“You do not ask the frog to give you a chair when you can see that the frog is squatting.” – Akan proverb
The utmost essence of all our decisions is whether we have chosen wisely or foolishly. That is all this life is about: wisdom versus foolishness. The wise decisions advance our lives in the right direction and enable us to enjoy life in all its fullness; in freedom, in happiness and with all the abundance. It concentrates our efforts into living the moments and making them right; and in perfecting goodness, appreciating beauty and seeking truth. On the other hand, the foolish decisions heap upon us sicknesses, sorrows, stress, poverty and all the negativities which make us hate ourselves and each other.
Being wise is not splashed out on the spectacular. As an unknown author puts it, “wisdom is not a flash of inspiration”. It involves a daily effort of seeking the most important knowledge of how to live life, gaining an understanding of how to use that knowledge for good, and to use the good in such a manner that whatever you do will endure beyond yourself and lasts for the good of all and the good of our humanity. We are taking about individuals seeking virtues, finding them, and living them in truth by practising goodness and appreciating beauty in all their encounters.
Contrary to popular opinion, wisdom is not about the quantity of your knowledge but rather its quality. The sages have taught that “we can know many things without knowing that which is most important”. Jean Jaques Rousseau, the Swiss philosopher, argued that “real wisdom is not the knowledge of everything but the knowledge of which things in life are necessary, which are less necessary, and which are completely unnecessary to know. Among the most necessary knowledge is that of how to live well; that is, how to produce the least possible evil and the greatest goodness in one’s life”.
Sadly, over the last few decades and extending into the last century, many among us have assumed that people who acquire a lot of educational accolades and those who have excelled in our social systems are generally wise. Not only have our assumptions led us to decisions which have enveloped our world in misery, but they have prevented us from tapping into the goodness of those who are actually wise. We have missed out on a lot, and we continue to miss out because many of us mistake the display of much knowledge with wisdom. We have educated ourselves the wrong way because we made wrong assumptions from the beginning.
It is true that we need more knowledge to be able to interrelate it in ways which give it new context and meaning in order to create something new out of it. However, the accumulation of knowledge in order to show-off one’s intellectual prowess does not serve any good for our humanity. It can be likened to entertaining only oneself.
What is the essence act of accumulating more knowledge, on whatever it may be, in order to be given recognition in society with letters added after your name without you making meaningful contributions to the good of humanity?
This brings us to the most important question we need to be asking ourselves. What are you using your knowledge for? Is it to enrich you, or to gain fame? If you cannot use your intellect to make others more free, or the world a more beautiful place, you are merely amusing yourself. If you are one of such individuals, you could actually be pretending to know things which you do not know – and that makes you dangerous to our society.
We need to understand that it takes wisdom to govern nations, to run businesses in an ethical manner, to have fruitful relationships, and to live life meaningfully. All these endeavours involve decision-makings which are in actual fact the articulation of certain kinds of knowledge the persons involved have acquired; and they indicate whether these individual have the wherewithal to put the necessary knowledge to use for the greater good of our humanity.
As wisdom teaches us, every action rests upon a knowledge-base. The kind of knowledge you have will determine the kind of action you take. As an individual, you need to understand which knowledge-base your actions are resting upon. Is it knowledge that is good for living, or the marketed knowledge that does not serve any purpose except for showing-off? If you desire to know a wise person, just scrutinise their actions.
Wisdom is hidden everywhere. You have to seek it. To do this you have to do that which is necessary; you have to become a better version of yourself. You have to start with seeking the virtues and practice living them. It is the wisest way to build you, so that you can build others.
You have to learn from the wisest people in history, so that you can appreciate what is most important for our humanity, understand the meaning of life and take steps to share what you have learned with the rest of us. It takes wisdom to take this giant step, but if you understand that it is wisdom the world needs right now, you will make the necessary sacrifices which will make you wiser in the end.
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