“In a good bookroom, you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
Twain was right. I know the feeling well, having surrounded myself with books for most of my adult life.
Only recently did I rid myself of the vast array of books that surrounded me. But it was time and I have no regrets. Hopefully, somebody else is benefiting from the thousands of books I donated not long ago to a local library.
Absorbing wisdom is an interesting phrase used by Twain in that quote. He didn’t say knowledge. There’s a difference.
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
Here at LTW I’ve long given my personal definition of wisdom as the model from which each podcast episode is cast – getting it right in realtime. I stand by that definition, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only kind of wisdom. Sometimes we learn wisdom because we got it wrong – the first time. Now the question is, “Will we get it right the next time?” Fools don’t. Wise people do. Simply put, wise people learn, and learn faster.
“Never laugh at live dragons.”
For our 45th wedding anniversary Rhonda bought me a toy dragon. For some unknown reason, I’ve dubbed him Carl.
Carl is dragon number 3 inside The Yellow Studio. The first was found many years ago in Clearwater, Florida while on a business trip. I found him in a store one day and kept going back daily wrestling with whether or not to purchase him. He’s ceramic and heavy. I was flying home and traveling as light as possible. By end of my last day there, I intentionally waited until close to closing time, walked in, grabbed him and made the store owner an offer, which he accepted. I can’t remember how much he was priced originally or why I even decided he might not be worth that amount, but pleased with my discounted price I brought him home to the Yellow Studio where he’s been a fixture for many years (over 20). You can likely figure out why I liked him so much. 😉
The first actual toy dragon came from the same place as Carl, a toy merchant at a local flea market in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Jimmie. For over 35 years Jimmie has been collecting and peddling toys. Ebay and the Internet have made profit harder to come by for Jimmie, but daily he mans his booth in this flea market jam-packed with toys of all ilks, including an occasional dragon.
Carl and this unnamed orange dragon came from Jimmie. I rather love them all. And recently told Jimmie to be on the look out for whatever might turn into my 3rd purchase from Jimmie.
These are the dragons who now reside Inside The Yellow Studio. And I’m always reminded of that Tolkien quote, “Never laugh at live dragons.” I suspect one’s first encounter with a live dragon might prove so fearful that a wise person would learn to not laugh, but to take the dragon seriously. So it is with learning wisdom. We may not get it right the first time, but we’d best get it right the next time lest it prove fatal.
As much as we may want to get it right in realtime, that often doesn’t happen. And it’s mostly okay. Except when it’s not.
For years I’ve shared with you my parental advice, “Don’t make a mistake from which you can’t recover.” We never wanted our children to make a mistake so foolish that it caused permanent or long-lasting damage. We trained them and hoped they’d learn from their mistakes, but mostly…we wanted those mistake to be ones from which they could recover or find redemption from.
It wasn’t just parental advice, it was what we tried to accomplish in our own lives, as their parents. Yes, we sometimes got it wrong, but with the things that mattered the most – those things that are eternal – we got it completely right. We leaned hard into providing the spiritual food our children needed to grow up strong, resilient and stedfast in the Faith.
Daily conversations, lots of questions answered, lots of study and Bible reading, prayer, worship and all the things to provide growing kids with enough information to figure out whether or not they’d get it right and serve God, or if they’d rather get it wrong and serve themselves. They choose wisely and got it right in real-time.
But I’m sad to report that sometimes getting it wrong in real-time can happen due to a change of will – a change of mind. One child decided God, Faith and eternity weren’t worth the sacrifice. That a marriage. And children weren’t worth it either. That a valuable career were not longer worth it. But instead that sin, self and vice were more valuable.
It was a hard decision to watch, but none of us liveth to ourselves and no man dies to himself (Romans 14:7). What we do impacts others. But we all have choices to make. We’re unable to make decisions for others. Even if we could impose our will on adult children, should we? What good would result? Manipulation and coercion are not the path forward.
Minds can be changed for good…or bad.
Here at LTW we’re intensely focused on getting it RIGHT (good) in real-time. We’re all about self-discipline and self-sacrifice because these are the attributes of wisdom, and living our best lives.
In my own quest to be a better person – and live a better life – I’ve had to alter my course at times. Improvement and growth always demand change. But it’s good change and we all benefit from it. Those changes, unlike the physical growth we see in our kids as they get taller and more mature, first begin in our brain. We change our mind. We decide we want or need to stop doing certain things. We decide we want to start doing other things. Before any action is taken we make up our mind that we want to take action.
Yesterday I saw a musician who I follow post about being 20 years sober. No alcohol. No drugs. For 20 years. That was a choice this musician made and in his post he urged his fellow musicians by saying if you don’t think you can play rock and roll and maintain sobriety, he was proof that it could be done. Over 20 years ago he changed his mind about drugs and alcohol and here he is, twenty years later, a better man because of it.
That’s getting it right.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
I’ve changed my mind many times. About many different things.
Just this morning my son and I were talking about such things. I reflected with him how I’ve sometimes encountered people who readily say, “I’m dug in. I’m not going to change my mind.” I’m sad for such people because they’re intentionally refusing to learn, develop, learn, understand or grow. It’s such a foolish way to go, but it’s our life – we can do as we please.
Some weeks ago I did an episode about an ideal outcome that Rhonda and I have been thinking about for some time – an outcome that involves us planning to have a couple of short-term rental spaces, independent bedroom suites. Well, since I recorded that episode some things have changed that have caused us to change our mind. It’s just one illustration of how a change of heart (mind) can result in a change in what we most want to pursue. And that’s how it ought to be if we’re open to figuring out a better way, or a path that might serve us better.
And you know what?
Other people helped us figure that out. Funny how that works. Leaning on people we trust – people we know want our very best – can serve us unlike anything else. If only we’d open ourselves to forge relationships with people who are that safe for us.
I was reading one of the many research tomes about happiness. To be clear, I think happiness and the pursuit of it are highly overrated. Not because I want to be unhappy, but because happiness is so fleeting. I think a better outcome (goal) is peace and joy. But my view is likely biased because of my faith and belief in the Bible. The Bible speaks quite a lot about love, joy and peace – not happiness.
At any rate, this research was interesting to me – about happiness. One key barometer, per this study, of happiness was having at least one great friend. How do you the greatness of the friend? Somebody you could call at 3am. Whether it’s because you need help or you simply feel alone, a great friend is somebody you can call at 3am and they’ll answer.
Shockingly, some married folks answered that they had nobody – not a single person – they could call at 3am. And I’m thinking, “Not your husband or wife?” How sad is that?
I know such friends can be hard to find. And keep. But anybody who hasn’t got a friend like that should not sit idly by and accept that as “just how it’s got to be.” No, change your mind, then get busy changing that circumstance of your life. Firstly, be the 3am friend somebody else needs. Do that with enough folks and I guarantee you’ll cultivate somebody in your life who will be that person for you.
Change. Growth. Improvement.
It starts in our head (or heart). It progresses in how we behave. And how we behave determines who we truly are.
I’m disinterested in being somebody else, but I’m very interested in being a better version of myself. Always improving is my quest. Much of the time I fail. It’s my own fault. I’ve got nobody else to blame. This is my life and if I’m going to become a better person then it’s up to me to first decide, then – like my sober rockstar – to take action so it can become my reality.
Rinse and repeat. Because like his sobriety, our improvement is a daily discipline. Wisdom demands constant attention. Climbing the hill over and over and over again. Wisdom is never a once and done affair. Foolishness, like entropy, creeps into our life. It’s easy because neglect is easy. It’s easy to not make your bed. It’s easy to not vacuum or mop the floors. It’s easy to avoid mowing the grass, or shoveling the snow. It’s easy to neglect our health with our diet habits. The path of easy is the most destructive path we can choose, but resisting it is, well…hard. Self-deprivation is tough. We could ask the sober rockstar how tough it’s been and I’ll bet he’d tell us every day is a struggle. He’s also tell us it’s worth it.
Please tell a friend about the podcast!