My Pentecost 159
My Proverbs 9
Good, Better, Best
Tim Duncan once said: “Good. Better. Best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” We are taught that wisdom has value and enables the right to rule. We assume that wisdom is a correct way of living; that a good life is the promise of wisdom.
The tree of life is a synonym for the tree of knowledge found in the Creation story, found in many Creation stories from many different cultures. Wisdom itself is sometimes a synonym for life, for knowledge, for avoiding eternal oblivion or hell. In Proverbs, the ninth chapter, wisdom becomes personified and speaks, imploring: “Happy are those who keep my way.” How do we use wisdom to find happiness?
For most people, living in the latter half of the twentieth century and the current twenty-first century, advertising has had more of an impact than spiritual tenets. Even the Anabaptists like the Amish in the USA have fallen victim to the enhancements solar panels offer and the wind turbines of the latter nineteenth century in providing electricity. Once firmly entrenched in their desire to remain “simple”, now they just want to remain free from government utilities. Using electricity in many sects is now approved as long as they do not become part of the larger “grid”. I do not argue with their choices but perhaps they are forgetting they only have those choices because they are part of the larger grid called the United States of America.
Advertising executive Lois Bray uses Einstein’s theory of relativity when discussing ineffective direct mail campaigns. “They lack relativity, the ability to relate to their audience, or for that matter, offer any relevance at all. This theory isn’t about the continuum of space and time but about cause and effect. Simply, when marketing to a target audience, if you deliver a relevant message in a relevant format in a relevant presentation, your chances of achieving a desired response will grow exponentially.”
One could say that about how we use wisdom in our lives. Do we apply space and time to wisdom or is our wisdom more about cause and effect? More importantly, do we use wisdom to grow exponentially – mentally, emotionally, and physically?
Buddha once wrote: “Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” Once upon a time, people wrote long letters to each other. These letters described in great detail what they had been doing, what they felt, what their dreams were for the future. Today our lives are like a postcard or the more modern tweet. If it cannot be said in the space of one hundred and forty characters, it must not be important. Anything more is considered frivolous.
We are all living busy lives in a world that seems, at best, chaotic and at worst, frightening. “Tweet” communication seems to make sense. The tweet or FaceBook post is cost-effective, and time-saving. We avoid face-to-face contact so personal responsibility for another’s feelings is at a minimum. The problem is that first, one has literally one or possibly two seconds to grab the recipient’s attention. Secondly, you must completely convey your thoughts succinctly. This does not allow for nuances of feeling or thought. Thirdly, it does not encourage dialogue. Thus life becomes a monologue.
The monologue is an effective tool for dramas. It allows the audience to see inside the character’s head. By the very nature of its definition, though, a monologue has no interplay, no chance for growth, no chance for gained knowledge. It simply states what is already known or felt. It can help identify those feelings but it cannot expand them based upon new wisdom. Life lived as a monologue is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.
“Good, better, best” is also a marketing technique. The advertiser carefully constructs a comparison of three products, usually competitors. The product being advertised for the big sale is the best, of course. The carefully arranged comparison leaves the reader or prospective buyer with no choice other than the product being pushed since everyone want to make the wisest purchase. It is a ploy or technique used by people in many fields, not the least of which is religion.
Oliver Wendell Holmes illustrated this in his famous quote: Wisdom has taught us to be calm and meek; to take one blow, and turn the other cheek. It is not written what a man shall do, if the rude caitiff smites the other, too!” What is the wisdom for dealing with enemies, especially in a twitter world? The answer has become cyber-bullying. Stating one’s case would require far too many characters, far too many tweets or FaceBook posts and so, complete annihilation of the other party is seen as wise.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.” Charles Dickens’ statement shows we cannot lay all the blame on Twitter nor FaceBook or any other of the instant messaging applications life has to offer. We each have a choice and an obligation to ourselves to be smart in determining our actions. We write our own autobiography with each step. The roots for our own Tree of Life were planted by Creation and nurtured by our ancestors. The leaves on our own Tree of Knowledge are there for our eyes to see and our lives to experience if we open our eyes to them.
Jean Shinoda Bolen said: “Insights from myth, dreams, and intuitions, from glimpses of an invisible reality, and from perennial human wisdom provide us with hints and guesses about the meaning of life and what we are here for. Prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action are the means through which we grow and find meaning.” Paraphrasing Proverbs 9:35-36 – For those who find wisdom will find life but those who ignore wisdom will injure themselves and become lovers of death.
My Proverb 9
When in doubt, I will ask: Would I want this done to me? Would I grow from this? Is the world a better place because I have lived this?