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Prevailing Winds and the Distant Shore of Wisdom

September 29th, 2018 by Michael Dyet


Hmmm, what is this elusive thing called wisdom and how can I lay my hands on it?

Now that I am in the sixth decade of my life, I spend more time pondering the elusive concept of wisdom and whether I can lay claim to having acquired it. In all honesty, I do not believe I am there yet. It seems advisable to seek out the insights of influential thinkers who have covered this ground before me.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

Socrates, Classical Greek philosopher

You cannot go wrong with Socrates, right? Ordinarily, yes, but I am not convinced he is on the right track. His perspective seems defeatist to me as it implies that wisdom is not attainable. Looking deeper, however, I see his point. Our individual body of knowledge is but a water drop in the ocean of all knowledge. Coming to terms with that fact must be part of the equation.

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.

Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States

Jefferson’s take on wisdom also seems at first blush to be too simplistic. Yes, honesty goes a long way in keeping us on track. But is it that pivotal? Perhaps the real gem here is the book metaphor which implies that wisdom is multidimensional and more than the sum of its parts.

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr, American Physician and Poet

I do quite like Holme’s take on the subject. Acquiring the discipline to stay within the field of play is a requirement in the journey. But nothing is written in stone. Learning to recognize when an exception applies and how to recalibrate accordingly is a byproduct of hard-won experience.

There is a wisdom of the head and a wisdom of the heart.

Charles Dickens, British Novelist and Social Critic

I think my old friend Dickens may be closest to the mark. His words speak to the essential dichotomy of our existence – the tug of war between the logical, no exceptions frame of reference of the mind and the sometimes messy but more encompassing outlook of the heart. Dickens’ great works of literature all drive home the reality of that struggle.

You will not be surprised to hear that I identify with Dickens insight because it leaves room for the role of metaphor. Acquiring wisdom is a lifelong journey, full of stops and starts, wrong turns and miscalculations, with the mind and the heart taking turns steering the ship. Marrying the two in a state of harmony is the prevailing wind that will get us to the distant shore of wisdom.

~ Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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~ Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

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