The Wisdom of the Wise

The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of the ages,
may be preserved by quotation.”

Isaac D’israeli, an Englishman who lived from 1766 to 1848, was a respected literary essayist.  His belief, given above, has weathered well.  In 2013 we turn to the online Proverbs of the World and read,

“These sagacious sayings are the distilled wisdom of the ages.  Their lessons are as relevant today, as when first heard hundreds and sometimes thousands of years ago.”

We need help today.  We struggle to accept, enjoy and handle our modern lives, sometimes against overwhelming odds.  We could benefit from the mentoring of experienced guides.  Are the problems we face now so different from those in the past?  Is it possible to tap into ancient wisdom?   

A gem appears, written, amazingly enough, about 2003 years ago by a Roman citizen.  Surveying the world around him, and those who peopled it, he wrote,

“As I approve of the youth who has something of the old man in him, so am I no less pleased with an old man who has something of the youth.  He who follows this rule may be old in body but can never be old in mind.”

       Cicero  106 BC to 43 BC  

We in the “aged” category can use more cheerleaders like that.

Our modern world has so many troubles; tragic events occur daily.  Was it always like this?  How do people deal with it?   Centuries after Cicero, an American writer considered the realities of life in his time.  Viewing the continual struggle between appreciating the good and avoiding the bad, he wrote,

“No longer forward or behind
I look in hope or fear,
But grateful, take the good I find
The best of now and here.”

       John Greenleaf Whittier  1807 to 1892  

Over many decades I have collected these wonderful snippets, and barely scratched the surface of what is available.  In these sayings the wisdom of common folk rings out for all to hear.  By leaving the written record of their life decisions, they have posted signs giving directions for loving life, and living it fully.

For a gentle farewell I turn to a man full of fun and fantasy, childlike in his simplicity and old in the wisdom of the messages his writings carry.  One can imagine Peter Pan saying,

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”

       James M. Barrie  1860 to 1937 

May dreams dance through your sleep, and hope live in your hearts.


Filed under This & That

6 Responses to The Wisdom of the Wise

  1. Jim taylor

    Hi, Marjorie,
    The first time I heard that J.M.Barrie quote was when Ernest Marshall Howse, a former moderator of the United Church, chose it as the title for his autobiography, Roses in December. Editing that book before we (Wood Lake Books) published it was an education in church history. As Tom Harper wrote in the Toronto Star, Howse’s experience covered everything from pre-Union Newfoundland outports to downtown Toronto, the changing face of the church captured in a single life.
    Jim Taylor

    • Marjorie

      That’s what many quotes do for me, Jim, take me back to some event in my life that stands out in my memory. Usually such re-visiting is a happy experience. Hope this quote was that for you.

  2. I have always liked: “Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” No one has claimed responsibilty for it — it was just in the air a few years ago and got spread around. Same with Keep Calm and Carry On.

    Calm assertiveness: don’t leave home with out it.

    So much of the wisdom of old age is not panic-ing when something goes “wrong”. We’ve seen it before — it isn’t the end of the world; something good is usually bound to come out of it in the end. And if it doesn’t, it’s not the end.

    • Marjorie

      Right! That seems to be the message that comes through. It is not the business of denying the hard things in life. It seems to be the accepting of life as it is, and recognizing the good as well as that with which we struggle. It appeals to me too. Nice to hear from you, Barbara.

  3. Alison Uhrbach

    Marjorie – I love quotes, even though I’m very poor at remembering them at the right moment. My dad was a master of “sayings” many of which are quoted today by his grandchildren. As a way of keeping in touch with my kids when they were away at University one year, I sent them “a quote a day”. I found it interesting to search them out, and was struck by their relevance. It is somehow reassuring to know, some things never change.

    • Marjorie

      Alison -your children were very fortunate! I would suspect that they enjoyed receiving those quotes very much. In addition the odds are that once in the while a quote would arrive at a time when they needed a lift, we all have those times! Glad this offering was to your liking.