important in this life?
I look over to my teenage son, who is busy with the task of grooming. He's got my tattered trousse de toilette beside him, having fished out the clippers from inside.
"Max," I question, "If you were given the chance to share an important pensée with the entire world, what would that message be?"
Next, I brace myself for that flicker of genius to appear... the kind that graces children—and chance be ours when we're focused enough to hear!
I wait patiently for "the message" to be mysteriously channeled through my 13-year-old son with the overgrown toenails. I'm one to believe in the pureness of pint-sized knowledge and hope to be tuned in when Sagesse speaks, "out of the mouth of babes".
Leaning forward, I put my ear close to the chapped lips of the would-be child savant, and this is what I hear:
"Je ne sais pas, Maman."
With that, the messenger resumes his toenail clipping. That'll do, I decide, letting the answer linger a bit.
Doubt creeps in and I double check with the mini messiah. "'I don't know.' Is that it? Is that what you have to share with the world?"
"Mmmhmmm," Max replies, and I watch a few more nail clippings rocket through the air. Some messages come with fireworks, I decide, never mind these aren't sizzling.
Well, I can work with that. And so I do. I think about Max's "I don't know" answer to a meaningful life. The "I don't know" concept is, after all, brillant! For, with knowledge comes power and how many of us make the mistake of tacking pride on to that? Pride then squashes humility and things tend to go downhill (Pride goeth before the fall...) from there.
And knowledge, or too much of it, sometimes leads to fear. I listen to friends talk about the effect that all those info-packed newspaper headlines had on the economy. Panic sent people zipping up their pocket books. Companies shut down. People lost jobs.
I don't mean to give the big K, "Knowledge," a bad name... no, I'd never argue with my faith-filled mom when she tells me to fill up on The Word! Only, I sometimes wonder about how much I should strive to know when a lot of what I take in only serves to distract. Bits and pieces of this and that and, before I know it, I've gotten off track! There I am, left spinning in the superflu. My dad once said, "You think too much!" and, you know, I now think he's right: so busy are we sifting through a magnitude of facts, that the basic ideas get hidden beneath all those "informative" stacks.
Most times I'm guilty of assumption: when I think I know something and, in fact, I've got it all wrong. Such "insights" paint my perceptions and, busy with a wealth of tidbits, I'm circling through a Never Never Land of ideas again.
I once had a Mensa-ish friend, one of those brilliant types, but what amazed me was her humility. I'll never forget her response when asked about her know-it-ness. She abruptly raised both hands... and began hitting her head! "I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!" she shouted, in all sincerity (none of that false
modesty). Her startling, head tapping show, wonderfully illustrates the concept of "I Don't Know!"
Knowledge isn't all bad, especially when it connects us to another:
Having known pain, one sympathizes with the sufferer,
having known poverty, one understands need,
having known injustice, one argues for the accused,
having known loss, one's heart goes out to the grief-stricken,
having known fear, one comforts the frightened.
* * *
I'm beginning to think that what is important in life is not how much we know, but what little we can focus on. In my case, the teenage toenail clipper sitting beside me. While I'll never understand the physics behind those "flying toenails," how they self-launch following each clip of the cutters, I can know the fondness I feel for a boy whose "message," in the end, is ever so coy.
la trousse de toilette = make-up (shaving) bag
une pensée = thought
la Sagesse = Wisdom
Je ne sais pas, Maman = I don't know, Mom
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Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi