If, I say

If, as they say, wisdom — or at least practical wisdom or prudence — demands that we seek to control those things within our province and ignore those things we cannot possibly change, if, I say, that is what wisdom demands, then we need to ask a few questions. To begin with, we need to be able to recognize those things within our province. What things are within reach, as it were? What things CAN we control? Please note that this demands not only self-awareness, but knowledge of the world around us.

We are faced with many very large problems, nationally and globally. There is not much we can do about many of those problems except to elect leaders who seem to mean what they say and hope they are not simply lying in order to be elected. They may have the power and position to do something about, say, nuclear disarmament. We do not. Based on the historical record, however, we should not be too optimistic on that account.

Let’s stay a bit closer to home. Take global warming. Again, this is a huge problem and we can only hope that those we elect to public office realize the problem and are willing to risk their careers to take on the corporations that are determined to deny the problem in the name of larger and larger profits. Radical change requires a major commitment on the part of governments and those who support governments. But there are things we can do as well.

We can recycle; avoid plastics whenever possible; turn the heat down in the winter and put on a sweater; turn the air conditioning up in the Summer; drive economical cars or, better yet, walk or ride a bicycle; replace inefficient heating and lighting systems with more efficient and economical ones. You know, small things that matter. We can become engaged in movements to save the planet if we determine that those movements show promise. We can support them financially and, better still, become involved personally. And there are other things of this sort that we can determine are “within our province” — if we are serious about addressing the problem.

But closer than that to home are the folks around us who are homeless and without food. Those of us who can help with donations to worthy causes can do that; those who are in position to do so can help out at food kitchens and participate in drives to raise money for food and clothing for those around us who suffer. It appears that there are many in this country who do genuinely care and who grab their checkbooks when they read or hear that there are those in need. There are some who belittle this effort, saying that it is the easy way out. But for many this is the only option if they are to help at all. And it is something that helps those who need help.

And we can love those around us, family and friends, who need our support and who support us in our hour of need. There are many things we can do to “be there” for those close to us. This sounds trite, but it is a step toward the wisdom we seek, the wisdom that eventually leads to happiness.



8 thoughts on “If, I say

  1. What an excellent post, Hugh! I fully agree with everything you say … we do need to recognize that some things are out of our control — we do what we can by using our votes and our voices to hopefully guide those who can do something, but then we turn to the things we can do. I especially love your final paragraph … as the song goes, “That’s what friends are for …”

  2. Beautiful, Hugh. Sometimes people don’t realize how much waste they create – just by buying water and throw-away drinks, but it’s also hard to find fresh sources to make what we need at home. (In Ecuador it is really easy, and we are very lucky)

    There are times when I give strangers a little cash; I would rather ‘dismiss’ the possibility of being conned out of money than to know that I ignored someone who was hungry. I hope that the people of our planet can learn to put away their egos and ‘just be nice to one another.’ We do what we can, when we can….

    Thank you

  3. Good post Hugh. Not sure I’d agree that gaining wisdom on a world like this one leads to happiness. Personally I discount “happiness” as a frivolous quest for when so many are unhappy, it is not possible for an empath to find happiness anywhere. Wisdom however does put one in touch with much deeper awareness where one develops a relationship with both, sorrow and joy.

    • I care about others, though I am not sure I am an “empath.” And I consider myself happy. Not blissfully happy, but I appreciate the many things I have and the people around me.

  4. Dr. Curtler,

    Again, an excellent post.

    As a young man, I was concerned about what I could learn and what I could earn. I am still motivated by learning, but, as an old man now, I think about what I have taught, what I can still teach and what I can give.

    My wife and I consider ourselves very fortunate. As a retired social worker and sociologist, respectively, we know very well how close to financial disaster most people live. With this in mind, we continually think of little ways we can support others in our community.

    For us, one secret of a happy life lies in the enjoyment of giving. It is far more meaningful than the enjoyment that comes simply from having — unless of course, you are living by subsistence day-to-day. The importance of having enough is not to be dismissed lightly. We have been poor and we have been not poor. Not poor is better. We haven’t forgotten that.

    Indeed, in order to give, one must have, be it time or money. With good fortune, we believe, comes an obligation to care about and for others. So we do our parts politically and financially as best we can.

    It would seem that lessons learned in undergraduate “Ethics” classes last a long time.😎

    Regards and respects,

    Jerry Stark

    • I would love to think so. But you were the person you now are, for the most part, long before you stepped into my Ethics class! You put it well: giving is so much important than having.

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