How to be a Sponge By Jackson Silvanik

Throughout my life, and particularly over the last few weeks – which I’ve spent poring through books and writings and devotionals in a search for meaning, clarity and inspiration – one thing seems to hold true: wisdom and insight will often be found in the places that you aren’t deliberately looking. 

Sometimes the Great Cosmic Synergy aligns itself perfectly: everything syncs up, the various writings seem to all touch on the same subject and small truths about your life are revealed. Other times, though, it’s not so easy or simple. The lessons don’t seem to apply to you, or the wisdom imparted on the page doesn’t really work for your spiritual needs at the moment. You might turn to the next chapter annoyed or frustrated that you’re putting in the effort to better yourself and aren’t quite hearing what you wanted to hear. 

These are the moments where you must set aside your expectations and become a sponge. My dad, believe it or not, has a large library of books scattered all over the house – and not just now; I have been lucky to grow up surrounded by books of all sorts. Lois, my grandmother and my dad’s mom, would often send me home with a book or two from her own library when she’d watch me and my sister as we grew up (she still does, and now she’s added my wife to her book club). 

      It’s often in those moments of poking around the shelves of books that something reveals itself to me. It might be the title, or an author that I recognize. It might be the size of the book, the colors or the design. Regardless, if I’m looking for something that I can’t quite define, something will reveal itself to me. More often than not, I’ll find what I was looking for purely by chance. 

Other times, though, wisdom doesn’t come from my own interpretation of something that I’ve read, but becomes clearer when I share my recently learned insight with others and get their feedback. My wife and I view the world through slightly different lenses: she likes facts, specific timetables and sticking to a schedule. I struggle with structure, often choosing to let things play out however they might and rolling with the tide. One of the most valuable tools at my disposal during this journey of self-improvement has been her perspective. I’ll often tell her about things I’ve read and notes that I’ve made, and she’ll listen, offer feedback and add her own response in ways that dramatically affects the ideas that I’ve been working towards. 

That’s what a partnership is all about. We all need someone to challenge us, to make us better, and to give us perspective that enhances our attempts to become better people. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn how to be a better partner when I had such a great example just sitting right in front of me. As I have sat and read and meditated and listened, she gave me feedback at every turn and shared her own insights and reflections. 

It was yet another reminder to be humble: you can’t fix everything on your own. It’s a team effort. Whatever is challenging you, surrender to the moment and let people in. Keep your eyes wide open and look for meaning and inspiration in every corner. You never know where the right combination of words might come from. Share what you’ve learned, listen to what others have to say about it and take that into account. 

I’ve thought that the idea that “it takes a village” was a little corny, but truthfully, it does take some cooperation. Living in a silo is hard. Let people in, let family be family and let partners be partners. I spent a long time trying to handle things on my own, but opening up and letting wisdom find me in whatever form is a pathway to peace.