What you think of when you hear the word wisdom? Do you have visions of a wise owl? Do you think about Jeopardy finalists? Perhaps you imagine some incredibly old wrinkled man sitting in a temple on a distant snow covered mountain. He meditates on a tiny cushion and looks like the slightest wind would blow him over when in actuality he is a master of over 100 different martial arts and could probably knock Chuck Norris on his butt. OK, maybe that’s a cliche.
It’s easy to have a particular view of wisdom but one thing is for sure, it doesn’t necessarily come easy. It’s not handed to you on a silver platter when you are born, you can’t find it in a Cracker Jack box, and you can’t steal it and hide it away like Anansi the spider in the West African folktale.
Anansi was a spider that tried to hoard all of the world’s wisdom in a pot. Once he had it, he thought it would be safer hidden away in the hole of a tall tree. His son, Ntikuma, was curious and followed him, watching from a distance.
The pot was too big for Anansi to hold while he climbed the tree, so he tied it in front of him. Unfortunately, with the pot in this position, Anansi couldn’t grip the tree and kept slipping down. He got more and more frustrated with each attempt.
Ntikuma laughed when he saw what Anansi was doing. “Why don’t you tie the pot behind you, then you will be able to grip the tree?” he suggested.
Anansi was so angry at being outsmarted by someone so young. He loosened the string and the pot fell to the ground. It smashed and all the collected wisdom fell out. Just then a storm arrived and the rain washed the wisdom into the stream. It flowed out to the sea and spread all around the world so that there is now a little of it for everyone.
Although it is difficult to learn from our mistakes, the struggle helps you grow both intellectually and physically. When you learn something new, your brain creates new connections with synapses. The more you review or practice this new information, the more permanent the connection.
Every time you fail you will learn from it. You might be surprised at when you gain wisdom. It can happen at pinnacle points in your life or at mundane moments.
Maybe you have learned some of these:
- check the expiration date on the milk carton before you pour it into your cereal.
- read the terms or contract before you accept or sign.
- look and see if there is toilet paper in the bathroom stall before you sit down.
- wash your whites separately and check for stray red socks.
- when drinking soda from a can outdoors, tap the top before you take a sip to scare out any bees.
- have your house or car keys in your hand before you lock the door.
and a personal favorite:
- don’t spit into the wind.
Yeah, it isn’t fun learning these the hard way. Life is full of lessons so you should have plenty of opportunities to gain wisdom. Once you have some wisdom, don’t keep it to yourself like the spider, share it.