Ouch! Oh, now I understand…

August 23, 2021

I spotted this quote somewhere recently and it struck a chord with me –“The trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam often comes first and then the lesson.” (Anonymous)

How true is that! Much of what we learn in life comes to us right after a failure or a mistake. One might say that much of wisdom is built on the bumps and bruises of life. Some things we can learn out of books or be taught about in classes, but it is through experiences that we truly build wisdom.

The whole trial and error process is a key component of the Scientific Method that we hear about so often. Scientists come up with a hypothesis or theory and then design tests of trials to either prove or disprove those theories. Even medicine works that way, with clinical trials conducted to test the efficacy of drugs that “in theory” should work against a particular disease or condition. It is through those clinical trials that the drugs side effects are uncovered and they are evaluated as risks or downsides against the positive effects of the drug.

The learning process doesn’t always have to be painful; however, it almost always results from failures. So, taking steps to reduce the pain of a failure and at least trying to learn from them is a valuable use of your time. The Scientific Method tries to make it easier to learn from a trial or experiment by reducing the number of variables that could impact the outcome. That is a factor in why drug trials can be so hard to get into. Your medical history or even your genetic makeup may place you outside of the factors that the scientists are trying to control.

In normal day-to-day life we may “test the waters” for things like asking for a raise or maybe asking someone out on a date. We may also try to do things, perhaps without thinking them through, and fail at it. If we use that experience to learn we are building our wisdom. If we just keep making the same attempt over and over, without change; well, that’s just crazy.

So, live your life with an awareness that every day is an experience that we can learn from, every interaction with another person is an opportunity to learn, and every decision that you make is a trial that could result in an error or an unexpected outcome. Learn from the results of those decisions. Maybe, instead of using experience as a guide for life you should use experience as the goal of life – get out there and experience it – the wisdom will come later.

And don’t worry about life’s final exam – you have already been given the answer to that test by Jesus. Everybody who believes passes that test.


What fountain are you drinking from?

May 17, 2021

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today, Paster Freed used this quote – “Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge; others just gargle.”  (Robert Anthony)

The today’s world of rampant misinformation and even disinformation, there are other fountains to drink from and many have chosen those founts of “knowledge”.

It is disturbing to think that there are forces (nations) at work trying to feed us bad information and conspiracy theories as a means of causing confusion and chaos, thus weakening us as an adversary. Yet sufficient evidence exists that Russia, China and Iran, just to name a few, have state sponsored disinformation campaigns under way all of the time aimed primarily at the United States. Their constant efforts at fomenting unrest have been more successful than they probably hoped and more effective than we may have believed was possible.

These disinformation spreaders have even succeeded recently is stirring up trouble for the very people who have dedicated themselves to the truth – the fact checkers. The fact that they can have their toadies in America proposing laws that would hinder the efforts to check for the truth is truly disturbing, yet we have bills being introduced in our own state legislature designed to make checking on the fact and presenting the truth harder. It is ironic that the argument for these laws is that facts interfere with the “rights” of the spreaders of misinformation to free speech – to be free to spread lies without being confronted with the truth. Yet that is the defense of their actions. Those same people would stifle or hinder the rights of the fact checkers to refute those lies.

But, back to us. What fountain do you drink from? Do you drink in deeply from the fountain of knowledge, seeking to understand and assimilate knew knowledge and add it to your store of wisdom? Or maybe you just gargle with new knowledge, content to have a temporary insight and then spit it out, essentially learning nothing from it. It is interesting that the very things that put instant knowledge at our fingertips, like the internet, social media and Google, also encourage us to accept knowledge in sound bites and short TikTok videos (or maybe Tweets) and then discard them without further thought or consideration about where they fit in our life’s storehouse of knowledge. Those quick tidbits of “knowledge” do not become wisdom because they are gone before they can be evaluated and find their proper place in our minds. We are quickly on to the next shiny new Tweet or post.

Pastor Freed mentioned in his blog post that he believes that he was just gargling with knowledge before he made the connection between religion and philosophy while in college. I, too, remember that college was the place where I first started having a deeper understanding of things and began drinking in knowledge rather than just gargling with it. Do you remember when that happened in your life? Perhaps you are still awaiting that “Aha” moment. In that moment, the taste from the fountains of misinformation and disinformation will turn bitter in your mouth and seeking the truth, so that you can add it to your knowledge will become a life goal.

Before you start out today and this week, take a moment to visit one of the best fountains of knowledge – the Bible. In it you will find the answers to many of the questions that may have been bothering you and some good advice on living. The information and knowledge that you find there provide a good foundation upon which to build the wisdom that will serve you well in life. It will also equip you to deal with the Devil and his minions in the disinformation world and allow you to better know the truth when you see it.  In the Bible we read –

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

What fountain are you drinking from? Try drinking in the knowledge from the Bible first and much of the rest will fall into place.


Still seeking wisdom…

January 18, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote from Martin Luther King Jr- “Knowledge is a process of piling up facts. Wisdom lies in their simplification.” 

Many seek knowledge, some just for the sake of accumulating it; however, not everyone is abled to turn that knowledge into wisdom. One might say that they know, but do not yet understand.

I looked back and over the years I have written often about knowledge and wisdom, see –

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/05/07/those-arent-scars-thats-wisdom-building-up/ (2014)

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2017/04/27/whats-in-your-book-of-wisdom/ (2017)

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2019/02/12/seek-wisdom-within/ (2019)

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2020/09/19/you-have-to-work-at-it/ (2020)

I particularly like the quote used in the second post above – “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”  (Thomas Jefferson)

In this age of “fake news”, outright lies, and disinformation, discerning honesty can be particularly challenging. Perhaps a key step in what MLK called “simplification” is discarding or discounting the misinformation we are exposed to that are posing as facts – the “everybody knows” disinformation in the environment. Our prejudices are mostly built on those kinds of “facts”.

A root cause of prejudice is the inability or unwillingness to separate facts from opinions. There is no factual basis for the fears that often drive prejudice, just an acceptance of some opinions that we were exposed to at some earlier time. One does not come to the conclusion that “I should be afraid of this person because…”, so much as accept the opinion of some else telling us, “you should be afraid of that person because…” We are exposed to most of those opinions at a very early age, before we have developed the ability to truly reason for ourselves. For many, those opinions stick with us, unchallenged and accepted as knowledge. As we grow mentally, most are able to separate and discard those unproven “facts” and form our own opinions (wisdom) on those matters.

I suppose that, in order to be honest about the things that we accept as truths, we must first develop the ability to question everything that we think we know. The introspection needed to question our knowledge (and thus turn it into wisdom) starts by asking yourself if the basis for your decisions on something or your reactions to something (or someone) is based upon proven facts or just opinions. You might be surprised at the answer to that question, if you take the time to ask it of yourself during a normal day.

In all likelihood you won’t have the time to do that in “real time”, so reflection after the fact will be needed. That is still valuable in helping your better understand yourself and to better equip yourself for future encounters or decisions. In the post “Seek Wisdom Within” above, I suggested taking what I called a “life-selfie” as a way to self-assess.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. day for 2021, we might all benefit from a focus on the prejudices that we still carry around with us as “facts” and try to simplify our lives by discarding them in favor of the truth and wisdom of acceptance and inclusiveness. As I said in the post “You have to work at it”, asking for God’s help is a great way to sort things out.

Have a happy MLK day.


Quietly strong…

October 11, 2020

“The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.”  (Denzel Washington) That was the quote used in a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog. I think we all know someone like that, a loud, brash person who is, in fact, extremely insecure and fragile. Many bullies are that way and most will back off when confronted by someone who refuses to be intimidated by their boorish behavior.

There is an old Zen saying, “Be afraid of the quiet ones. They are the ones who actually think.”

Why should you be afraid of those who actually think? Because that thinking is sometimes turned into planning and then into action. The men planning to kidnap Michigan’s Governor are an example, although they weren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree. The quiet thinkers take the time to consider alternative courses of action and choose one most likely to assure success. They also plot a cover for their actions in an attempt to escape blame; especially should their actions fail to achieve the goal. Many times the loud take action without thinking and their unplanned actions oft go awry.

But, enough about the bad people. What about those who are quiet, but not bad. Taking the time to quietly think before acting or before speaking strengthens that person in the eyes of others. They may become known for being well spoken because they think about their words before they speak or they may be considered to be level headed because they do not rush into action before thinking. If you watched how former President Barack Obama spoke, especially when answering a question; you could tell that he was thinking about both the answer and the correct words to use. He did not speak in Tweets.

People who think before acting or speaking may become a touchstone for others seeking the benefit of their quiet wisdom. Their opinion is often considered to be the strongest in the room, all because they quietly took the time to think. A passage from the Bible about quiet wisdom seems especially appropriate for our current political environment – “The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.” (Ecclesiastes 9:17)

So, don’t worry if you aren’t the loudest in the room, especially when in a room full of loud fools. Quietly hold your own counsel, think and then speak softly, so that the listeners will have to lean in to hear your thoughts. Be quietly strong.


You have to work at it…

September 19, 2020

A recent post in the Jack’s Winning Words blog featured this quote – “Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is of the past, Wisdom is of the future.” – Lumbee

Certainly, that is good advice, but it immediately brought up the question of how does one seek wisdom. One dictionary definition of wisdom  is –

the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

Also found on the internet – “The primary difference between the two words is that wisdom involves a healthy dose of perspective and the ability to make sound judgments about a subject while knowledge is simply knowing. Anyone can become knowledgeable about a subject by reading, researching, and memorizing facts. … Wisdom is knowing when to say it or how to apply that knowledge.”

We often refer to older people as being wise or having wisdom, mainly because they have the perspective of age to look back over things that they experienced in life and draw conclusions about how to act in the future. Some people “never learn” and repeat the same mistakes in life over and over. They are seldom known as wise people.

The Bible is full of advice about wisdom, how to gain it, how to apply it and how to differentiate between the wise man and the fool. A couple of Bible passages that I found seemed to resonate –

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

Many of the quotes about wisdom in the Bible are about seeking and making use of advice. I think the first quote above offers the best advice for where to seek wisdom- ask God for His help. Asking God for help understanding things that happen in life puts them into a perspective from which one can better accept and understand them – thus, become wise from them.

The second quote speaks to the type of wisdom that God grants us by using words like “peaceable”, “gentle”, and “impartial”.  God’s wisdom allows us to be “open to reason”, “full of mercy” and “sincere”. As you think about becoming wise, what more could you hope to achieve than what is found in those words?

I think a key to tuning knowledge into understanding and wisdom is that you have to work at it. Asking God for help in prayer is working at it. Taking time to cool down and think about what just happened before you react is working at it. Pausing to think before you speak is working at it. Turning the other cheek, rather than striking back, is working at it. Refusing to allow kneejerk reactions to people or events dictate the course of your life is working at it.

One can accumulate knowledge without effort, but one achieves wisdom by working at it. Take some time each morning to reflect on the events of the immediate past and ask God to help you turn that knowledge into wisdom.

You have to work at it…


Seek wisdom within…

February 12, 2019

Today may end up being another of those days when one ends up with time for introspection. It’s either that or go shovel the snow and ice; and I’m not ready to shovel, yet.

Perusing through some quotes about wisdom, I happened upon these two –

 “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  ― Aristotle

There were also a number of quotes on wisdom that pointed to the same conclusion – namely, that realizing that you know nothing is the start of wisdom.

protestersI suspect that many of us when through a “change the world phase” in our lives, maybe more than one. It is only later in life that we realize that we were trying to make the world over into something of our own desires and not necessarily for the betterment of humankind. Of course, at the time we firmly believed that what we wanted was for the good of humankind. Hubris always seems to precede humility in life.

As one ages, there is more time spent on the topic of knowing yourself and hopefully on becoming comfortable with that self-knowledge. I’ve posted here a few times on the topic of knowing, accepting and loving yourself before you can love others – see I Like Me and Just be Yourself, both of which I wrote back in 2014.

Maybe you can turn this snow day into a know day. Spend some time just with yourself,bored with your thoughts and dreams and with your fears and fantasies. Get to know yourself and try to better understand how those inner feelings influence how you react to the people and things going on around you.

The more honest insight into yourself that you can achieve, the better equipped you will be to deal with the things that happen in life; and, the more that you selfie stickan come to love yourself, the more able you will be to love others. I posted “Take a Life Selfie” here back in 2017 and maybe it’s worth a re-read today, too. It’s certainly a day when you may have time for taking that life selfie and reflecting upon it.

Have a reflective day.

I hope you end up happy with what you see in your life selfie.

 


Keep your mind’s bank open for life…

June 7, 2017

Recently Pastor Jack Freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“What you put into your mind before you are 21 is like a bank account.  You will be drawing on that for the rest of your life.”  (Yo Yo Ma)

While it is true that the things we learn in our formative years, during which many of us were in schools at various levels, it is also true that we continue to learn throughout our lives…if, our mind’s bank remains open.

There is a popular book titled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. The author focuses on the mores and character of our lives than on our knowledge and wisdom in that book. The fact is that, if we keep an knowledge inopen mind (open to learning new things), we can continue to learn and add to our bank account of knowledge until our last day. One can, and must, keep a sense of wonder about the things and people around us to keep learning. How do things work? Why do things happen? Who is that person and what can I learn from them? We must keep inquiring, questioning and wondering all of our lives in order to keep the bank accounts open. “There are few things more pathetic than those who have lost their curiosity and sense of adventure, and who no longer care to learn.” ― Gordon B. Hinckley.

It is rather common for young people, especially those still in school, to not understand the future value of what they are forced to learn in school. The common lament is “Why should I learn this, I’ll never use it?” In fact, that person may never use the exact things insightthat they are being taught; however, many things that are taught in school are taught within the context of a process and understanding the process is as important as understanding any single fact or equation. Most of the so-called STEM subjects fall into that category. Some subjects are lumped into a broad category called “enabling knowledge”, which is meant to establish a context in which the world can be better understood. Those topics may include social studies and history. Finally, a few may be classified as “enrichment” topics, such as art classes; which are meant to broaden or enhance our perceptions of the world around us. In truth, epecially once we get out of school, George Whitman put it well when he said – “All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”

Some people seem to shut down the desire to learn more when they get out at whatever level of schooling they stopped, while others continue a life of wonderment and learning. A life well-lived might be better measured by what one has accumulated in the bankbrain map of one’s mind, rather than the money accumulated in regular banks. In the financial world there is the concept of compounding (interest earning interest) and in the bank of one’s mind there is the concept of wisdom. The interest that one earns on all of that accumulated knowledge is called wisdom. Instead of just drawing on what you learned as a student in school, heed this advice from Albert Einstein – “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

worriesSo, keep your mind open to learning, to acquiring new knowledge and new ideas and view them as deposits into your mind’s knowledge bank. It is a wise man indeed who never stops making deposits in his bank of knowledge. Henry Ford hit upon another reason to keep learning – “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Stay young my friends – keep learning.


It’s a living; but, is it a life?

March 2, 2017

“Work won’t hug you when you’re old.”  (Bob Dotson)  – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – Dotson tells of a man whose work caused him to be away from home for extended periods of time.  While gone, he’d plan “Daddy Days” with his daughter when he got home.  Those were special!  We need to be alert so that in our making a living, we don’t neglect to make a life.

I’ve written here a few times before about the danger of getting so wrapped up in one’s family grroupcareer and the need to make more and more money, that one forgets the important things in life – why and for who they are supposedly doing it. All too often it is the parting embrace of the father-daughter dance at her wedding that a father realizes his little girl has grown up and that he missed most of it, because he was so hard at work. Perhaps it is when his son drives away with his bride that the father stops to reflect on years of missed ball games and lost opportunities for father-son bonding.

Whether we admit it or not, a large part of the cause for one’s devotion to a career, is not the drive to earn money for the family, it is the need to feed an ego that hungers for recognition and adoration.  It is the need for external indications of success in life that one may not be able to find or identify from their day-to-day family life. Only later in life do father-daughter dancepeople who fall into that trap find out that the most important roles that they ever had in life were husband and father. At least Dorson recognized that enough to plan Daddy Days when he was home.

Many over-achievers find even more ways to attain self-gratification when not working by engaging in sports or other competitive leisure-time pursuits.  They don’t see being a successful parent and being engaged in their children’s lives to be as a satisfying “win” as being club champion at the country club. I was interested to read recently that Christopher Ilitich, the new CEO of the Ilitch Enterprises pizza and entertainment empire, is also a coach on his son’s baseball team. It appears that he is living a more balanced and rewarding life.

Sometimes trying to achieve that balance can feel a little like the guy with one foot on the dock and one foot in an untied boat. The dock (your family and home life) is, and should beone-foot-on-the-dock the foundation upon which your life is based. The boat will almost certainly try to float away and take you from that foundation. It is tempting sometimes to just jump into the boat and see where it takes you and you may not even look back at the dock until it is out of sight. It takes a stronger person to keep a foot on/in both and not let the boat drift away with you in it. If you really think about it; everything that you really want and cherish is on the dock and not in the boat; so, never give up your foothold there.

So much of the wisdom of life that is shared by older people is couched in terms like “don’t do what I did” that is make one wonder why it took so long for them to realize their mistakes. Perhaps the answer is found in Ecclesiastes 2:2626 – To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Perhaps, instead of chasing the wind, if one man prayingfinds God first, He will give you the wisdom to see the important things in life and show you the right path to take.

I have a feeling that if you center your life around God the rest of the things will take care of themselves and you will have more fulfilling relationships with your wife and children. They will be there to give you those hugs throughout life and not just when you are old. As you count your “treasures” at the end of life, those accumulated hugs will be of much greater value than all of the salary and bonuses that you’ve ever earned.  Make all of the days that you can Daddy Days and Husband Days with those who love you.

Have a great rest of the week. There’s a Daddy Weekend coming up.


Maybe wisdom is – knowing how to avoid having to use the exceptions…

August 13, 2016

From recent posts to the Jack’s Winning Words blog come these two quotes – 

“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”  (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

“Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from getting into situations where you need it.”  (Doug Larson)

boredWe all gain knowledge over time; or at least we are exposed to situations from which we could/should learn and gain knowledge. We may or may not gain wisdom from those experiences. One definition that I found for wisdom is – Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.

So, wisdom is actually the display of the use of all of the knowledge and experiences that one has had in life, combined with some thoughtful insight and some common sense. One can take from that definition that a person displaying wisdom will know when to use those exceptions that apparently come from living long enough to have discovered or experienced them. More importantly that same wisdom will help that person avoid those situations that would require the use of that wisdom. No one ever said at the end of an episode of the TV show Jackass that the participants were wise; although they might painfully be a bit more knowledgeable at the end of the episode.

Perhaps the secret to wisdom is found in the last three characteristics in the definition visualizingabove –understanding, common sense and insight. All of us go through life experiencing things and learning things, but not all take the time to reflect on what we’ve learned and our experiences to understand them and gain some insight from them. Some also may suffer from a deficit of common sense. Another saying from a recent post that Jack made was this – “To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”  (Edmund Burke). Perhaps to have experiences without learning is the same and is caused by the same lack of reflection.

Just taking time to think at the end of an event or experience in your life is helpful. Ask yourself, “what just happened; how did that happen; how did I react to what just wisdom2happened and what can I take away from what just happened?” Going through a thought process like that can help you turn an experience into knowledge and gain insight that will help turn that knowledge and experience into wisdom. That wisdom will better prepare you for the next experiences that you have.

Have a thoughtful, reflective weekend and perhaps you’ll gain in wisdom.

 


Sharing the wisdom of all ages…

August 21, 2015

“If you only get involved with young people you don’t learn anything about the world.”  (Edmund White) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Edmund White was probably trying to encourage young people to spend some time with older people and not toold and young just hang around with people their own age. The young can hopefully tap into the wisdom that their elders have accumulated from a lifetime of experiences and perhaps avoid repeating the mistakes that led to some of that wisdom.  As Jack went on to point out, there is also much for older people to learn from the young.

The youth of every era represent the changes that are taking place in our society; so, spending time with them and understanding their perspective on things will help older people see and understand the changes that are taking place in society. Conversely, the youth might gain the perspective of where things came from and better understand how different things are for them than they were for their parents or grandparents. Many of them are growing up never having experienced the things and life styles that shaped their elders viewpoints. For them a life lacking modern technologies would be as weird and bewildering as some of their elders find their use tutoringof technology to be today. Imagining a world where the phone was attached to a cord is as strange to them as their elder’s bemusement over modern smartphone usage.

Hopefully, if you’re a younger person, you will make some time to spend with your grandparents or other older relatives just talking about life as it was and as it is today. You might enjoy some of the stories that they have to tell you, and you might even learn something. If you have no older relatives close to where you live, perhaps you could visit a senior living home in your area and see if there are some lonely seniors there who would enjoy a visit and a chance to talk with you.

If you are the elder person in this scenario, put aside your suspicions and concerns about modern technologies and the youthful life styles that you may not agree with and see if you can tap into and understand the energy and enthusiasm that is there in youth. You may have forgotten what it was like to be young or you may only selectively remember your own youthful exuberance and the mistakes that you made while you were growing up. Perhaps those weren’t mistakes after all, just learning experiences. Share your wisdom with the young while recapturing some little piece of that wonderful, innocent and naive that we call youth.  You can’t go back, but maybe some of those memories and feelings can come back to you.

In a broader sense, you could restate today’s quote to read “If you only get involved with people who arediversity just like you, you don’t learn anything about the world.” It is through diverse relationships – across ages and races and religions and ethnic groups – that we broaden our perspective of the world. The ability to understand other viewpoints and share the experiences and wisdom of diverse groups enables a richer understanding of the world around us. Integrating those differences into our own thinking allows us not only to be more tolerant of differing opinions, but gives us a much richer knowledge base upon which to base our own life decisions. Enrich your life today. Talk to someone not your own age, race, color, religion or ethnic background. You’ll be glad that you did.