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Published: Sunday December 30, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday June 3, 2013 MYT 4:46:54 AM

Timeless wisdom

I ALWAYS associate wisdom with the book, Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom. Morrie, the titular character, hands down some important lessons to his former student. I believe he is the epitome of wisdom because the lessons he talks about are so life defining.

Now that I’m approaching 40, I have started to think about what wisdom means to me.

Being wise comes from knowing who we really are. This may seem easy but it is rarely so. We are always busy trying to impress others or being what other people want us to be. Some people take years to figure out who they really are; others never do. A year ago, it finally dawned on me that this is who I am. I realised I didn’t have to explain myself to people anymore. It was an epiphany.

Sometimes people pigeonhole me because of my colour or the way I dress. Now I am quite tolerant of others’ reactions because I know who I am and that’s what matters most.

Everything passes and eventually, we will pass on too. Once we are aware of this, we would have grasped an important aspect of wisdom.

The death of people in our lives is a constant lesson that we choose to sometimes ignore. We might be sad for a few minutes and that’s the extent of our grief. The irony is that death keeps us grounded because it is never far away. It redirects us to what is most important in our lives.

We think we have all the time in the world. However, time is fleeting and there comes a point when we wonder where it’s all gone. Life passes us by while we are making other plans, like thinking of what to buy. Climbing up the corporate ladder can often become an all-consuming priority.

We live in a world that places more importance on material wealth than spirituality. I sometimes feel that I’m swimming against the tide, trying to escape the waves of consumerism. It’s a constant struggle. Wisdom is knowing that we can be content with the little we have.

There are some things I really want to say when talking to people, but have been too afraid to. With hindsight, I always think I should have said this or that.

I’m becoming bolder as I grow older. Many times I have said what I need to without backtracking. I always feel lighter when I do, but it is not always easy because I have to say it in a way that doesn’t hurt the other person.

Saying no sometimes hurts people. But a friend once told me if you can’t say no, then you’re in real trouble. I tend to do things because it is expected of me. However, I have learnt to say no without feeling guilty. I try to do things that I feel good about or which will not inconvenience others or me too much. I think that really makes people true to themselves.

I tend to take things personally; for example, I analyse people’s actions and what they say. I wonder why somebody doesn’t return my call or speaks rudely to me. In a shop, I may be busy wondering why the sales assistant is following me. It goes on and on ...

So now what I do is stop the internal chatter before it gets out of hand. I try to detach myself. I have become an observer and that helps a lot.

Wisdom also lies in understanding how to handle various relationships. For instance, couples need to realise they have to work at a relationship and learn to accept each other’s flaws. Friends are the people who allow us to be who we are and are there when we need them.

The relationship between parents and children is so precious. We tend to put our parents on a pedestal, but as we grow older we realise they are only human and they’re trying to do the best by us.

I fear a lot of things in life and that stops me from going forward. Step by step, I am letting go of my fears and trusting my inner voice that tells me to go for something. I falter several times and miss my step. Despite my missteps, I keep moving on.

Many of us think wisdom comes with age. This is partly true because age brings perspective into our life. It is also important to remember that we can be old but none the wiser.

Socrates once said the unexamined life is not worth living. We need to look deeper into the actions we take. When we examine the different facets of our life, we become wiser.

Wisdom comes from within us. It is also hard won. Morrie was old and dying, but it was not only his age that made him wise; the lessons he learnt along life’s bumpy highway helped a lot.

I have a long way to go before I become as wise as Morrie, but I’m looking forward to that day.

>This page is for stories that are heart-warming or thought-provoking. If you have an original one to share, write, in not more than 900 words, and e-mail it to star2.heart@thestar.com.my.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Lifestyle, wisdom, age, mitch albom

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