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November 2005:  Plutarch

"To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes, the wise and good learn wisdom for the future."   —Plutarch

Today’s Sage Authority:

Plutarch (A. D. 46?-120) lived in the 2nd century! Think about that!  The SECOND CENTURY!  He is still considered one of the world’s most important, most widely read and loved Greek biographers and essayists (prose writer).   Many critics say that his works were Shakespeare’s primary source for the plays Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Plutarch was also a moralist; he used anecdotes (short stories that could be based on his personal experiences or those of others) and portrayed peoples’ character traits and their ethical implications. His greatest work consisted of a series of 46 books that compared the lives of a Greek and a Roman. The series was called Parallel Lives (e.g., Antony and Demetrius, Romulus and Theseus). 

Our country has recently experienced a crisis involving the issues of character and personal ethics related to our president, William Jefferson Clinton.  Do you believe that an elected leader’s character is important?  Do our personal character traits influence every decision and action we take and every word we speak? Can you admire or elect a leader whose character traits you would not willingly imitate?  Why or why not?

Comment On The Quote:

Your version of Plutarch’s comments on learning from our mistakes is as valuable as is mine. To me, his statement means that as a mere human being, I am going to make several mistakes a day, but that shouldn’t discourage me from participating or trying my best. I can learn from my mistakes . . . perhaps even more than from my successes (which I might take for granted). And, maybe, the greatest mistake I can make in life is to constantly fear that I might make one and stop trying! Plutarch said if I learn from my mistakes, I will become better prepared for my future. Maybe I could ask myself, "Why did this happen? What could I have done differently to change the outcome? Should I have studied the instructions before I started that project? Should I have asked for help? Should I have taken my homework more seriously?"

Maybe Plutarch meant I could say, "Been there! Done that! The next time this situation comes up, I will change my ways! Next time, I won’t become the repeater of failed thinking and acting."  Do you learn more from your failures or your successes? Do you just give up? Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, believes we only learn from our mistakes, and we should dare to try more things and fail more often, IF we use that knowledge to acquire "learning."  What do you think? 

MORALIST means: 

someone who studies and writes about the principles of right and wrong and wants to influence others about his personal beliefs regarding them.  Morals involve our integrity, nobleness, duty, well-doing, self-control, honor, honesty, virtue, and the ability to keep "on the right path" and to accept the standards of conduct set by those in the community in which we live. A person’s morals are psychological, rather than real or physical. They are concerned with our "inner" or spiritual beings.  It is a good thing to have what is known as "high moral standards" and, more importantly, to live by them.


December 2005: Proust

"We can't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us." —Marcel Proust

Today’s Sage Authority:

 Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a French novelist.  He spent most of his younger years seeking the company of the most fashionable and intellectual people of his times.  Around 1905, he completely retired from his socializing and began work on his semi-autobiographical novel, which consisted of 16 volumes!  It took him 14 years to complete the work (1913-1927).  The novel was translated into English in the decade of 1 922-1932, and entitled, Remembrance of Things Past.  Proust wanted to objectively (in a fair, unbiased, unprejudiced way) recreate the society in which her lived.  He succeeded, because he was able to recapture the minutest sensory and psychological details, through his ability for almost total recall.  His writing style was quite complicated, but the influence it made on other novelists is considered immeasurable.  What a fascinating and cool way to study the history of an age . . . rather than from an encapsulated version in your history book!    Look up Proust's book in your library and read several chapters.   Do you like reading history like this?

Do you keep a personal journal?  Try writing more details about what you experience and see and feel and smell each day.  Maybe, someday, you can write the definitive book about the society in which you are living, during this period of history (a new millennium).

Comment On The Quote:

Your interpretation of Proust's comment on the acquiring of wisdom is as important and acceptable as is mine. To me, it means that I cannot become a smarter, wiser, more "educated" person by merely showing up in school, because it is a state and federal requirement, or by memorizing just enough facts to get a passable grade from the teacher or to satisfy my parents.  No one and no process can make me become an intelligent person.  I don't acquire wisdom by merely sitting in the right chair in the right room, for a specific number of years.  The desire must come from within me.  

I must create an attitude that learning about my world and my  place in it is a personal commitment.  I must find as much curiosity and excitement about the changing weather of each day, as I do about the changing music trends, art and fashion trends, sports' heroes, television offerings, world politics and leaders, food fads, and medical and scientific discoveries.  My personal journey to acquire wisdom (become wise) will take my entire life!  Some of my journey will involve hard times and many trials and rejections.  It will involve as much loss as gain.  My ability to learn from mistakes and to survive these trials will add to the depth and breadth of my wisdom.

What do YOU think?              

SENSORY means: relating to the senses:  it can be seen, heard, touched, felt

ENCAPSULATED means: abridged, shortened, condensed, summarized, abbreviated

WISDOM means:  the ability to recognize what is true and right and to make good judgments 
                                 based on that ability.  


January 2006:  Schwarzkopf

"The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do.  The hard part is doing it." General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Today’s Sage Authority:

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who is now retired from active military duty, is one of our most famous and beloved patriots.  From the time he was a young boy, his life involved the army.  He lived abroad with his parents, during his teenage years, and he feels this experience enabled him to understand people from many nationalities, cultures and ethnic backgrounds.  He served two combat tours in Viet Nam, but became best known as the Commander of Operations of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  Now, he produces programs about what is right about America, and he is chairman of the STARBRIGHT Capital Campaign, "which focuses on improving the quality of life for seriously ill children."  He is a genuine hero, who has served our country with honor.  Everyone, from our presidents and senators, to ordinary citizens, like you and me, admires him and uses him as an example.  He lives his life, by "doing the right thing."

Comment On The Quote:

Your version of Schwarzkopf's comment is as important and acceptable as is mine.  To me, his words mean that not only our parents and relatives, but many teachers, church or synagogue leaders, sport coaches and instructors, music teachers, neighbors, television personalities and community leaders have influenced us, during our growing and maturing years, about how and why to "do the right thing."  Where some of these "leaders" may have presented poor influences themselves, there were always others to take up the slack. . . . IF we opened our hearts and minds and ears to their words and behaviors.  These days, none of us lives in a total vacuum.

We know, from an early age, that we should not tell lies, or steal, or use drugs, or use alcohol as a minor (or drink to excess as an adult), or drive over the speed limit or without the use of seat belts, or seek sexual pleasure from those who are not old enough for the responsibility of raising unwanted children, or hurt an innocent person.  We must stop at red lights.  We must not cheat in performing school or work activities.  We must respect people in positions of authority (i.e., teachers, police, ministers, doctors, grandparents, coaches, bosses, managers.)  There are always consequences to pay, if we don't follow these simple moral codes.

We know we should not take things that do not belong to us, or make fun of other people (because of their different appearance, their lack of intelligence, their awkwardness, their inability to do something we can do, their skin color, religious belief, hair style, ear size, or because they wear glasses).  We know we should not belittle someone who is shorter or much taller, or thinner or heavier than we are.

IF we know this . . . why do we participate in such negative and hurtful behaviors?

General Schwarzkopf became a respected general and national leader, by following the rules the military service has set for its members.  He carried these rules into his daily life.  He would be the first to tell us that good rules (those society makes, or the Ten Commandments or similar moral rules prescribed by other world religions) do not restrict us from enjoying our lives. It is just the opposite.  They enhance our enjoyment of life, because those around us know they can be safe in our presence, and that we will not betray, criticize, mock or tease them.  When people trust us, they enjoy being in our presence, and they give back to us, with their friendship.

What kind of person are you?  Do you practice the Golden Rule?  Do you remember it?  "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you."  Do you think that is what General Schwarzkopf means, when he said we always know the right thing to do?

What do YOU think?              

LAW means:  "...all the rules of conduct established and enforced by the authority, legislation, or custom of a given community, state, or other group . . ."  Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition

RULE means:  "...a fixed principle that determines conduct; habit; custom . . ."  ibid.  



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