News and Tribune

May 28, 2013

CUMMINS: The continuing search for wisdom

Local columnist

— Do you ever wonder why man seeks material things that accumulate in his store rooms, rather than striving for what his life is all about? Man should give more thought to what he’s doing and where he’s going after his breathing stops. I use the term “man” rather than mankind, humankind or man/woman. Generally, women are wiser than men, who need more philosophical and spiritual help than women do. Women better understand the essence of life, especially after giving birth to a new life, a perfectly sacred undertaking if there ever was one.

My previous article explored what the wise men said after centuries of thinking things through. Modern man skipped all that and now relies on computers to jerk him through uncertain life. (To what end?) Man thinks if tech works for him, he can conquer just about anything. He can record his deepest or shallowest thoughts and wideweb them to people everywhere. As he spreads himself around, linking his Face to multitudes, who stare at screens to interact with him, he might be spreading himself too thin. Can he ever log on to his own essence using his hands to poke at things without connecting his heart and brain to human kind?

In a previous article, I reported what wise men learned. Wisdom gets to the heart of things, essentially how best to live the “good” life, which we’ve been granted. Our creator is the wisest of all, who put us here to create our own lives. I don’t think God is necessarily anti-Internet, but questions that texting is an acceptable form of prayer to him.

In his book, “A Calendar of Wisdom-Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul,” Leo Tolstoy devoted a major part of his life accumulating bits of wisdom from the world’s sacred texts to live by. He was a rich man who spent the end of his life giving his fortune away. In regard to wealth, he quoted numerous wise men including Jesus, who said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” If you are a rich man, beware of the IRS. Put your fortune in an off-shore bank.

If you decide to go bankrupt, what should you do then? Philosopher George Lichtenberg asked, “Who am I? What should I do? What should I believe in and hope for?”  You may not know who you are, but you determine what you do. Consider kindness: “Kind people feel good because they are kind.” Seneca said, “He who does good to others makes the biggest gift to himself.”  Confucius said, “All people have kindness within them.” That was before Congress passed the hate laws. Shelley, the poet, wrote, “The worst mistake ever made in this world was the separation of political science from ethics.” Amen!

Do you believe that all people have an equal right to the privileges of the world? How about healthcare? Repeal Obamacare and then what? If all men are created equal, Tolstoy said, “A person must completely close his eyes on his morals, that in a Christian society (He was a devout Christian) so filled with people in need, there are other people who are so proud to have great wealth.”

Themes running throughout the book of wisdom are — doing good, enjoying the simple life and its small pleasures, because “the greatest truth is the most simple one.” The wise recognized the role of faith and religion and living in the present, because the past and future do not exist. Not one wise man condoned violence and war. Otto Bismarck said, “I have a burden on my soul all my long life. I did not make anyone happy, not even myself. About 800,000 people were killed because of me on the battlefield, and their mothers, brothers and widows cried for them. And now this stands between me and God.” Where’s the wisdom when we’ve gone from “know thyself” to arm thyself?

 Speaking of the soul, Cicero said, “He who understands his soul will understand the divine spark within,” but what happens to the soul when death comes? Socrates said that death is a “permanent sleep.” Even the wisest don’t really know what happens after death. Life is where it’s at, and Helen Keller said, “Life is an adventure, or nothing.” So, when death comes, what an adventure that will be! Contemplate your life and pass some wisdom on — via the Internet, if you must. 

Contact Terry Cummins at