About the Wisdom Commons

The Wisdom Commons is an interactive website that seeks to elevate our shared moral core, sometimes called universal ethics. It is a place to find and discuss information about virtues that human beings generally agree are important like generosity, compassion and courage. As a user or member, you can search or input quotes, proverbs, meditations, stories, and essays from many traditions.

As we add features, members will be able also to join a deeper dialogue about ethics and about the specific virtues featured on the site. From your personal Wisdom Page, you will be able to create a gift book, cards or mementos that includes quotes and stories you find powerful. Tangible items like these give you ways to share some of your most deeply held values with others.

What kinds of information are available here?

Our library of wisdom has six kinds of information:

A brief set of memorable words said by a specific person or drawn from a specific text. Up to 150 words.
A short saying that expresses an obvious truth or offers advice. Proverbs are a way that many cultures hand down snippets of common sense advice from one generation to the next. Up to 35 words.
Poem or Meditation
A brief lyrical composition that inspires contemplation. A meditation can be either poetry or prose. It is more inspirational than analytic. Most meditations in our library are no more than a paragraph or two in length. Up to 750 words.
Anecdote or Life Story
A real life event or series of events that relates to one of the virtues. Some of these are like short stories; others are simply a few paragraphs describing an experience that relates to one of the virtues. Up to 3000 words.
Parable, Fable or Folktale
A simple fictional story intended to illustrate a life lesson. Often parables are traditional, handed down from generation to generation. But they need not be; some of the parables here were written by our members. Up to 3000 words.
An article that analyzes or offers insights about a specific virtue or aspect of wisdom. We try to keep these similar in style and length to an Op Ed so that they are small, digestible pieces that encourage further musing. Up to 3000 words.

We place length restrictions on contributions to make them as useful and interactive as possible. We want people to be able to take the information here back into their lives and conversations!

What is the purpose of the site?

The purpose of the Wisdom Commons is to affirm, inspire, and shed light on humanity's shared moral core, meaning the convergence of our religious and secular wisdom traditions and emerging wisdom culture. Many times we define ourselves in terms of our differences. But the truth is that some of our deepest concerns and highest values transcend the boundaries of culture and tradition. Early in childhood, before we even can walk and talk, the moral emotions, empathy, shame, and guilt begin to emerge. They guide us as we take our first steps toward living in community with each other. Around the world people recognize that the joy and pain of others are similar to their own joy and pain, and wisdom traditions express this through different forms of the golden rule. We also generally agree about what kind of qualities we seek in our friends, our leaders, and ourselves. These instincts, emotions, understandings and agreements form our moral core. This moral core in turn serves the well-being of the intricate web of life around us and, foremost, the well-being of humans within that web.

What is a wisdom tradition? A wisdom tradition is a set of teachings and practices that conveys deep moral insights and spiritual values from person to person within a generation and from one generation to another. It may or may not include supernatural ideas. These teachings, practices and rituals provide a basis for moral and spiritual community, a sense of meaning, and an outlet for wonder and joy. Within a broader religion or philosophy, the wisdom tradition can be considered the moral core and mystic aspects of the tradition, a framework for answering: What is good? How can we live joyful lives in service to Goodness and in harmony with each other? And how should we then live in harmony with Reality and in harmony with each other?

What do we mean by the term "emerging Wisdom Culture"? A growing number of people see themselves as the inheritors of a broad cross-cultural and international heritage. They find themselves piecing together wisdom and identity from many sources. Others of us are firmly rooted in one specific cultural, religious, or philosophical tradition but still value nuggets of insight from many times and places.

Is this site religious?


Much traditional wisdom in the form of quotes, proverbs, parables and discourse claims the authority of a specific supernatural figure. Likewise, many teaching stories are about supernatural persons, beings, and events. These teachings, whether interpreted metaphorically or literally by their contributors are an important part of our wisdom heritage.

However, the Wisdom Commons is focused on recognizing and celebrating the common ground that is shared by wisdom traditions both secular and religious. This site is about what we can more or less agree on. Because metaphysical assertions are not concepts that people from different cultures and traditions typically agree on, they generally are outside the scope of the Commons. Thoughtful argumentation about metaphysics is important and can be found in many places on the web.

For our members, we ask that the content they contribute should have the primary function of promoting a virtue or set of virtues rather than promoting a supernatural figure or belief system per se. We also ask that any contribution should not make exclusive truth claims or claims of superiority for the tradition from which it derives, nor should it denigrate other traditions that are represented on the site. We remove content that violates these guidelines.

Who are we?

The Wisdom Commons belongs to all who use it and contribute to it. Members have the ability to create personal wisdom pages that include their favorite quotes, stories and so forth from the library. A personal wisdom page can also include content that is authored by that member. Over time, we seek to build a diverse community of stewards reflecting the various traditions of our users. These stewards will also create personal wisdom pages so that their core values are visible to our members and users.

The Wisdom Commons emerged out of two years of conversations among people who share a passion for these issues. It was catalyzed into existence by a five day event in April of 2008, Seeds of Compassion, the realization of a dream by the Venerable Tenzin Dhonden and Dan Kranzler of the Kirlin Foundation. Seeds of Compassion brought over 150,000 people together to discuss how best to nurture compassion in our children and communities. It was televised in 24 languages around the world.

It is impossible to acknowledge everyone who shaped or contributed to the project, but they include Valerie Tarico, Brian Arbogast, Jennifer Hobbs, Katherine Triandafilou, Porter Bayne, Kathryn Hinsch, Darcy Rubel, Yaffa Maritz, Lee Colleton, Clif Swiggett, Bruno Alabiso, Jonathan Mark, Kathy Washienko, Matt Lerner, Mike Mathieu, Laura Peterson, John Rae Grant, Brynn Arborico, Marley Arborico, Zuzana Nemcova, Iris Chamberlain, Jean Harrison, James Peterson, Ruth Lipscomb, and others.

The Wisdom Commons draws much inspiration and some of its structure and content from The Virtues Project International, which provides curriculum, training and inspirational materials that elevate virtues in every day life. Many thanks to Linda and Dan Popov and John Kavelin for their thoughtful, patient labor of love. The beauty and meditative feel of the Commons are the handiwork of Jody and Cynthia Baxter of Mandala Net Design, creators of WorldPrayers.org. Under the direction and management of Valerie Tarico, the Wisdom Commons is one of the newest ethics initiatives of the Women's Bioethics Project.

The Women's Bioethics Project is a project of The Tides Center, a nonprofit public charity exempt from federal income tax under Sections 501 (c) 3 and 509 (a) 1 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Contacting the Wisdom Commons staff

Inquiries about the Commons should be directed to info@wisdomcommons.org.