Proverbs...New Year's Wisdom, For The Pathways Of Life...
If there's one thing that I believe we all hope for, particularly in a new year, it would be wisdom. Most of us have probably either done or said something that we wished we hadn't.
But this year...this year will be different, of course! We will attain and practice wisdom, right? Uh huh. Still, hope springs eternal, does it not?
By the way, as a sidebar, what about those "resolutions" of yours? As we begin the new year, just how are they going for you? Got 'em all typed up and placed on your refrigerator? Got all those receipts of yours all together for your tax accountant? What's wrong? Can't quite get yourself together? Don't cry. You're not alone. Those "New Year's Blues" hit lots of people. You know, I'm just thinking about those reports of all those alleged wintertime depression-inducing conditions ranging from sunlight deprivation to cabin fever. Happy thoughts, indeed?
Of course, here in Lakewood, we are probably better off than our neighbors in the southern and eastern parts of Cuyahoga County, where the "Snow Belt" reigns supreme. We often measure our own snowfall in inches, while those other suburbanites may end up wondering which snowdrift their cars are buried under! Let's face it, we've got a few dark and blustery months ahead of us until it's daffodil time again. More or less, each season spans about 90 days, and of course they never quite fit into those neatly wrapped seasonal packages, do they? Fall weather sometimes previews wintertime, and winter weather can extend well into springtime. Funny thing though...around here, I never seem to remember fall weather intruding too much into winter's schedule. (Although this year our fall's been pretty nice, has it not?)
To get through those dark days ahead, some of us may turn on more lights, while others will cuddle up next to a roaring fire. Some strong hearts will hit the slopes with their skis and snowboards, while others might take a zip or two down the Metropark's toboggan slides. By now, the snow removal contracts have been signed and the snow blowers are all reconditioned and ready. The question is, are we?
We really do need wisdom to see us through, but where, exactly, can we find it? I, for one, failed to find it on the shelves before Christmas, or for that matter at any of the after-holiday sales either, so where CAN we find it?
Well, we might start with the Bible.
No kidding. There's one great book in the Bible (among others) dedicated to wisdom. It's called the Book of Proverbs. From way back then until now, the word "proverbs" has come to mean "wise sayings." The "Book of Proverbs" was a collection of wise sayings attributed to King Solomon of Israel and perhaps others, many years before the time of Christ. Whatever your faith tradition, perusing this book will provide amazing insight into the practicalities of life. Of course, while proverbs often convey great truths, there are also times that common sense has to come into play. In fact, the Book of Proverbs even seems to allow for that aspect! Proverbs can even be contradictory too, as applied to differing situations, I suppose.
Let's take a look at just a few of these ancient biblical sayings. I won't quote them verbatim, or go by chapter and verse, because of the vagaries of translations in the Bible's many different versions. Still, even with all of those versions, it's just amazing to me how the essence of these writings has never been lost. One of my favorites would be the one that makes the point about a man being known for his actions. (Note: although those "proverbs" were mostly addressed to males back then, they certainly would seem to apply more universally these days.) Then there's the one stating that a rich man's wealth is his only strength, and a poor man's poverty his only curse. There's another one that says an empty barn is clean, but no money comes from an empty barn either! Another proverb says that we all face a wide and pleasant road ending in death (the implication being that roads less wide and pleasant are sometimes the better ones to travel?). There's also one about the rich man having many "friends," and another one that warns about the evils of pride. Other proverbs speak of the necessity of child discipline. Some of those are not without present-day controversy too, as that "spare the rod" proverb has sometimes unfortunately been interpreted to justify draconian juvenile disciplinary situations.
There are other wise admonitions about speaking for the needful and making sure they are offered justice, as well as the value of having a good wife. Others speak of the importance of not plotting evil. There are literally hundreds of wise proverbs in that book that we can learn and profit from, again framing their context with good old common sense.
In addition to the many proverbs found in the Good Book, I've also collected a pile of those "wise sayings" over the years from other sources. Here are just a few of them:
There's no education in life like adversity. (Disraeli)
You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb himself. (Andrew Carnegie)
Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. (Mark Twain)
Be as you wish to seem. (Socrates)
Finally, here's one more common sense proverb for you, again from the Great Book:
“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” Prov. 14:15.
Let us please, then, look well to our "going" in this new year. Wisdom would indeed demand no less.