Category Archives: Wisdom Quotes
I was talking with a friend recently who believes in Bigfoot. My friend is intelligent, philosophical, pragmatic and practical. When I found out he was a believer in Bigfoot I was surprised. At one time he was an avid outdoorsman and through his study and interviews with other people has been convinced by Bigfoot sightings and other evidence. When we talked about it I told him I didn’t believe in Bigfoot. There simply isn’t enough proof that people have seen what they think they saw or that the “evidence” is purposefully or accidentally being misinterpreted. However, I always make this caveat with my friend. “Just because I don’t believe in Bigfoot doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Wisdom teaches us to be careful about our beliefs. Too often we want to force our convictions on another and convince them to think like we do. The first step on the path of wisdom is the truth that we know nothing. It is the first and only place to begin and exist. Wisdom is a paradox. The more we know, learn, practice, the more we don’t know.
We live in a world full of people convinced they see reality “as is” and if you don’t see it their way you’re wrong! Religion, politics, cultures, ethnicities, separate us into groups and life becomes about “us” and “them.” Maybe, if we listened attentively, spoke softly, and held our fragile beliefs as bubbles ready to pop any time and open us up to a world we didn’t even know existed, we’d celebrate humility instead of hubris.
For more writings, articles, and posts, please visit: http://www.thewannabesaint.com
Be Still and Wait –
This morning our Siberian Husky Trooper was ready to go outside. Getting to the door to open it he was dancing in circles! I opened the door to the house and the screened in porch and he darted out. Almost immediately I noticed a big rabbit in the field adjacent to our home. My eyes grew big wondering if Trooper was going to see it. The rabbit was still. I thought to myself; “Can you stay that still with danger lurking that close to you?” I watched intently as Trooper began sniffing the area and the bunny watched and didn’t move. After what seemed like a lifetime for me and the rabbit Trooper lumbered back to the porch and the rabbit was safe.
Many times in life we face trials and temptations, difficulties and decisions, choices and complications. Our instinct might be to take immediate action, react in the ways which seem best, hurry up and solve the problem. However, wisdom teaches us that when the way is clouded and we can’t see or crowded with chaos and hard to move the best we can do mentally, emotionally and spiritually is to be still and wait. To breathe, close our eyes and find our center. With a hectic mindset, we can focus on the immediate and “fix it” at the expense of the future. We can also become reckless running around trying everything at once and creating more hardships for ourselves and those we love.
A great master was asked one time by his student to help him solve a problem for which he could not find the solution. “I’ve gone over it a million times, looked at every angle, and can’t seem to see the way. The master told him; “When you step into a stream your feet muddy the waters. Only when you are still will the waters clear.”
Stillness, the quietude of the mind, is underrated. Pause, rest, be still, and the way will reveal itself.
Popped in the Mouth –
The other day I heard a discussion between two women about a mom “popping” her adolescent child in the mouth. I cringed as the two women agreed sometimes it has to be done when a kid won’t stop talking back. This week #RoaseanneBarr was “popped” for using words which degrade and dehumanize others. I once had an adult tell me they were “popped” in the mouth by a parent when they were in college for not respecting her parents. I think all of us at one point or another have been “popped” because of something coming out of mouths that weren’t needed, necessary or helpful.
The swift punishment “popping” implies is that the words were barely out of the mouth before being punished. I’ve reflected on the words which have come out of my mouth over the years and if I was punished for every wrong phrase or wording, egotistical and asinine thing I’ve let loose I’d be hurting a long time and most of the pain would be deserved.
Words matter! A famous wisdom quote reads; “Do not speak unless it improves upon silence.” Perhaps if we were slower to speak the world would have less pain and more love.
Last night I stuck a bag of trash on the porch. Living in the country and not placing garbage in a receptacle is like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes a varmint gets into it and other times they just pass it by. Unfortunately, last night something got into the trash and scattered it all over the driveway. It was the first thing I saw when letting the dog out this morning. I went inside, grabbed a new bag and began recollecting the trash. There’s nothing quite like picking up frost-covered garbage at dawn.
As I was gathering it and stuffing it into the bag I began to recall a Jewish wisdom tale;
A woman repeated a story (gossip) about a neighbor. Within a few days, everyone in the community knew the story. The person she talked about heard what had been said about her and she was very sad. Later, the woman who had spread the story learned that it was not true. She was very sorry and went to a wise rabbi and asked what she could do to repair the damage. After giving this some thought, the rabbi said to her, “Go home, get one of your feather pillows, and bring it back to me.” Surprised by the rabbi’s response, the woman followed his advice and went home to get a feather pillow and brought it to the rabbi. “Now,” said the rabbi, “open the pillow and pull out all the feathers.” Confused, the woman did what she was told to do. After a few minutes, the rabbi said, “Now, I want you to find every one of the feathers and put them back into the pillow.” “That’s impossible,” said the woman, almost in tears. “The window is open and the wind has scattered them all over the room and blown many feathers outside. I can’t possibly find them all.” “Yes,” said the rabbi. “And that is what happens when you gossip or tell a story about someone else. Once you talk about someone, the words fly from one person’s mouth to another, just like these feathers flew in the wind. Once you say them, you can never take them back.”
It was a great reminder that not only every word but every action has consequences that we cannot foresee. Our lives should be lived mindfully aware that our scattered thoughts, words, and actions will impact the world for evil or for good.
Not a Suggestion –
I have to admit this is the attitude I have toward speed limit signs. I see them as more suggestions than actual law. Now, mind you that mindset has never gotten me out of speeding ticket but it’s still one I hang on to. I even heard a pastor one time say he “only” goes 10% over the speed limit. He figures that’s God’s speed limit. I don’t think that would work with an officer of the court either.
Suggestions are defined as; “an idea or plan put forward for consideration. Synonyms: proposal, proposition, motion, submission, action point, recommendation.” This isn’t what a speed limit is designed to be. The word “limit” gives it away. The number on the sign is the limit, the maximum you should go not the starting point. I know in my mind that’s what the number is for and I trust that someone put a lot of thought into the number. It’s there for safety. All traffic laws are there for the safety of all drivers. But, still, I often find myself going above the limit on many occasions.
However, no matter the reasoning I am breaking the law and when I am stopped by a law enforcement officer I have no real excuse and hope I will accept the fine with humility and understanding.
It is the same with wisdom. The rules of the Master are not suggestions they’re laws and when I choose to break them I must accept the consequences with humility and greater understanding.
Hubris – excessive pride or self-confidence. synonyms: arrogance, conceit, haughtiness, hauteur, pride, self-importance, egotism, pomposity, superciliousness, superiority.
I watched a webinar today hosted by an esteemed professor on the role of genetics in the development of humanity both culturally and individually. It was an interesting presentation and clearly, the man was intelligent and dogmatic in his proposal. It didn’t take long, however, to realize the man was also proud of himself and said more than once; “This is the way it is and there is no other way.” He even went as far as to insinuate that if a person thought differently they were clearly not his equal.
This attitude has always rubbed me the wrong way. The thinking and feeling of someone else that they are superior to others. While it is true individuals may have more learning in certain areas than others it is usually because the other hasn’t put the time into the subject as another not because they are; “smarter.”
I’ve worked with and for leaders who have shown hubris, pride, arrogance. I’ve also worked with and for leaders who are humble. I have family and friends who fit both these descriptions. And, to be honest, I could rightly be accused of hubris on more than one occasion.
It’s an easy path to walk, the way of self-importance and self-indulgence. A wise person once told me; “Ego breeds ego.” In other words, no one wins when egos clash, but the fallout always brings pain and difficulty to many lives.
But I know that today many seek their way gropingly and don’t know in whom to trust. To them I say: believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it. #AndreGide
One of the images I like to use with the men I work with is an illustration about a sponge soaked in water.
If I were to go to a store, find the kitchen aisle, and buy a pack of sponges, I could take them home to use as I see fit. If I opened the packaging, took out one sponge and if my kitchen sink was clean I could fill it up with water, take the sponge which had never been used, ball it up in my hand, plunge it in the water, let it go and it would soak up clean water. If I then retrieved another sponge from the packaging, took it outside, found a mud puddle, balled up the sponge in my hand, plunged it in the murky water, let it go, it would soak up dirty water. The sponge isn’t the difference, it’s the water.
It’s similar to our lives. We are mostly products of where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. If our intentions are good and our hearts are pure most likely we will produce good results and our minds and spirits will be at peace. If, however, our hearts and intentions are selfish we will have no peace and wreak havoc on the lives of others.
Lack of Information –
The last few weeks I have been dealing with a situation of which I have a limited amount of information. In fact, I’ve had enough information to make one decision or another without knowing how it’s going to work out in the end. It’s a difficult place to be and an even harder place to stay and find peace. It’s nothing life threatening though it could have life-altering consequences.
Situations such as this one can be the source of stress, ruminations and endless supplies of; “What ifs…?” However, I have found myself embracing the moment and repeating a wisdom quote; “If this happens you’re still breathing, still alive, still on the journey of your life. If that happens…same.”
It reminds me of the proverb;
“When confused; chop wood, eat your dinner, sleep.
When enlightened; chop wood, eat your dinner, sleep.”
It’s hard to be in those places of uncertainty as we walk along the path but sometimes it cannot be avoided. So, I place one foot in front of the other and know sooner or later the way will become clear.
The Obstacle is the Path –
This afternoon I made a quick stop at the local Wal-Mart to buy a few things. I knew exactly what I wanted, where it was located, picked up the items and headed for the checkout. I am one of those people who will walk down the length of the entire front of the store to see if I can find the shortest line possible.
However, today, a nice woman in a yellow vast spotted me looking and told me lanes 19 and 21 were open with no waiting. I made my way to the aforementioned lanes and both of them weren’t empty but had only a few people with a few items. I picked one and steered my cart behind the people in front of me. Almost as soon as I parked the buggy I knew I picked the wrong one. The cashier was chatty, the customers too and there was an issue with one of the payment cards they were trying to use. “Sigh.” I thought about leaving but didn’t have the energy to pick another aisle. It has been a busy morning with back to back sessions, email replies, calendar updates, phone calls and another meeting in half an hour.
As I stood there I thought to myself; “Maybe, this is what you need. A time to rest. A place to stop. Perhaps what you see as a burden is a beautiful gifted moment.” I breathed in a long breath and let it out. Soon it was my turn, checked out, got into the truck and made my meeting with plenty of time to spare. Lesson learned, again.
“The obstacle is the path.”
A wise master received a university professor who came to inquire about true wisdom. The master served her tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until she no longer could restrain herself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” said the master, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you wisdom unless you first empty your cup?”
This is one of my favorite wisdom parables. It is a great reminder that we can become so full of ourselves, our opinions, our convictions, our beliefs, and our ego that we are unable to receive something new, different, exciting or growth producing.
To come to each day with an empty cup and allowing it to be filled with each experience, every person, circumstances, and situations is to be a true student of wisdom.
What We Know –
Wisdom begins when we realize we know nothing.
Philosophers tell us that everything changes, doesn’t stay the same. Mountains wear down, skies fall, mighty trees topple and the greatest among people are but a wisp of wind, sound, and fury signifying nothing.
Reducing our ego is one of the hardest wisdom disciplines. One of my favorite wisdom proverbs says; “Take compliments and criticisms with equal value.” Too often we believe the good and ignore the not so good. It’s easy to focus on what others like about us. We wrap ourselves in the words of friends, families, even those whose positivity drips off their tongue like poison, people who see us mere objects to use to further their objectives. Ego builds us up only to be pulled out from under us by someone with a bigger, stronger ego. We fight back and when one take on another, no one wins and out of control egos only destroy never heal.
Humility is wisdom’s greatest and most difficult lesson. Saying; “No” to puffery and stroking; “Yes” to a self-awareness that leads us to a place where our egos are not bruised, or quickly heal, from a careless word, a selfish act, a purposeful plan to defame, defraud, demolish. Wisdom tells us; “Smaller egos take less time to heal because the wound isn’t as big.”
Socrates once said; “There is true joy (bliss) when we realize we know, and are, nothing.”
The Obstacle is the Path –
This morning, on my way to Fayetteville, Tennessee, I came across a couch in the middle of a 4 way stop intersection. It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion; “That doesn’t belong there!” It had obviously been dropped out of a vehicle because it was broken in half and the feet and cushions were scattered. I cautiously drove around the couch, and through the intersection, continuing on my journey wondering who dropped it, why and that someone should pick up the unsightly mess before some body gets hurt.
A few more miles down the road a baby deer hopped onto the road while its sibling stayed off to the side. I slowed down and thought; “What a beautiful sight!” and proceeded cautiously in case the one, not on the road, decided it wanted to be reunited with its sibling. I soaked in the beauty of nature, wondered where its mother was and was thankful for being present at that time and place.
Two sights, two different responses.
I reflected on how we decide what should and should not be on our road of life. For the unwanted, ugly, messy thing we judge as not worthy, we try to avoid it and want it gone. To others, which we deem as beautiful and worthy, we are thankful and count ourselves blessed to enjoy the wonderment of life.
Wisdom teaches us to accept all things on the road of life. We are not to judge which is good or bad, positive or negative, but to allow the possibility of everything to teach and guide us. It is only when we stop slapping labels on things, (including people) and accept each experience with open minds, hearts, and spirits that we can appreciate, find the mystery and beauty in all obstacles on the road of life.
“The obstacle is the path.” -Wisdom Proverb
Wherever You Go –
I have a friend who was struggling. Several years ago he was miserable in his personal, vocational, and spiritual life. He was looking for a change that would solve his malaise. We sat in a restaurant and talked about what he was needing and why. Finally, he decided he needed a new job. “I don’t get along or agree with the vision of the current leadership. Every time I walk into those offices I get a pit in my stomach. Finding another position with a place in a new state might be exactly what I need.” In silence, we ate our food and then I told him; “Remember, no matter what you do, where you go or live, who you are here is who you’ll be there. You always bring yourself with you.”
The hardest changes we make in our life are ourselves. One of the biggest temptations we battle is the lie; “What’s wrong is outside of us, not within.” Until we understand the way forward is to travel inside we’ll never find what we seek.
Most wisdom teachers will tell us; “The only peace you’ll find is the peace you bring with you.” and “If you’re not at peace where you are you’ll never be at peace wherever you go.”
Best of Teachers –
I come across many types of animals traveling the back roads of South Central Tennessee. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen turkeys, deer, turtles, armadillos, and most recently two dogs walking in the middle of the road without a care in the world. I slowed down and honked the horn, multiple times. Finally, one decided to heed the warning and move out of the way, the other, however, just increased its pace. I am sure, it felt that it was moving fast but for me, it was still too slow. I honked again and as we passed another street that turned off to the right the dog went one way and I the other. He never wavered from staying in the middle of the road he was traveling.
I increased my speed, continued on to my destination, shook my head, and smiled. Most canines like the first scurry at the first sign of trouble but the other knew where he was going and nothing, not even truck weighing thousands of pounds, with a driver in a hurry was going to deter it.
I think the dog could teach me multiple lessons about life’s journey, determination, and more.
A famous wisdom teacher said; “I’ve learned many lessons of wisdom from the best of teachers; all of them cats.”
A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, ‘My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother’s faults.’
The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus, ‘In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, “Father, why are you weeping?” “I am weeping over my sins,” the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, “You do not have any sins, Father.” The old man replied, “Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them.”
This painting is named; “The Astonishment of Sisoes.”
It is both a commentary and a contemplation on death, not only of man, but of earthly empires.
It was painted following the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century and shows St. Sisoes, at the tomb of Alexander the Great, standing over the bones of this once great ruler, with the following inscription:
“SISOES, THE GREAT ASCETIC, BEFORE THE TOMB, OF ALEXANDER, KING OF THE GREEKS,WHO WAS ONCE COVERED IN GLORY.
ASTONISHED, HE MOURNS FOR THE RAVAGES OF TIME AND THE TRANSCIENCE OF GLORY, AND TEARFULLY DECLAIMS THUS:
‘THE MERE SIGHT OF YOUR TOMB, DISMAYS ME AND CAUSES MY HEART TO SHED TEARS, AS I CONTEMPLATE THE DEBT WE, ALL MEN, OWE.
HOW CAN I POSSIBLY STAND IT? OH, DEATH! WHO CAN EVADE YOU?‘”
“A brother asked Abba Rufus, ‘What is interior peace, and what use is it?’
The old man said, ‘Interior peace means to remain sitting in one’s cell with fear and knowledge of God, holding far off the remembrance of wrongs suffered and pride of spirit.
Such interior peace brings forth all the virtues, preserves the monk from the burning darts of the enemy, and does not allow him to be wounded by them.
Yes, brother, acquire it. Keep in mind your future death, remembering that you do not know at what hour the thief will come. Likewise be watchful over your soul.‘