Friday, Aug. 13, I stopped for gas at a local Canyon Country station. Oops…I forgot to grab my mask before heading out the door. Honoring the imperative to always wear a mask in public, I improvised, and tried to purchase a new mask! I grabbed my son’s little league hat from the back seat. With one hand, I held the Yankee cap wrapped around my face, snug as a glove; in the other hand, I had a $20 bill ready to purchase another mask.
There were three men seated in the register area. One immediately said, “You can’t be in here without a mask!”
I politely replied — through the hat encasing my nose and mouth, and more of my face than any other mask could — “Can I buy one of your masks for sale here on your counter?”
The same man, firmly responded — as the other two stood up for menacing emphasis — “You need to leave now!” All things considered, I knew it was most prudent for me to exit, and go to the next gas station up the street, to secure a new mask. Which I did!
Throughout the entire COVID experience, I constantly find my self returning to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s repeated refrain (before and after the initial weeks of street protests) in speeches for the practice of “common sense.” I also reflect on the postmodern-wisdom I was taught in graduate school, that, “What is common for some people, is not common for all; and therefore, we should not think in terms of common-sense.” While I tend to disagree for the most part with this grad-school wisdom, sadly, the men in the gas station do validate the idea of common sense not being so common!
In an effort to promote and celebrate common sense, I have an assignment I do in all the college courses that I teach, W.I.S.D.U.P.K! W is for wisdom, I for insight, S for sense, D for discernment, U for understanding, P for prudence, and K for knowledge. Often the above words are used interchangeably regarding intelligence. However, years ago, and for myself wanting to go below the surface with my own understandings and applications of these powerful words, I consulted “The American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition, 1993.” Each word has a variety of contextual uses, but I did find some very practical applications for daily life.
Here is what I discovered: Wisdom: understanding applied (you not only get it, but you do it!). Insight: able to identify the truth; Sense: properly functioning faculties (your brain is working properly); Discernment: good judgment; Understanding: comprehension (you get it!); Prudence: regard for self; and Knowledge: well informed.
The acronym (W.I.S.D.U.P.K!) was formed in an effort to memorize, apply and practice these qualities with my children. And, a repeated phrase, “Get wisd up k!” is a constant reminder to pursue and apply these attributes to daily life. What started with my family has since become the most popular assignment in all the college courses I teach. At the beginning of each semester my students are challenged to self-reflect on the above words and their definitions, in an online class discussion.
The students are asked, “How does your life at this moment, reflect wisdom? Insight? Sense? Discernment? Understanding? Prudence? And, knowledge? And, where can you improve?”
I also, at the end of class, have the students revisit the same discussion, considering their time and performance in class. Initially my only motivation was to inspire the students to think critically about their performance in my classes. But to my surprise, they ran in infinite other directions with the discussions. They also apply the words and the discussions to relationships, family, work and professional life, hobbies, dieting and healthy living, and negotiating COVID-19 and all the civil unrest our country is experiencing.
The practice of wisdom, insight, sense, discernment, understanding, prudence and knowledge empower all areas of life, and should be encouraged with all people, especially during a crisis. At the end of the acronym and — arguably silly — phrase coined, “Get wisd up k!” there is an exclamation mark following the K, for knowledge, to be well informed. While common sense may not be as common as we would like it to be during COVID-19, it’s comforting to know that, it can be pursued, taught, learned, and practiced!