Knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know is True Wisdom – Confucius
This is an incredible definition for Wisdom one can give. We certainly would’ve heard words like “Bias”, “Assumption”, “Opinion”, etc., as commonly used terms in our daily interactions with people & systems.
However, what we don’t fully realize is that we make many decisions, some really important ones, on a day-to-day basis by simply succumbing to those same “Biases”, “Assumptions” & “Opinions”. The problem in doing that is, we completely turn blind to many other better alternatives available, which makes our decision making rather flawed and ends up fetching undesired outcomes.
Then we start cursing the fate or someone or some event, and then take another decision, again in the same irrational fashion.
The intent of this blog post is to drive home a point that the more biased we become, the more distant we get from Truth. The more distant we get from Truth, the least Wise we conduct ourselves.
Here’s an insightful story to elucidate the true meaning of Wisdom.
Once there was this young man who was curious to know what true wisdom is and hence asked his mentor for guidance. His mentor thought for a while and then directed him to visit the village where the Great Philosopher Socrates lived.
Further, he instructed the man to approach Socrates and ask a particular question.
So the man set forth on his journey to the village and ended up at the town center where he could find Socrates sitting alone beneath a tree, gazing down in pensive thought.
He found Socrates as old & shabby and wondered how this man could possibly know about Wisdom. Yet, he didn’t want to disobey his master and hence walked up to Socrates.
He bent down to level with the seated philosopher and announced that he is a traveler from distant place and is in need of an information. He continued by saying that he wants to reach the neighboring village before the sunset and wanted to get an idea on how much time it takes to cover the distance by walk.
Socrates, after fully listening to the stranger, went back to gazing the soil.
Puzzled, the young man thought probably the old man is deaf and hence repeated the question, this time in a much louder voice.
Socrates gave the same heeding to the question followed by same retracting to his aimless gaze.
Annoyed clearly with the reaction, the young man thought how arrogant this man is as he clearly doesn’t seem to be deaf given his manner of listening to the question and yet not providing an answer.
He still wanted to give one final attempt and repeated the question again, only to get a repeat disregard from Socrates.
The young man finally gave up and started walking away. Just when he crossed 100 meters of walking, he heard Socrates calling him. He turned to see that the philosopher is gesturing him to come back.
When he came closer, to his astonishment Socrates opened his mouth and uttered the answer to the question – “You’ll reach the neighboring village in 1 hours’ time”.
Surprised by the behavior, the young man asked the philosopher why he didn’t answer the first 3 times and now when he was walking away, he chose to call him back to provide the same.
Socrates gently smiled and looked intently into the eyes of the young man. And said, “How can I answer your question without knowing at what pace you walk? Now that I saw you walking for 100 meters, I could know that a man who walks at this pace would take 1 hour to cloak the distance it takes to reach the next village”.
A sudden flush of realization filled the young man – for now his master has guided him to the ultimate master, to learn what true wisdom is.
Which is – Knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know.
I am keen to know how you found the story, please reply with your comments.