Bonnie Johnson's Post“One of the greatest gifts we can give to another generation is our experience, our wisdom.” Desmond Tutu

I bought myself a gift.  It is a book entitled “Wisdom” by Andrew Zuckerman.  Oh, and what a great gift it is.  I know that I will go to it often and learn something new from it each time I pick it up.  I won’t pick it up easily mind you.   It’s a large (12” by 12”) heavy coffee table style hard cover with a wonderful picture of Clint Eastwood squinting on the cover.  I’ll share the inside leaf because I think it describes the book best:

Inspired by the idea that one of the greatest gifts one generation can give to another is the wisdom it has gained from experience, multi-award-winning photographer and film maker Andrew Zuckerman has recorded the thoughts and ideas of fifty of the world’s most prominent writers, artists, designers, actors, politicians, musicians, and religious and business leaders – all over sixty-five years old.  To create profound, honest, and truly revealing portraits of these luminaries, Zuckerman has captured their voices, their physical presence, and the written word.  The resulting book and film – included here on a DVD – provide an extraordinary legacy for the generations that follow, and a timeless portrait of the common experiences that unite us all.

I’ve just watched the DVD and I look forward to watching it again.  It is wonderful to observe and listen to these people speak on screen because it allows you the opportunity to hear certain things in their voices and see a sparkle in their eyes that the still photos and words on paper would not be able to translate.  I’m so glad it was included with the book.

Zuckerman used a white screen behind each person he filmed and photographed explaining that “It creates an environment for the subjects that is entirely democratic and stripped of context.  We’re not seeing the author in front of his great wall of books or the artist in the studio surrounded by his paintings.  None of that is really about the person, but about how the environment and that person relate to each other.  In my past work and most of the work I do, I’m most interested in how you can get closest to the actual subject rather than the subject in relationship to its environment….I take everything out that is not essential information. I also knew that I wanted to create an absolutely even aesthetic across the board: for the design of the book and for the film.  I love the purity of white.  I love aesthetic neutrality.”

And boy does a white background make those scruffy long eyebrows pop out!  Love it!

The themes discussed for this project were creativity, self, environment, love, tradition, diplomacy and the idea of wisdom itself.  I’m thinking that this could be done on a small scale by all of us.  You don’t have to ask a famous person over sixty-five these things.  Why not put the same questions to the elders in your own family or community?  You may be surprised by their answers and possibly even gain a little of their wisdom.

P.S. One other very surprising thing I learned from this book is that Nick Nolte can actually be pretty wise.   Who’d a thunk?


  • Tracy Westerholm

    I LOVED THAT !!! Yes I yelled that ! Thanks for sharing something so powerful and it was just a snippet I know. My favorites were “You don’t stop doing things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing things” and “You can’t get to Wonderful without passing alright” and “It’s love” Wow Bonnie that was fantastic and I can’t wait to see the entire DVD and get the book as well ! 🙂

  • jacquie

    These lines jumped out at me…
    “It’s about being decent”
    “Respect difference” and
    “Don’t sit around waiting for inspiration…just show up and get to work…”

    Very cool project. I’d like to see the rest of it, for sure.

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