Monday Meditation: Is there such a thing as American wisdom?

Being the parent of two Chinese American boys, I see American wisdom as a beautiful blending of so many types of wisdom from around the world.

A friend of mine from North Africa and I were talking this last week about wisdom.

He said to me that America is a young country and doesn’t have wisdom.

He pointed to the ancient Chinese, Indian, African, and even Greek and Roman sources of wisdom, and said America has nothing comparable.

His ideas got me to thinking about the question:

Is there a particular kind of American wisdom?

How would you describe American wisdom?

My North African friend described Americans as pragmatic, intelligent, technologically innovative, but not necessarily wise.

My response to his idea was that American wisdom is built upon the wisdom traditions from around the world, and that maybe our wisdom was the ability to synthesize and learn from so many traditions including Native American wisdom.

This last weekend, I was invited to a wonderful dinner with two big inspirations in my life – Marvin Klein and Hunter Lovins.  I see them both as very wise people who understand that America needs to change some of the ways we have been operating, while maintaining all that is important about our heritage, including our liberties that we hold so dear.

I certainly could point to many wise individuals in America, but I’m not sure that our overall culture is wise right now, but I believe it’s possible that a new kind of wisdom is emerging here.

A new “American” wisdom will have to deal with big issues like globablization, eradicating poverty and climate change.  People like Marvin and Hunter give me hope that it’s possible to create a wiser America, one that some day future generations could look at, and say that American wisdom changed the world for the better.

I also see children growing up today as having the potential to be wiser than my generation.  In fact, I believe kids like my own are the ones who will create a new kind of American wisdom.

What do you think?

This Week’s Meditation:

Is there a unique type of American wisdom?

How would you describe it?



13 thoughts on “Monday Meditation: Is there such a thing as American wisdom?”

  1. Firstly your children are beautiful x you are blessed x
    Now to answer your question I can only comment on my experience, I live in UK but one of my daughters lives in Vermont so I have learned a fair bit from her experiences and friends. What I admire most about the ordinary Americans I have come to know is their gentle manners, politeness, thoughtfulness, work ethic and innate goodness. Now clearly this is a limited sample so I’m no expert but I am impressed. As for wisdom I guess it is carried down the ages in the genes and adapted for each new generation. There is such a mix of cultures in America that the pool of wisdom is deep and well stocked for those who want to fish from it.


    1. It’s great to get a non-American perspective. I think you captured the spirit of ordinary Americans, and I believe that is where a lot of our best wisdom resides. I also love your last line about the pool of wisdom being deep and well stocked for those who want to fish it. That’s so true!


      1. Same the world over, the ordinary quiet people have common sense, deep wisdom and a sense of justice and fairness that the rich and powerful seem to lose on their way to the top of the pile 💕


  2. The USA is empty of a separate self
    yet, it is full on non-USA elements, including insight.
    Wisdom can be found here
    in individuals and humanity
    even under the deepest ignorance.
    May the children develop wisdom
    withing their collective conscious
    ensuring their resilience 🙂


  3. Karen, Thanks for the compliment, but we probably have to schedule a few more dinners before we can resolve your question and understand American Wisdom. If we reviewed the discussion we might be able to come up a answer to the subject…but one is the ability to have a calm discussion on subjects that we disagree with.

    Marvin Klein


  4. I don’t think America has a wisdom, per se. I think there are definitely wise people, and those wise people do make a positive influence and hold potential as teachers. But competition and strength is still the stronghold of American life, and as such, there isn’t room for contemplation and deep wisdom. I do think that’s a byproduct of being a young country. And I think until we as a nation eat a little humble pie, we’re not very teachable. All that to say, I’m a loyal American. LOL! I just think we need some more time to grow up. Maybe our youth keeps us perennially hopeful, and that’s not a bad thing.


    1. I want to believe that America has a wisdom, but I’m not entirely sure that we do either. When i think of American wisdom, I tend to think of particular people like Thoreau, Emerson, and others who have influenced world thought with their ideas about civil disobedience and such. But it is hard to say that we have a wisdom tradition that is strongly revered.

      Perhaps in a couple hundred or thousand years there will be an American wisdom tradition.

      Thanks so much for your comments Debra!



  5. America has wisdom – much of the founding wisdom is still with us – democracy was in our nation profoundly wise – our traditions of honoring all culture and people is wise too. It got beyond my interest though as greed took over. I am embarrassed not to hold much hope that there will not be a huge economic collapse before there is rebellious change. I hope I am not being a burden here. I just don’t see how America will hold up for another three or four decades that it may take for peaceful wisdom to come into power.


    1. Sorry I didn’t reply to this sooner, it’s been crazy around my house. I agree with so much of what you said. I do hope that we can find a way to move away from greed to a more enlightened time without the economic collapse. I’m also afraid we may have an environmental collapse if we aren’t careful.



  6. Beautiful Boys Karen, I am sure you are very proud of them..

    Speaking of American Wisdom… What about the Native American Wisdom.. Which comes to the fore more and more today..
    A famous quote from Chief Seattle ~
    “Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely strands in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.”

    More of his famous speech can be found here 🙂

    Enjoy your day.. And Meditation… 🙂


    1. Thank you Sue. I agree, there is so much native American wisdom, which hopefully we will begin to follow more closely. I love the words of Chief Seattle.



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