No man was ever wise by chance. – Seneca
What does that mean?
Another brutally short and compact quote. I guess he expected people would have to chisel it into stone or something. But seriously, I always like a quote that examines the roots of wisdom.
This quote says that wisdom doesn’t come by chance. The events which can lead to wisdom often come by chance, but to extract wisdom from the event requires effort.
Imagine two people tripping over the same stone in a path. One looks around, sees the rock, and begins to scan the path ahead for other rocks and avoids them. The other simply stands up, kicks the rock, and continues on their way.
Both experienced a fall, by chance. One took the effort to learn from it, the other simply went on their way. Neither became wise by chance. Only the one who put in the effort became wiser.
Why is figuring out what happened important?
I believe that the root of wisdom is curiosity. If you don’t ask Why? (or any of the other W’s), how will you ever learn? Yes, repetition will eventually pound a lesson into your head, but it is usually much quicker, and much less painful, to ask questions and become informed.
Consider the example in the first section. Both people experienced the same situation. One now looks for things in the road while walking, the other just walks. For the person who didn’t take the time to figure out why they tripped, what are the odds that they will become wise by chance?
They won’t become wise in this matter. Not by chance. When they take the time and put in the effort to figure out what happened, they can start working on how to avoid the situation next time, and wisdom can proceed. But it comes from effort and the seeking of information, not chance.
Odds are that by now, you have figured out why it is important to look into the cause of things. And that is good. However, do you dig deeply enough? Yes, it’s good to know why you tripped, but would it be better to take a different route, one with fewer tripping hazards?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Wisdom has a place in all parts of life. And what we consider wisdom will change as our experiences change. That happens with age and new complications. After all, the wisdom of a bachelor is often quite different from a married man, and both differ from a father.
With that example, I hope you understand that wisdom is a road, a journey. It is most definitely not a destination. We will learn something, and then find that we have changed, that the world has changed, or both. Now what we thought we knew no longer applies. Our wisdom has turned to dust, and we start again.
That is part of the circle of learning. Each time we learn something new, we should go back and test our prior conclusions. Is this a trivial change, or did this just rock our world? What if our conclusions, our beliefs, and our so-called wisdom depended on something that is no longer true?
After you have taken a moment or two to consider that question, ask yourself how often you challenge your assumptions, or double check your facts? Science, as an example, is moving at incredible speed these days, and new discoveries abound. Have you considered how they impact you and your conclusions and beliefs?
The question at hand is how you will work to gain wisdom. As the quote says, it’s not something that happens by chance, but is a deliberate act. Take a moment to consider where in your life you tend to make the same or similar mistake over and over again. That might be a place where some wisdom would help, right?
Even single events can be something to consider, if the consequences of a repeat is sufficiently worrisome. A while back I was involved in a automobile accident. What happened? His car hit my car. Why did that happen? Because he was passing in a no passing zone, and panicked when he saw another vehicle approaching.
OK, so far we have done some digging, and additional layers can be peeled off (never give up with just the first answer, dig deeper!). But what could I have done differently? If I had been more attentive to my mirrors, I would have seen him start around me, and I could have slowed to allow him by. No one hurt, no cars wrecked.
With these, and so many other questions asked and answered, I learned a lot about that situation, and can apply it to my driving habits. Some of my old assumptions were challenged by the facts. I am not as attentive as I thought I was. And with these realizations and changes, comes a little bit of wisdom.
In my opinion, one of the surest ways to spot a fool is to hear them claim that they are wise. They probably also lie, or at least brag quite a bit, and are not too well versed in logic, or they wouldn’t have spoken about wisdom at all. When this paragraph makes sense, you will be on your way. 8)
Related posts which I have written:
- Life’s Tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late
- Everything that happens; happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so
- I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense
- Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.