What is wisdom? Perhaps a foolish question. Proverbs say that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, and parallels this with the concept that understanding then comes when one knows God (Proverbs 9:10). Such is revelation. Moving to the other pillar of our culture and considering reason, Socrates proclaims that the root of man’s wisdom is in knowing that one does not know.

Now, in an earlier post, I have complained that I do not like transcendentalism. However, I think at the heart of this philosophy is a great truth, and one which stretches between these two ideals revealing a new facet of wisdom, a sort of aggregate between the Jewish scriptures and the Greek philosopher. Wisdom is in seeing the world.

Too often people think they see what they do not; too often people act as if reality can be perpetually molded by their own whims. Thus, men do not fear God and deceive themselves into believing lies.

My main problem when reading Thoreau or Emmerson is not with the premise that we should see reality, but that I don’t think they actually do. (This depends on the writer more than the philosophy: I found Walden a great bore whereas I found selections of Leaves of Grass wonderful.)

What is wisdom? A part of it seems to me that first humiliating step where one simply sees without impressing his vision onto reality, does not claim he knows what he does not know, fears God.


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