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Thursday, May 10, 2012

NEW, EXCITING, AND NEVER-ENDING VISTAS OF KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM

I am starting a new Series of Articles on this blogspot with effect from today, i.e., 10th May 2012, Thursday. This Series of Articles will be devoted to different areas, aspects, and vistas of KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM. Knowledge is the eye of desire and can become the pilot of the soul. The great English poet S.T. Coleridge (1772 - 1834), said: "Common sense to an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom." Wisdom is to the mind what health is to the body. There is an Arabic proverb which says, "A wise man's day is worth a fool's life."

I have always been fascinated by this timeless Quote from Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881), "The wise man is but a clever infant, spelling letters from a hieroglyphical prophetic book, the lexicon of which lies in eternity."

I have studied very carefully more than 500 outstanding works in both Western and Eastern Philosophy. But I say with humility and reverence that I have understood more about the art of living and wisdom from the following Quote from Plato (424/423 BC - 348/347 BC): "Perfect wisdom has four parts, viz; wisdom, the principle of doing things aright; justice, the principle of doing things equally in public and private; fortitude, the principle of not flying away from danger,but meeting it; and temperance, the principle of subduing desires and living moderately."

I am of the view that true wisdom is to know what is best worth knowing, and to do what is best worth doing. He who learns the rules of wisdom without conforming to them in his life is like a man who ploughs in his field but does not sow. Moreover, what is tragic and pitiable is that every man finds it easy to be wise for others than to be wise himself. The strongest symptom of wisdom in man is his being sensible of his own faults, follies and foibles.

I have always been fascinated by this Quote from Epictetus (55 AD - 135 AD): "The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing."


The first point of wisdom is to discern what is false; the second to know that which is true.

There is a Chinese proverb which declares: "Seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou hast attained it thou art a fool."


A wise man is one who knows the sources of knowledge---who knows who has written and where it is to be found.

Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC) said: "The Delphic Oracle said I was the wisest of all the Greeks. It is because that I alone, of all the Greeks, knew that I know nothing."


We seem to be blinded by the dazzling and flashing floodlights of information technology revolution today. A man who really saw the futility of seeking and chasing a mass of inert information in a nameless and soulless manner was a great English poet, T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). As early as in 1934, he wrote the following poem in which he prophetically complained that wisdom was getting obliterated by knowledge and knowledge was getting extinguished by information. I am presenting this poem below for the benefit of my readers:

                                   Stories of the Human Spirit                               
                                       T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)                                  
The Rock (1934)

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)


Opening Stanza from Choruses from "The Rock"

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.

O perpetual revolution of configured stars,

O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,

O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.

I think I have tried to say enough today. I would like to conclude by quoting verbatim the full text of the Prologue which Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) wrote to his autobiography a few years before his death in 1970.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

The Prologue to Bertrand Russell's Autobiography

What I Have Lived For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found.
With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
 Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.
 This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.


Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) won the Nobel prize for literature for his History of Western Philosophy and was the co-author of Principia Mathematica.


The above lofty ideals of Bertrand Russell have influenced me, inspired me, instructed me and invigorated me very significantly for a lifetime ever since I read the three volumes of Bertrand Russell's autobiography in Periakulam in Madurai district in January 1969. I was then the sub-collector and First Class Magistrate in Periakulam.

2 comments:

Aroopa said...

An extremely inspirational and thought-provoking article as usual by the intellectual and prolific writer Shri Sundaram.
Each time I read his article or speak to this extraordinary person my sincere wish is that such a 'jewel' as him should be enabled to shine and inspire the youth of Bharat - in schools, colleges and all the portals of education everywhere in India.
His knowledge, wisdom and felicity of expression combined with a miraculous photographic memory all put together would move, elevate and inspire millions of young and old alike.
In case there is any person who, reading my thoughts, is able to concretize what I am expressing, it would be the greatest service to our nation.
Every quote is a pearl of wisdom.
The prologue to Bertrand Russell's autobiography reproduced verbatim and written more than 5 decades ago reflects the sad truth of the times that we are passing through now where information and knowledge have replaced wisdom.
Indeed in such contemporary times of stress and short-cuts such as we are now passing through now, we have to reflect deeply. It is not information or knowledge that makes man.
We have to realize the wisdom within our own selves!

bijuranikishori said...

An extremely inspirational and thought-provoking article as usual by the intellectual and prolific writer Shri Sundaram.
Each time I read his articles or speak to this extraordinary person my sincere wish is that such a 'jewel' as him should be enabled to shine and inspire the youth of Bharat-in schools,colleges and all the portals of education all-india wide.
His knowledge and wisdom and felicity of expression combined with a miraculous photographic memory all put together would move,scintillate and inspire millions of young and old alike.
In case there are any persons reading my thoughts and are in a position to concretize what I express it would be the greatest service to our nation.
Every quote is a pearl of wisdom.
The reproduced verbatim prologue to Bertrand Russell's autobiography written more than 5 decades ago reflects the sad truth of the times we are passing now where information and knowledge have replaced wisdom.
Indeed in such contemporary times of stress and short-cuts we have to contemplate.

It is neither information nor knowledge that makes man.They may be stepping stones to more money and the material comforts associated with riches.It is only wisdom that brings with it the joy of realization.

And we have to realize wisdom within our own selves!