By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and Third by experience, which is bitterest.
The great moral thinker, philosopher, and contemporary of Lao Tse , Confucius, said many things that lead us into contemplation and insights. I was pondering the above quote this morning.
A quick survey of the state of humanity at this moment in time shows a dearth of wisdom. Maybe Confucius can shed some light on where we find ourselves.
My observation is that we are generally stuck in the bitterest, experience. But we have not learned from experience enough to shift to wisdom. Hyperbole, violence, manipulation, greed, envy, ego, etc seem to lead our leaders into an endless circle that doesn't seem to have an off ramp. Those not in power look on in dismay.
The second way to wisdom, he says, is by way of imitation. But who do we imitate? Christians tell us Jesus. I agree, but for most of the last two thousand years Christians have done the opposite with "holy" wars, pogroms, inquisitions, concentration camps, slavery and other horrors. I still have a bit of hope that it is possible to follow and imitate the Christ way and be led to actually walk it.
The highest way to wisdom is reflection, according to Confucius. The world, however, has gone into the busyness spin of frenzied activity, most of which is meaningless. The blessing and curse of technology leaves us little time to reflect. There are pockets, of course, retreat centers, etc. But most people go to a retreat for a time and then return to the frenzy.
It seems to me, we can carve out a regular, daily time for reflection. My daily practice is to start the day with a cup of tea, reading inspirational material, reflecting on it and prayer/meditation, sometimes journaling either here or on paper.
We can also find our heroes to imitate. My heroes are the spiritual lights strewn across history. I look to Jesus, the great mystics of all faiths, Buddha, Lao Tse, Confucius and others.
And we can objectively look at our experiences and discover which lead to wisdom, and which lead astray. Learn from our mistakes and let them go.
With a three prong approach, we have a good chance of entering wisdom and leaving the frenzy in our rearview mirrors.