Monday, March 23, 2009

Inexhaustible Inspiration 11/22/08

Of all of our possessions, wisdom alone is immortal.

Well my monitor problem has been graciously solved I'm happy to say. But now there is no heat in my apartment and the range and oven have completely stopped working. There's always something. But then, if there weren't, there'd be nothing.

I have written in this journal about those who mistake the messenger for the message. Who think the actor must be like the character he plays. Who look at results and call them causes. Who make assumptions and then act on them as if they were truths.

People with wealth often want to be remembered by endowing an organization, building a wing on a hospital, setting up a scholarship or erecting a tall building all with their names on them,so that they will be remembered. Portraits are painted, statues carved, biographies and autobiographies are written. And all of it is to point a finger of immortality at a mortal.
But, like the person who loves the actor because he loves the character he plays, it's a useless look in the wrong direction.

When I was in high school I was a runner and I would run relay races. Like the Pony Express, where the riders would change horses at certain places by literally jumping off one horse and onto a fresh one, in a relay race the baton is passed from one runner to another. The classic reason for the relay race was to deliver a document over a space of many miles by passing it from one runner to another. The third runner in that message delivery never met the first one, yet he benefited from that first runner's speed.

It seems to me that wisdom comes in three styles. There's the wisdom that knows why things are the way they are, the wisdom that knows how to create and make things and the wisdom that knows how to fix things and keep them running properly (like my stove, one of these day, hopefully, so I can bake my potato and won't have to make my morning coffee from hot tap water).

But does the portrait of Bach, the statue of Balzac or the newly reconstructed face of Galileo tell us anything about what those men knew? No more than the endowment, the chair in Economics at the local college or the new wing on the hospital tell us about what the rich people knew who put them there.

We have inherited wisdom from the thinkers, the scientists, the artists, the designers, the craftsmen, the engineers, the mechanics and the peasants of the past. And whether it comes into the hands of the wealthy, the geniuses or the ordinary everyday vagabonds like me, we shape it, hone it, polish it, color it, add to it and pass it to the next runner to carry on into the human race, and that is our true spiritual immortality.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

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