By the time most people think of their legacy, it’s too late to worry about it, for legacy is not the way we posture ourselves in front of others but the way that others speak of us after we have left the room. A good name is the reward of the wise; a bad name is the ruin of a fool. One of these is already happening. We are becoming the end of our journey, wise or foolish, and every moment takes us closer there. As goes the river, so goes our legacy.
With the demise of traditional institutions, where do you go to learn wisdom? Of all places designed to teach it (schools, public forums, etc), the most powerful might also be the most overlooked today. Nearly everything that wisdom – or folly – has to teach us is first learned in the home. In spite of our confusion over what, exactly, a family is, there remains a presence of both strong and weak families in our day and each has their common practices.
In Proverbs, the rich can be poor and the poor can be rich, depending on the relation that either has with wisdom. Prosperity is not simply money, but a lifestyle and it has, not only a different income, but a different mindset, different values, different ways, and a different relationship with our money. So what are the rules that lead to this prosperity?
the speed of a river changes we are pulled into one of two directions and it is here where our destiny is most evident, yet still unseen. From here, “a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the fool keeps going and suffers for it,”. In one direction go the wise who are honest and kind, and in the other go the fools, who are deceptive and self-absorbed.
“Even though words have gone wild, they still matter. In fact, words shape our destiny. James says that the tongue is like a tiny rudder that is used to steer a ship. They take us in one direction or another. Yet how often we get careless with our words. In Proverbs, the wise and the foolish talk differently. The words of the wise are powerful and bring efficient. The words of a fool are empty and profuse.
Another of the subtle currents that carry us is the current of ambition, and Proverbs has much to say about it. Opportunity comes to everyone, it says, though not in the same degree and the wise are those who seize that opportunity. Fools wait for the perfect opportunity and, ignoring all others, complain that no opportunity has come. But how does one seize opportunity without becoming over-ambitious?
“There is a pattern that emerges early in the life of the wise: they know to navigate desire. They do not let their impulses carry them away. Using discipline and restraint, like oars to steer a raft, wise people keep themselves out of currents that would carry them away. The fool pursues them recklessly. He is uninhibited, loud and defiant in his pursuit of pleasure. He can do what he wants but soon enough he won’t like what he gets.
“Everyone is talking, but who is really listening? Proverbs says that Wisdom is always calling out, yet who is seeking it? Wisdom falls like rain on the continental divide, and from there it flows toward those who listen and away from those who don’t. Most people would rather give advice than take it. Most, who are good at assessing others, are not as good at being assessed yet those who welcome criticism are the ones who find Wisdom.
There are two storylines in our day – one of unprecedented accomplishments and prosperity, and another of disorder and fear – and what is most needed is a remnant of genuine people who are wise. But what is wisdom? Where does it begin and how does the pursuit of it make all other things easier?