In Get Wisdom, Michael A. Hickey anthologizes works connected with wisdom from the Western and Eastern worlds. The material, very useful in studying the concept of wisdom, is compiled from a Roman Catholic perspective, but this does not blind Hickey to works of other denominations, religions, or cultures. Most of what he covers is literature, but he also includes a chapter on visual arts (which would have been even more effective if the featured art pieces were in color instead of black and white, although the idea he wants to express comes through). Rev. Daniel Harrington, S.J., a famous scholar and professor on the New Testament at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, wrote the foreword and recommends this book to the reader.
Hickey discusses the why, what, when, where, and why of wisdom, moving into a discussion of Wisdom as a person as she is presented in the Old Testament and effectively introducing the quotes from Job, Proverbs, Sirach, Baruch, and Wisdom that refer to wisdom. Jesus Christ as the fullness of wisdom includes introductions to and specific quotes from the New Testament Gospels and writings - some of St. Paul’s letters, the Letter of James and the Book of Revelation.
Writings of the early Fathers of the Church included here are St. Clement of Rome, St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St. Cyprian, St. Gregory Thaumatugus, Dionysius of Alexandria, St. Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Athanasius, St. Basil the Great, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Hilary of Poitiers, John Cassian, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. John of Damascus. Hickey introduces these Church Fathers and how they relate to wisdom as well as providing quotes from their works.
Early Christian theologians - St. Augustine of Hippo, Boethius, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Lombard, and St. Thomas Aquinas - and early Jewish writings (Babylonian Talmud, Midrash, Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, Old Testament Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Moses Maimonides) are also introduced and quoted. Similarly, Hickey provides some literature from the Asian religions of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and quotes from the Koran. The early philosophers illuminate Hickey’s subject: Socrates and Plato from Plato’s the Apology, the Republic and other works; Parmenides and the Sophists; the Stoics, Epicureans and skeptics; and Aristotle.
The early poets and poetry from all over the world but mostly of Greek and Roman origin include Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, Hesiod, Pindar, Aesop, Sappho, Catullus, Virgil, Ovid, Demosthenes, Kalidasa, Horace, The Manyoshu, Juvenal, The Chinese Book of Odes, Y Gododin, Beowulf, Mabinogion, Omar Khayyam, El Cid, Song of Roland, High History of the Holy Graal, The Canterbury Tales, and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Hickey’s chapter on the visual arts feature 16 black and white images of various pieces by European artists.
Hickey introduces the Christian literature of the Protestant reformers – Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the 39 Articles of the English Reformation - and the Catholic counter-reformers, including quotes from the Council of Trent. Modern philosophers both European and American include Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Benedict Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Georg Hegel, Friedrich Nietzche, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Soren Kierkegaard, and John Dewey. The modern poets are divided into different periods: the Renaissance, with Europeans like Shakespeare and Japanese like Matsuo Basho; the Enlightenment, with Samuel Johnson and Alexander Pope; the Romantic period, represented by Robert Burns, Lord Byron, and others; the Victorian period, represented by Lord Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, and others; the modern period, represented by James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein, among others. Hickey chooses for the post-modern and current periods Bob Dylan, Maya Angelou, and Allen Ginsberg. The chapter on poetry is a long one, and though it covers a lot of people and time periods, most of the poets are Europeans and Americans.
A focus on religious hymns containing words about wisdom from various Christian denominations leads into an examination of the Christian classics - two works of St. John of the Cross, a poem by St. Therese, and quotes from the Rule of St. Benedict, the Confession of St. Patrick, Blessed Henry Suso, Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, St. Teresa of Avila’s works, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine of Genoa, The Cloud of Unknowing, Blessed Julian of Norwich, and John Courtney Murray.
Hickey divides his “Tentative Conclusion” into three parts: no, now, and know?. He says that though the reader will not “get” wisdom in any conscious way, he or she will know a little bit more about wisdom than the quest for it was first undertaken. Hickey’s last words are “Get Silence.” From a Christian point of view, this could refer to the idea of people listening to and for the voice of God, the Holy Spirit.
But reading this book is not futile. It will take time to read - that is, if the reader is careful and wants to reflect or meditate upon what he or she reads. Hickey covers a lot of material over a lot of time from a lot places in an attempt to be inclusive in regards to including material from all over the world. He succeeds with Europe, Asia, and the Americas, but Africa south of the Sahara is left out, and Africa probably has some great wisdom literature, too. Still, this remains a great collection of wisdom literature and is highly recommended to those seeking wisdom or looking for classic literature. The paperback binding may unfortunately start to fall apart as you read it, as the reviewer’s copy did.