My grandmother used to encourage us to always sit at the knee of the “elders” when given a chance to gain some wisdom.
The concept of sitting at the knee must be understood as both a privilege and a responsibility. It is a rare privilege to be in the space of an “elder” who has granted access to her wisdom. It’s also a responsibility—once there—to fully embrace, absorb, and carry forward the wisdom granted.
Apart from being a privilege and a responsibility, the particular knee at which you sit also demonstrates where you stand.
The knowledge that you seek, gain and apply demonstrates more than anything you may say about where you stand.
I’m using a bit of the time that’s been gifted back to me due to curtailed travel in the face of COVID-19 to sit at the knee of select elders and increase my bank of knowledge and to seed the accrual of new wisdom.
This week alone I participated in online discussions with Kimberlé Crenshaw on Intersectionality Matters and a joint conversation with Angela Davis and Nikki Giovanni on radical self-care amidst a pandemic.
These conversations allowed me to sit at the knee of these revered elders and to reflect on prior knowledge, renew understandings of critical concepts such as intersectionality and self-valuation, and gain new insights altogether.
The reality of invited time and treasured space “at the knee” is that you gain some insights that you can share immediately, whereas some of the wisdoms need time to marinate before they emerge or which may be uniquely for you and never intended for public consumption.
Some of the immediate wisdoms that I gained at the knee of these generous elders are clear reflections of where I “stand” in the world in regards to my values, goals and visions. One of these was related to the need for and the power of community.
Angela Davis gave a powerful reminder and call to action in her statement that “we generate courage, strength, and power by coming together…you must cultivate community”.
In a completely separate conversation but reflective of where I stand and how the universe will give you repetitive messages that confirm your purpose and commitments, Kimberlé Crenshaw also engaged the importance of community. She also highlighted another principle that is completely reflective of the platform on which I stand in her exhortation that even moments of crisis and uncertainty can provide key moments for powerful reflection and growth.
While this is a mere glimpse into where I’ve been sitting this week, I not only pay attention to whether where I sit is reflective of where I declare that I stand, but I also ask how those who mentor and lead demonstrate where they stand based on where they sit.
I ask this question related to whether they sit and listen to voices that stretch them, that enrich their accrued knowledge in meaningful ways, that ultimately “call them higher”. To be called higher can be to actively seek new knowledge that pushes an individual in pursuit of expressed commitments, through sitting with those that not only affirm them individually, but who hold strengths, actions and ways of being in the world to which they aspire.
Sitting at the knee of the elders is actually a high calling. It requires that we be fully prepared to listen, reflect, learn, and apply new knowledge.
Indeed, it is a position to which we should actively seek to be called so that our work can reach its highest potential.
How do you find and embrace opportunities to “sit at the knee”?
I’d love to hear more about it. Find me as always on Twitter—@BerondaM.