Age of Wisdom
"Opinions are a dime a dozen," they say. Whoever they are. And I'm sure they ought to know.
So I figure that if a dozen opinions are worth a dime, mine should be worth about a nickel anyway. And I've got a bunch of opinions, and on some subjects I've got several on each side. So all toll, I should think mine are worth a pretty penny.
Another thing they say, is that, "Wisdom comes with age."
Well, I dispute that statement. And as evidence of my position, I present myself. And here I must qualify my statement. If, by Wisdom, experience is meant, that could very well be so. However, I know some (many in fact) people who are no more experienced in old age than they were when they were young. The usual causes were: either they were too fearful to try something new because they might make a mistake (and of course they will), or because they might look foolish in the eyes of someone (and of course they will).
How be it, if they mean Wisdom that comes as a result of making mistakes, and having failures and successes, this I dispute.
Of course, this last group of people will have a great deal more to share than the former group. But the knowledge gained is not necessarily of any use to the person who acquired it; Though it may be to some intelligent youth who uses that knowledge to limit his or her own mistakes and failures.
Before offering myself as evidence, I first present King David, and his son, Solomon of the Bible. These two, I think most people would allow, are considered among the Wisest of the Wise. And their writings have inspired and helped an unimaginable number of people for thousands of years.
David acquired his knowledge and wisdom from experience. He worked hard and suffered much to gain it.
Solomon, on the other hand, did not have to lift a finger, as far as we know, to acquire his. It was handed to him "on a silver platter" so to speak.
David, through mighty deeds, created a great nation, but through treachery and other abuses contrary to his own writings, he mangled his own life along with that of his family.
Afterwards, Solomon took that great nation and through selfish desires set the stage for that great nation's destruction. Meanwhile, his own life departed farther astray of his own wisdom the older he became.
As a final blow, the son (and grandson) of these two Wise men apparently learned nothing from either of their mistakes and training, and drove the final wedge that separated that great kingdom.
Some readers will undoubtedly say, "Why is he talking about wisdom, and what's that got to do with opinion?" An excellent question, and unfortunately, one has very little to do with the other.
But, it should, which is exactly my point.
There's an interesting 'catch-22' that applies here;
IF WISDOM WERE INVOLVED WITH OPINION, THERE WOULDN'T BE VERY MANY OPINIONS, Would there?
Earlier I said I would offer myself as sacrifice to help prove my point that age does not necessarily mean wisdom.
I will begin with the here and now, that is the point on which all of us stand at this moment. And please indulge me, my apparent ramblings will eventually connect together to one degree or another.
At any point in our life, we see where we are, and where we have been. We do not see where we are going, but only our hope (or fear) of the future.
But, we know where we are. We think!
Yet, in the future, we will look back and see that we were nowhere near where we thought we were at the time. That is, those who dare to be moving at all. And the farther in the future we look back, the farther afield we appear.
To add to this discrepancy, our view of the past is fogged and distorted by excuses and justifications of our self and our attitudes. That is, all but those we have, hopefully, matured beyond.
It's far easier to say, "This is what I used to do, and this is what I've learned from it, so therefore you should listen to me because of the wisdom I've gained"; then the alternative which is (if confronted with that flaw you try so hard to conceal), "Ok, so I do such-and-such. But just you do what I say, and not as I do."
Many, Many years ago (half a lifetime, in fact), I spent years in therapy.
Part of this therapy was what is called "group therapy." This consisted of anywhere from five to fifty men, along with one psychologist.
For years I had the opportunity to listen to, and take part in, these sessions where each person was expected to examine himself and 'Spill his guts' to the group.
Now, you would think that anyone participating in such a group would do all they could to take advantage of the opportunity to better himself, wouldn't you? And, you would probably think that the psychologist was a person beyond the weakness of his patients, now wouldn't you?
Instead it was a game not far different than what kinder gardeners play. That game consisted of one person talking, and the others tearing him apart. And what the other patients missed, the Doctor would catch.
Of course, this made it easy for everyone to tell stories that they hoped would ease them through each session. The result of which, of course, nothing was gained except another lie and deep-seated problem reinforced.
Another aspect of the game was for each man to watch the others closely to see what won over the Doctor (and if there happened to be a woman there, the game became even more serious). If one person seemed to be doing well in the sessions, others would try to mimic him and finagle his tricks from him so they could look good too.
It reminded me of students trying to find out who had the best cheat-sheets. Learning wasn't important, it was the appearance of learning that mattered.
Another thing that I observed was that the doctors (and there were many of them) would nod and sit proudly on their throne, saying to himself, (and doubtless to each other), "That's true of them." It was as though the fact they had all that "book la'rnin'" they were different from other people.
Now for me. I'm sitting here so high-and-mighty judging everyone else. How was I different?
I was different, in two ways. The first is that my problems were much more intense than most of the others, maybe even all the others, by some accounts at least.
And the second way is, I knew I had many problems and was determined to work through them as best I could.
That meant no games. It also meant no recognition for any progress, in fact quite the contrary because the doctors only recognized the game, not what was real. For one thing, not playing the game meant that their egos weren't being massaged, and they couldn't handle that.
But in all fairness, there were no instructions on not playing the game, so the doctors had no established way to deal with my situation.
And, of course, neither did I have any instructions. So I made plenty of mistakes that could be, and were, quickly and readily pointed out.
As I sat in the groups, I found myself saying, "Yes, that's true of me." So I got to learn a lot about me. Of course I didn't talk in groups, or to the doctors, but I learned a lot.
Incidentally, I must confess, that in the beginning I was one of, if not the most, fatheaded and boisterous of the group, attacking every word anyone said. That is something I wish I could look back on and say it used to be. Over the years I've gotten better, but if I had actually outgrown it, I wouldn't be writing this book, would I?
But I learned. And the most important thing that I learned is: I am like everyone else! I don't mean that I do everything that others do, but in one way or another, that problem that is in them, is in me. It may come out in another form, and it may be in a larger or smaller proportions than someone else's. But it's there.
And the more I try to deny it, the more rooted it is in my ego.
With this piece of knowledge -- and confession, I was able to put other wisdoms to work,
The first is, I can not see, (therefore can not admit) my own faults until I get past them. As I stated earlier, I either see them as foggy justifications for which I still make excuses, or they are so much a part of me that I think that they are ok. I might not think they are ok for others, but for me it's different.
I'm sure you've spotted the fallacy of my thinking there.
But if I can't see them, or are still justifying them -- how can I possibly get passed them?
First of all, when I find myself judging or criticizing someone, even if it's only in my mind, I turn it around and say; "Ok, how do I do the same thing?" If I can't come up with an answer, than I know my problem is bigger than I am able to admit.
Big problems have to be tackled in chunks. You can't swallow a whole watermelon. Nor should you try. But cut it in pieces and eventually, over time, you can digest the entire thing without doing yourself harm.
"How do I do the same thing?" was the question. I look for some small way that I do the same thing, that I can admit to myself, and work at conquering it. I also watch others and see how they apparently have learned to handle a similar problem. It doesn't matter if they really have or not; But it's a starting point for me, and a direction to take in my own quest. I will learn new approaches to the problem as I journey forward.
Some "problems" that I wish to divest myself of, I find just aren't worth the effort. They are me. Things like: I see people who are quiet spoken, calm under pressure, and in what appears to be total control of themselves. I envy that.
And I've tried to emulate it. Many times.
Yet, when I am in a conversation, as I look back on it, I was highly intense, my arms waving in the air, red in the face, and did anywhere from 50-99% of the talking.
And the times I catch myself doing otherwise -- that is, being like I think I should be, I feel phony, and that I am cheating the other person out of being with who they think they are with. Of course, they may prefer the phony person, and very likely do.
Is there a point to all of this? Yes, that point is: just because someone can quote beautiful words, does not mean that they have any understanding of them.
One example of this is; a student once said that he was studying Einstein's theory. When asked if the student understood the theory, he said that he did.
And this is the fallacy in many people's thinking. They believe that because they know about a thing, that they know the thing.
Knowledge is just a bud, a flower in infancy. If not nurtured, it will dry up and wither. If pruned and trimmed properly, it will bloom. And once it has reached full maturity, it dies.
Knowledge should be kept in its budding stage -- ever growing and reaching for the flower stage, but never attaining the point where it appears beautiful, but is in reality only preparing to scatter its seeds and die.
Take those seeds of knowledge, and plant them. But remember, they are only seeds. Treat them as such.
When the world was flat and the center of the universe, everyone knew where their boundaries were. Now that it is round and zooms its way through an ever-expanding infinity, we sense a loss of limits to knowledge.
Avoid advise from anyone who has reached perfect wisdom. They stand on a flat earth with walls of their own making blocking their way to true Wisdom that can never be reached by mortal Man.
If you treat all knowledge as opinion, rather than fact, than you will have no trouble questioning it.
But if it is fact in your mind, than it cannot be changed -- and won't be, by you. But tomorrow someone will have proven you the fool for having believed it as fact.
Do you disagree with my opinions? You are not alone. In fact there is a good possibility that I will disagree with some of them before they are even in print.
So finally, yes there is a finally, Listen to the Wisdom of others, Hear their opinions. Glean them for what applies to you.
Just don't expect to see that same wisdom applied in their own life.
If you are ever in doubt about what I have just said, remember David and Solomon.
And if you are really desperate for more reason, consider what I said about me.
And a final finally, take every opinion with a grain of salt;
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