24. Wisdom

Wisdom is an essential part of character being as Aristotle said in his ethics, “The ability to deliberate well about which courses of action would be good and expedient”. Wisdom is not a natural skill, so do not despair if this is something you struggle with. For as Seneca said in his famous letters to Lucilius, ‘No man becomes wise by chance, but only through hard work’. Therefore, do not delay, seek after it immediately. Do not allow yourself to put off for another day the work which must be done today.


Wisdom is not knowledge, so to speak, but applied judgement (which requires knowledge and experience). As such, it cannot be taught, only discovered. Never possessed in its totality and only truly perceived in someone by others. By this, I mean that as wisdom is the exercise of judgement informed by experience and knowledge, it can, by its essential nature, only be developed in a person by their own efforts.


Wisdom cannot be taught but must be found. While a teacher can help point the student on to the correct path, it is the student who must internalise the maximums. It is they who must integrate the truths into their behaviours and they who must judge rightly the time, place, and way to act to the right person to achieve the desired outcome.


Wisdom can never be possessed entirely as it is infinite. A person accounted as wise may be able to act with wisdom in a multitude of situations. However, as we are inherently finite and the possible variations of existence infinite, there is always a possibility that the individual, however wise, will misjudge the time, place, or way in which they should act and, consequently, act unwisely. Therefore, it can never be possessed completely.


Finally, wisdom can only truly be observed in others, not in oneself. This is because as wisdom is thought and reason is action, it can only be judged by its outcomes. You may mean well, but if the effect of your actions is disastrous, it cannot be wise. If wisdom is always to be sought but never fully possessed, how could anyone genuinely think themselves wise? If one did, they would either be fooling themselves or have imagined that they possess the unpossessable.


Therefore, if you seek the best way to achieve your Individual Purpose, seek first after wisdom. Seek to learn first how to judge situations and people rightly. Understand what is relevant to your judgement (their character and ability) and what is irrelevant (race, sex, etc.). Seek knowledge of the world, read the accounts of the greats, and seek after examples worthy of emulation. Look deeply into everything that appears before you. Seek to understand if things are as they appear or (as is often the case) not. Seek in every case to use your own judgement, and most importantly, learn from the mistakes of both yourself and others. For as Otto von Bismarck is credited with saying, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others”.

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