“And I [Solomon] applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this is also but a chasing after wind.
“For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.”
~Ecclesiastes 1:17-18 (NRSV).
We can all too easily fall for the trap of formulising life, thinking at some point we’ve ‘made it’. It’s called pride, and we’re all susceptible. The Teacher of Ecclesiastes, however, is saying, “No matter the level of our success or acquired wisdom, we’ll never reach a point in life when all of life makes complete sense and our way is paved.”
The midlife crisis is often characteristic of this. A millionaire’s bankruptcy too.
Sometimes the more we know the more pain we feel. Wisdom is much more than knowledge and experience. It’s morally exacted. Learning is deeper than facts.
Many who have had their share of early success in life find themselves having achieved so much, but with still so many years of life to run. Some burn out. Some lose their purpose or edge. Others find that their ‘name’ doesn’t endure like they thought it would.
This is why we should be careful who we compare ourselves with—wait ten years and take another look! Life has a way of levelling out the pecking order; of bringing the leaders back to the field.
The World’s Wisdom
It’s the world’s prevailing conventional wisdom that dictates the modes, measures and meaning regarding success in this life. And for the most part the world survives very well on this—at times—crass logic, thank you very much!
This wisdom is a dog-eat-dog wisdom of competition and so-called ‘merit,’ which is partiality. It sides with empathy when—and generally only when—there is some advantage of influence or persuasion to be made from it. In other words, it uses the wiles of motivation for its own ends.
As mentioned earlier, for the most part this wisdom succeeds. It’s good enough. After all, why would the world need to always be morally genuine when it doesn’t need to be?
But, this method comes seriously unstuck eventually.
Jesus’ Wisdom is as Unconventional as It Gets
It comes as no surprise to Christians to hear the following wisdom:
“... whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
~Mark 10:43b-45 (NRSV).
This wisdom is so wise it confounds the world in both its simplicity and effectiveness. Yet, the world will not understand it because it requires authentic selflessness to extract its workings. This is a hard thing to achieve; impossible without a heart of love.
The key for the Christian person is mastering this method of unconventional wisdom—to instil a mode of surrender that covets nothing, and indeed supports others selflessly.
This is otherwise known as humility and it is set beautifully in virtuous patience.
There is eternal light in this wisdom, for it illuminates the soul who is the purveyor of it as well as the souls of others who are exposed to it.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.