Saturday, January 02, 2016


A BBC Point of View decides that being called wise is insulting. "Who wants to be praised for being old before one's time? The young are not meant to be phlegmatic. They should be profligate with their passions. It's wisdom - that asset of old age - that teaches us to hold back." And not break ourselves...

The author quotes Proverbs, but evidently didn't read much beyond the single verse, or he'd not have written this: "Whoever spoke of a wise lover? The wiser the lover, the longer ago he stopped loving." Then what of this advice? A wise man doesn't have to sleep on the sofa.

"What's wrong with wisdom is that it implies stasis, as though our greatest faculties of cognition and intuition are at their journey's end, and have attained a peak of complacency from which they gaze down imperturbably on the small vanities of man." But wisdom is always growing, and so is understanding.

I think he's really just making up reasons why he doesn't want to be called wise. I agree; I get nervous when someone calls me wise. I'm wiser than I was 30 years ago, but that's not saying much.

A determined Yankee book drummer once told a Southerner that "a set of books on scientific agriculture" would teach him to "farm twice as good as you do." To which the Southerner replied: "Hell, son, I don't farm half as good as I know how now."

The son in Proverbs is urged to hang out with the wise, but why should the wise care to hang out with him? It seems a trifle asymmetrical.

But maybe not. If wisdom has to do as much with application and the desire to apply as with the understanding, then the simple desire to be wise is the start of wisdom and an encouragement to the elders--who often acquired their wisdom by having life beat it into them, and who still need reminders to do the right thing.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

He seems intent on rationalising.

Of course, that's probably what people who associate wisdom with age are doing as well. We call our caution wisdom, when it may just be a bad hip.