The way we grow in wisdom is not linear.
The things that often nourish us are perennial and we have been engaging them since day one, in ever more complex and beautiful forms; love, loss, joy, pain, bliss and suffering.
In fact, wisdom often flourishes in the patient return to these same themes, each time revealing new aspects of something already intimate. In spiritual practice, these basic themes are things like: attachment, compassion, emptiness, judgement, insight, acceptance, faith and doubt.
I looked for a way to characterise this sense of returning to the basics for a long time, but someone already got there before me:
The growth in wisdom is symphonic.1
A symphony is composed of a few basic themes. Each theme is introduced in turn, playing its part and then retreating. Recurring themes are important—add too many new motifs and the symphony loses its structure and becomes a noise.
Each time the theme returns something small is added. A part is threaded through the whole and changes the whole. The symphony develops a depth and richness by repeatedly turning back on itself, finding itself in new and yet familiar ways.
It’s worth remembering this when you worry that you’re going “back to basics.”