Over the ages, human nature hasn’t changed, doesn’t change, and probably isn’t going to change. Whether you consider your earliest ancestors to be Adam and Eve, or cousins of The Flintstones, or someone even more ancient, people were people then and still are today.
That’s why the wisdom of the ages is the wisdom of the ages. People still react to basic situations in the same way: with fear, greed, envy, rage, disbelief, and even stupidity … or with caution, awe, respect, wonder, delight and gratitude. The choice is still ours, whether we make the right or wrong selection.
Are we slow learners?
Sometimes it might seem that humanity is comprised of slow learners, since we have a habit of repeating history instead of learning from it. More often, it is that we seem to like learning everything the hard way by doing it ourselves. We could actually learn a heap of stuff by listening to or reading about the life experiences of others. We might even end up less clobbered and less bruised if we could learn more that way. It’s not chiseled in stone that we have to go down the same road our parents went down if they happened to make bad lifestyle choices in their efforts to survive in a beautiful but painful world.
The best biographies are quite amazing in detailing what we don’t need to experience ourselves, as well as giving uplifting advice. If reading an entire book is beyond your stamina right now (we all have weeks like that) but you still want to know what life inside jail or as a migrant worker is really like, pick up any good city newspaper. Can’t comprehend how much hurt and embarrassment you have to endure being a welfare mom? Feature reporters will tell you, if you don’t already know someone going through tough times. Empathy for the poor can be in short supply when we’ve been insulated against it.
On the flip side, learning some basic life skills, such as balancing a checkbook (even with online banking), budgeting, basic cooking, and learning to keyboard can be done with ongoing effort and with the support of the community. Poor people don’t want to be poor. They need a way out of their circumstances without turning to illegal activities that will only destroy them. The rest of us shouldn’t fear the educated masses, only the uneducated residents of our nation. An educated populace lifts all of society, even if the Have’s want the Have Not’s to stay “down there” where they belong. (Hint: They’re not going to stay oppressed. They’ve been there, done that.)
The old clichés
The old clichés, often from ages past, may drive us batty but the truth usually does. We don’t want to hear it and either literally cover our ears or just shut down emotionally. Some truisms that pop up all the time include:
Still waters run deep.
Look before you leap.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Think before you act.
Engage brain before putting mouth in gear.
What goes around comes around. (Good and bad)
You reap what you sow.
Now and then, we realize we didn’t pay attention to the wisdom mom or grandpop passed along from ages past and now we’ve got a proverbial tiger by the tail instead of their Baby Puss lookalike from earlier times. What are our choices? We can hang on for the ride of our life, which will almost get us battered to death. Or we can let go and probably collect a few slashes. Hmmm. Maybe we didn’t think this through before grabbing hold of the only part of the tiger we could reach.
Decisions made after the fact are a whole lot harder than decisions made beforehand. Don’t pull the tiger’s tail! In our favor is that the tiger family doesn’t team hunt, at least not the way lionesses do (while their lordly male loafs around soaking up the sun’s rays and occasionally being the jungle gym for the cubs). We may have a slim chance of surviving our urban encounter with a city predator. But once would be enough. It’s not something we would likely care to repeat if it happened.
Even so, human nature doesn’t change and some might want to try beating the odds. The wisdom of the ages is still the wisdom of the ages. We don’t need to hike up the hill to consult the Oracle at Delphi to find out we just reacted to a situation the same way Fred did when Baby Puss threw him out of the house.