For my job this summer we use twitter to report what’s happening at the two desks on campus, which I thought gave me a nice opportunity to impart wisdom to my coworkers. The thought first came when I noticed how “on the ball” everyone was the first weekend we had to work, which reminded me of a proverb my grandmother taught me over spring break, “A new broom sweeps clean.” I’d never heard this, and when I did I thought, “How brilliant.”
I went to Catholic school from the second grade all the way to the tenth, and in my exposure to church life, particularly the Bible, I came to have certain things I liked more than others. One was Reconciliation. I love going to Confession, and still do. Is it weird to say that? Am I suppose to loathe it?
Another aspect I came to love was the book of Proverbs. I remember sitting in Religion class and reading each of the proverbs and thinking, “These are absolutely wonderful. I can apply them anywhere.” There is something powerful about this kind of wisdom.
Later in seminary when I took Introduction to the Old Testament, we had a lecture devoted to this book, and I remembered all of a sudden how much I loved this. I think there’s a legitimacy and deep truth in what we’re drawn to as children. I loved wisdom as a kid. Not bad, if I may say so. I still do and not until recently have I thought about what’s going on when someone recites a proverb. Our Old Testament professor said a proverb is simply letting nature teach us. It’s an observation. Notice the one I used earlier.
“A new broom sweeps clean.” Taken literally it’s just a fact. Sure, new brooms sweep clean, but something in our brain connects with our soul and says, “Aha. That’s wise. So true.” Robots would have a tough time picking up on this. Unless those robots have souls, which is something I don’t want to think about.
“A single ant can destroy the whole dam.”
“One bad apple spoils the bunch.”
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
“Even a sheet of paper has two sides.”
And so on.
Aren’t these great? “Even a sheet of paper has two sides.” I love that one.
Well, I decided I’d gather proverbs from cultures all over the world and put one on each report I give on twiiter for work. So a tweet might look like this, “Will at VS desk. All keys present. ‘A fall into a ditch makes you wiser.’” Not only are my coworkers being informed, they’re souls are enriched by the wisdom I’m spreading like fertilizer in a flower garden.
Here are my favorites so far:
From little acorns mighty oaks do grow.
Good fences make good neighbors.
All men are fools, but all fools are not men.
Dream different dreams while on the same bed.
Flies never visit an egg that has no crack.
If you do not study hard when young you'll end up bewailing your failures as you grow up.
An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can't buy that inch of time with an inch of gold.
Like ants eating a bone.
A sly rabbit will have three openings to its den.
No wind, no waves.
Vicious as a tigeress can be, she never eats her own cubs.
You can't catch a cub without going into the tiger's den.
One who chases after two hares won't catch even one.
A merry companion on the road is as good as a nag.
Adversity is the foundation of virtue.
Those who have one foot in the canoe, and one foot in the boat, are going to fall into the river.
Those that lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.
There is nothing as eloquent as a rattlesnakes tail.
Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass.
Of course, not all of them are observations of nature, they might seem more like statements that place value on certain actions of virtues. Either way, we’d all be a little better off to remember these sayings.
One last point, though, I have to make. These proverbs sometimes seemingly contradict each other, yet both remain true. “Birds of a feather flock together” seems to contradict “Opposites attract,” but something must be said about their application. It’s not as if a person merely makes a comment affirming what they see, it really is true that each might apply in that case. They are still incredibly valuable, and serve as guideposts in making decisions and living. I won’t go as far as to say that when it comes to wisdom it’s all relative and situation specific, which would be false. Hard work and patience are virtues, so are rest and decisiveness. These virtues all imply a kind of moderation, which is at the center of all such wisdom. This kind of morality exists. Love, hope and faith, however, should never be moderate.
Has this kind of wisdom and proverb-sharing fallen to the wayside in our time? Is it needed?