Sunday, February 25, 2024

Proverbial Wisdom

We got a board game called Proverbial Wisdom when I was, I think, an early teen. I feel like it was a gift, perhaps from my grandfather, as somehow I remember being in the kitchen at what was then our family home and watching my mom read the box and pretend to be excited about potentially playing it someday. Though, like most memories, what I recall about Proverbial Wisdom and its origin with my family could be entirely fabricated. I am roughly 90 percent certain, though, that I was present when it was either received or brought home, and I’m probably 70 percent certain that it happened in that kitchen, and I’m 100 percent certain that we tried to play it just once and then it sat on the shelf in our game closet for decades until my parents sold that house and it likely got donated.

I just did a quick google for Proverbial Wisdom the board game. To prove how much my memory is unreliable, I found the pictures to be absolutely accurate and how it really was, but in my mind before the image search I had the box it came in completely confused with the old-school Pictionary long rectangular navy blue box. While Proverbial Wisdom does have navy on its box, it’s square with other colors too. It just goes to show how much we can’t lean on our own recollection.

Proverbial Wisdom did not end up being a family favorite. An online description I found this morning describes it as “In 60 seconds, complete one of the following activities: 1) Draw a proverb for teammates to guess 2) Guess the proverb meant by a picture already drawn, or 3) Guess the correct meaning or origin of a proverb.” While the google today tells me that there was also a biblical version, the main version that we had was contemporary and the sayings and expressions that you had to guess were common axioms like, “put the cart before the horse” or “birds of a feather flock together.” You know, all of those exhausting expressions that are overused and under-understood, but most with a kernel of wisdom at the core.

I just did another google, this time for the definition of the word “wisdom,” and here’s what I found. Merriam-Webster gives wisdom’s definition three main categories: insight, judgment, and knowledge. Insight, it says, is the “ability to discern inner qualities and relationships;” judgment, it says, is “good sense;” knowledge, it says, is “accumulated philosophical or scientific learning.” Well, my, my, my. I do love that. Particularly, I love the simple two-word definition for the judgment facet of wisdom: “good sense.”

Biblically, any reference to proverbial wisdom would make most people turn to the Book of Proverbs. And most people generally think of Proverbs as being written by Solomon, considered by many to be incredibly wise. But, scholars believe that Solomon only wrote part of the book, as the book itself is a group of collections of poems and truisms. The proverbs therein are, according to one source I found, “short, poetically matched comments on the world” that “do not claim to be universal truth, but rather situational advice to be applied to different contexts.” And, it turns out, only the first two collections (Proverbs 1:1 to 9:18 and 10:1 to 22:16) are attributed to Solomon, and of those two only the second is thought to actually have been written by him; the first collection is more of a tribute to him written long after he had died.

All that aside, regardless of authorship, context, situations, and purpose, a lot of what’s written in the Book of Proverbs is timeless wisdom. In fact, a key theme of the book in many of its sections is about two things: wisdom and understanding. Can we all agree that wisdom and understanding are timeless and important across all cultures, societies, persuasions, creeds, affiliations, and situations? And can we all agree that wisdom and understanding are so often forsaken and replaced with folly and misunderstanding?

I looked up some synonyms for wisdom, which I really enjoyed thinking about. They include contentedness, profundity, perceptiveness, sensitivity, sapience, sageness, judiciousness, astuteness, acumen, insight, foresightedness, logic, appreciation, and reason. Then, I looked up antonyms and they include density, obtuseness, idiocy, dullness, and foolishness.

I did the same exercise and looked up synonyms for understanding and they include comprehending, knowing, appreciating, grasping, fathoming, perceiving, and (my favorite) cognizing. Antonyms for understanding include misinterpreting, misconceiving, misperceiving, misknowing…basically, a big bunch of misses.

I’m not going to get too preachy here, but do want to share a little bit that I found very helpful today. It’s from Proverbs 3: “Happy is a person who finds wisdom, and the person who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.”

Beautiful, isn’t it, this thing called wisdom and the phenomenon of basic understanding? I certainly want more of each. And I certainly think the world needs a whole lot more of each too. They are precious; they are so important. Their absence is what gets us into the myriad of messes humans constantly get themselves into: arguments, wars, misunderstandings, basic idiocy, misinterpretations, prejudices, and the all-too-common pervasive proliferation of obnoxious and obtuse self-righteousness.

So, to wrap this up, I have some proverbial wisdom that perhaps should be entered into our common adage library…and maybe even shared in a boring board game someday that sits in some family’s game closet for decades. It’s two simple words we see and hear occasionally, but each need to see, say, hear, and do much more—two simple words that seem to be part of, if not the gatekeeper to, all of the good things about wisdom and understanding: “Be kind.”

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