Pearls Of Wisdom And Time To Just Shut Up

By:  Columnist Bob Grafe

First Published:  January 18, 2010

As one grows older, it becomes abundantly clear that life and politics are similar to what happens when you add water to a dry package of Kool-Aid. Once mixed together, it is almost impossible to ever again separate them back into their original forms.

For many senior citizens, much of life is impacted by the political stage of daily life. One day it may be concerns about ones future health care — and how to afford it on a fixed or even a semi-fixed income.

The next day may bring about worry for grandchildren who have been called to military service. Then the focus changes to a natural disaster somewhere around the globe claiming the lives of thousands. Or, to a potential life-changing event such as a political race where much is at stake for senior citizens and other citizens alike.

With all of this busy activity filling up one’s limited plate of choices, what is a senior citizen to do?

At times like this, it may be both helpful and rewarding to share our limited knowledge about life with our grandchildren and other loved ones. Senior citizens have an abundance of those little “secrets of life” that have been passed down over many years. And, many personal “lessons” that senior citizens have learned themselves during their lifetime.

Maybe it is time to share these insights and warnings — while there is still time to do so.

There is a story to share that might help our grandchildren and others to make good choices in life. The story is about an old Cherokee who was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A battle is raging inside me … it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The old man fixed the children with a firm stare. “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee replied: “The one you feed.”

Like the Cherokee story, suggestions for coping with many of life’s challenges, political and otherwise, are found throughout history and are important to pass along.

Sun-Tzu, the Chinese general and military strategist is credited with the idea that it is important to “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Julius Caesar is the likely originator of the conflict strategy of “Divide and conquer.” This might be presented as an example of what some in politics (and elsewhere in life) today employ to their advantage during a conflict.

Even the French have had interesting philosophies to use during a conflict. Nepolean Bonaparte instructed “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.”

Our first president, George Washington, taught us “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”

Spoken as a wise and patient political force in Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher taught “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

Oscar Wilde’s proposal that “A man can’t be too careful in his choice of enemies.” is something that is frequently forgotten in our daily lives.

The fewer the enemies one has means that there is more time to focus on doing good for ones family, community, state, nation — even the world.

By looking for and understanding those little nuggets of wisdom that have been left for us along life’s pathway, senior citizens are able to prepare themselves and others for circumstances that may appear impossible to overcome.

“Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Socrates made that observation sometime between 470-300 B.C. Some things really don’t change much over time!

Author Ernest Hemmingway recommended that we “Never mistake motion for action.” Something that takes a few years of experience to finally learn for many of us.

Martin Luther King, Jr. left us with this reflection about life: “If a man is called to be a street-sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street-sweeper who did his job well.’”

Abraham Lincoln taught us that “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.” And, football coach Vince Lombardi commented “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

Some bits of wisdom take some time to digest, but, digest they will.

George Carlin once said “Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.” Comedian or politician?

Perhaps the humorous genius of those like Will Rogers are the most palatable snippets of knowledge to catch people’s attention when senior citizens attempt to leave this world a little better than they found it — by sharing their years of wisdom and of hard-knocks experiences.

Rogers taught us many things about the lives we live. He observed that “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” He also noted this jewel: “Don’t squat with your spurs on.”

And, Rogers also cautioned that no matter how important it was to get ones point across to others, one should “Never miss a good chance to shut up!”

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