Monday, May 29, 2006

Wisdom

It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. - Mahatma Gandhi

I read the above quote on Moto’s discussion forum and couldn't agree more.

Somebody once told me he thought I was wise. I don’t want to be called wise. It’s too much responsibility. I don’t want people to think I have all the answers. I don’t want people to think that just because I write down my beliefs on this blog that I think I’m wise. If anything, my constant introspection and sharing of experiences reminds me of some of my greatest follies. All I have are life experiences that I’m willing to share with whomever might want to listen.

I think my grandfather was wise -- though he likely would have disputed it. He lived into his nineties – a long and varied life; immigrating to Canada at the age of eighteen, teaching himself to read and write English, living through the BC gold rush, the building of the BC railroad, two world wars, riots against the “yellow peril”, fires, the depression, bankruptcy, defrauding by a business partner, two wives and raising of six children. Through all of this, he remained a gentle, quiet man. He never raised his voice, never struck back at those who mistreated him – believing that to do so would be to lower himself to their standards. He lived the Golden Rule of “treating others as you wish to be treated”.

I always think of him as a gentleman and a scholar. I remember that he read constantly. Every evening, he’d be in his room hunched over the desk with a gooseneck lamp reading English and Chinese newspapers, his worn, tattered story books, and the encyclopaedia. If he wasn’t reading, he’d be doing calligraphy – gnarled hands around the bamboo brush; delicately dipping into the ink, wrist twisting and turning like an orchestra conductor in miniature to achieve the perfect point, before letting loose with swift strokes down a tissue-paper page, soft, bold, dark, light. Some of the characters I recognized, some I didn’t, but he made it all look effortless and beautiful. He tried teaching me, but I was impatient and all I can remember is my name and too few words to make a coherent sentence.

He believed also in sharing his experiences. He liked telling stories; both his own and the folk tales he learned as a child. It’s how he ultimately passed on his values and beliefs. I see them in myself and even my youngest brother, who doesn’t really remember him – but learning one generation removed via our father.

Maybe it’s why I seem to have this compulsion to tell my stories and share my experiences for the benefit of my sons. I’d like to think they’ll carry some of my values with them through life, but of course there’s no guarantee. They’re strong-willed, independent souls who’ll figure it out in their own time. I do, however, smile silently to myself when I hear them repeat something I told them long ago, as if it were their own idea. Yet, in a way, it is “theirs”. They chose to internalize it.

As usual, I’ve rambled on and ended up somewhere I didn’t intend. But as my son keeps telling me, “Not to worry. It’s all good.”

4 comments:

Journey Through Life said...

what a lovely post!
I agree with completely with your quote as well. Gaining wisdom is never-ending. And your grandfather sounds wonderful!
JTL
xxx

chuck said...

I loved this post and it reminded me of another quote, I'm sure whose, but it was my motto at work and it was "all I know for sure is that I know nothing" :)

Joy said...

Your son is right. :-)

Wenda said...

I like the post, too. I don't see it as rambling at all. I think Chuck's motto originated with Socrates, but what do I know? ;)