Proverbs 30:2-3 More Stupid than Any Man

Confucius and Socrates were by no means considered foolish. Instead, they were some of the most brilliant thinkers of their time. And yet, this is what they said:

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. -Confucius

One thing that I know, and that is that I know nothing. -Socrates

There was a king named Agur, the son of Jakeh. Nobody knows who he or his father was. But whoever he may have been, he was wise enough to write the 30th chapter of Proverbs. And how did he start off his chapter? With these words:

Surely I am more stupid than any man, and do not have the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom nor have knowledge of the Holy One.

Proverbs 30:2-3

I think I have made some progress over the years. But compared to Confucius, Socrates, or even Agur, I have barely even scratched the surface. Whatever stores of knowledge I have accumulated has only led me to the realization that my pursuit is not complete. In fact, it will never be complete.

I Don’t Know It

 “What do you know,” asked the voice on the other end of the line. It was the standard greeting whenever I call this friend.

“I don’t know it,” I replied. It was a deviation from the standard, “I wish I knew.”

For the last twenty years, this has been the opening salvo of our conversations. Over the last twenty years, I have gone to great lengths to gather as much knowledge as I can. I have done my best to understand the things I have learned. Knowledge and understanding. My quest for wisdom has always started with these two: knowledge and understanding. And yet when I am asked what I know, my answer is still, “I don’t know it.” I wish the answer was different. I wish I knew it. But the knowledge I accumulate only leads me to the realization of just how much I don’t know.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Confucius

The great Eastern sage makes a great point. One that even his Western counterpart, Socrates, agreed with when he said, “One thing I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Does this mean I now have real knowledge? Not even close! Too many things have prevented me from attaining the thing I desire most, namely my ego. I have often grown arrogant in the few things I do know. When brief flashes of enlightenment have come in the form of understanding, I have found pride in the accomplishment. But in truth, I am but a lowly student and cannot afford the debt of pride. Who am I to think I have found mastery?

The person on my phone call often says I am the wisest person he has ever met. I can’t help but wonder if he should broaden his horizons to include more wise people. If I only had a portion of my friend’s wisdom, I would be much wiser than I am today. I might even be considered somewhat successful. Yet, that is not the case. Therefore, my quest continues.


Feature photo by Jim Reardan on Unsplash

Separation through Practice

The great separator will be practice. It will be the time spent mastering the skill. It is the difference between the hobbyist and the artist. One views it as novel, the other as the very meaning of life.

Generally, we are all the same. But the one who spends the most time in practice, that person will be the one that can overcome any lack of natural talent. Through practice we can become something better than what we were.

By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart. –Confucius

What is it that you are wanting to get better at? What skill do you want to master? Become the student. Learn. Practice. Repeat.

Virtuous or Comfortable

You work hard during the day, and what do you want to do when you get home?

You work hard during the week, and what is it that you want to do on the weekend?

The most common answer would be to relax. It would be to take it easy, maybe watch some television. Sometimes, that is all I can think about. I just want to get home, put on some comfortable clothes, crack open a beer, and chill out. The ordinary person would say this is all right. They would say it is deserved, that we all need a break. And maybe, to some extent, they are right. A break is needed.

The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. -Confucius

I think of the superior man. That is what I want to be, but how will I get there? There are some out there that seem to never stop. They find the time to stay in top shape. Professionally, they work hard. They volunteer. They…well this list could keep going on.

What do they not do? They probably don’t think how they can coast. They don’t think about how they can just relax because they deserve it. Whether they realize it or not, they think of virtue, rather than comfort.

The four cardinal virtues:

Prudence. This is wisdom. The superior person is always chasing wisdom. They are seeking knowledge and applying understanding to the things they have learned. They are not passively passing the time watching TV.

Temperance. You can call it discipline. It is the sharpening of the mind and the body. It is not giving in to the easy or comfortable way. Like the tempering of steel, they are doing the hard things consistently so that they too can become hardened.

Justice. They do the right thing. They listen to their conscience and act accordingly. They live their lives in private the same way they live it in public.

Courage. Courage comes easily when you have wisdom, discipline, and justice. When you are shaky in these other virtues, the courage wanes and becomes fool hardy. But through the strengthening of the other virtues, what some would call the greatest of virtues, courage, is possible.

Courage is the greatest of all the virtues. Because if you haven’t courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others. –Samuel Johnson

We need courage to practice the others. We need the others to practice courage. They work together and none of it can be achieved in comfort. Take a break if you need to by switching gears between work and study. Develop your ability to last longer, go harder, and delve deeper. Practice the virtues and become superior. It is a fierce competition out there to become better than we were yesterday.

A Stewardship of Discipline

Temperance 12/24/2019

Your mind is a sanctuary. Without discipline, how can you rule your mind?

Your body is a temple. Without discipline, the home to your spirit and soul would be in disarray.

If you cannot rule your mind or your body, how can you expect to be a good ruler of anything else? Stewardship begins with controlling the things that are in your control. Start with the body and mind. Be a good steward in these two regards, and who knows how far your rule will one day extend.

If a man does not discipline himself, he cannot bring order to his home. -Confucius

The Two Spectrums of Habit

Prudence 11/11/2019

They are rock solid pillars of their communities. They have found a formula for victory, and they do not deviate from it. They have studied the works of others. From their studies, they have emulated the successful and discarded the waste. They have built foundational habits tailored to optimize their performance. They are the wisest of men.

The stupidest of men have also built some stunning habits. Habits that are so strong they will never be able to break them. They keep repeating the same patterns of mediocrity, which has time and again failed them. But rather than make a change, they persist in their destruction. They will never learn and will continue to be the stupidest of men.

Keep an eye on your habits. If they are not helping you to succeed, then break them as soon as you can. If not, those habits will become a powerful force in your life, leading to your destruction. Find what works and then build on it. Remove the garbage.

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change. –Confucius

Don’t be an idiot!

Moving Mountains

Faith 11/1/2019

I am thinking about this new house my wife and I recently purchased. It is a lovely 1972 ranch that has not been updated since 1972. It is almost overwhelming when I consider how much needs to be done to it.

Right now, we are working on the kitchen, ceiling, floors, garage, and the land. Each area seems to require immediate attention. This house is a mountain’s worth of projects, and we can only move it one stone at a time.

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away a small stone. –Confucius

When I take a look at my own personal journey, it isn’t much different than the house. On this quest to become the best I can be mind, body, and soul, I am discovering that it will take a lifetime. In a world full of distractions, where so many people and “stuff” are vying for my attention and time, the best I can hope to do is chip away a little bit at a time. The progress from day to day may seem minuscule. But if I persist daily, then the body of work over the decades will seem monumental. I will indeed have moved my own mountain.

We don’t luck into progress. We work on it every day. The other ways to get ahead may seem more desirable, easier, but they are fleeting and will not garner the same appreciation and gratitude as the slow way. Work on yourself daily and see the mountain of results build up over a lifetime.

Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily. –Epictetus

With Respect to Yourself

Justice 5/29/19: With Respect to Yourself

Consider yourself. Take a look in the mirror. Take a look into your past. What have you done? What are your qualities, your achievements? Who are you? Have you conducted yourself in a way that is worthy of respect? Have you treated your body, soul, and spirit with respect?

If not, maybe it is time for a change. Others won’t respect you if you don’t even respect yourself. Is it too late? Of course, it is not. But it will be if you do not act soon. Respect is not given. It is earned. Earn it.

Respect yourself and others will respect you. -Confucius

 

Meditate on the Good

Justice 5/1/2019

The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large. -Confucius

There is so much truth in these words from Confucius. When my mind is right, so is everything else.

It is easy with the news. You see that horrific clip and can’t get the image out of your mind. It is followed up with more horrors: tragedy, scandals, and corruption. It shapes your outlook while dampening your spirits. Meditate upon these thoughts and your mind will darken your viewpoint of the world.

Seneca said, “Virtue alone raises us above hopes, fears, and chances.” If you meditate on these thoughts, you will see the world brighten around you. You can hone your wisdom, become more disciplined, and have greater courage. You can live a righteous life filled with faith, hope, and charity. You could be the example for others to follow thereby improving the world around you. It begins with the thoughts in your mind.

The Virtue of Justice

What does it mean to live a just life? If right thoughts and right actions equal righteousness, can we be righteous? Our hope is that others treat us with justice. This of course is no guarantee, but it does not change our responsibilities. It is our responsibility to be honest in our deeds and in our words, and that we treat others with justice.

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Temperance 2/26/2019

If a man does not discipline himself, he cannot bring order into the home. -Confucius

You have only yourself to be blame if your house is in disarray. If you made this mess, then get some discipline and fix it.

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The Virtue of Temperance

Control. Discipline. Restraint. Call it what you will. But if you don’t have it, then life will be much harder. Rather than automating your life for success, your habits will be weak and detrimental. Temper your desires of excess. There is joy in moderation.

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