Sunday, December 18, 2011
The Wisdom of our Fathers
It has been said "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (Santayana). The same could be said about the wisdom learned and accepted from one generation to the next.
When I was a little girl, I hung on every word my parents said. In my child-like mind, they knew absolute truth. I never questioned them. I had complete faith in their decisions. There were many times that I didn't like what they had to say, but I never questioned that it was right.
As I grew, my parents continued to speak truth into my life. When I would come home from school, crushed from some bully's unkind remarks, my mother would gently console me - then she would teach me how to discern the real nature of the hurtful remarks and how to respond to the bully in the future. She was always right.
The older I became, the more wisdom my parents poured into me. They taught me, through their years of accumulated experience and searching for the truth, how to view the world. They taught me right from wrong, good from bad and how to see through a facade of deception to grasp the truth.
And then I grew up. Suddenly, as a young woman making my own way in the world, I knew more than my parents did. My once wise parents became back-woods bumpkins, knowing nothing about the modern world. They didn't understand this new, modern world into which I had stepped. My conversations with my parents, although still frequent, became disrespectful and condescending. When they would express doubt about my chosen path, I would spurn their concerns, knowing that they just didn't understand "my generation". In my youthful arrogance, I was convinced that the world had changed, and my parents knew nothing of the world in which I lived.
As worldly wise as I was, I was too foolish to realize that the problems of the world never change. They appear different, but the root is always the same. True wisdom transcends the ages. Only the foolish believe that their experience in the world is new.
By the grace of God, my prideful, disrespectful attitude was quickly humbled by failure. And, also by the grace of God, my parents bore my arrogant pride with long-suffering and unconditional love. To this day, because of the wretched embarrassment it would cause me, they never mention my foray into omniscience. Through the love of my parents and the grace of Almighty God, I learned, once again, to trust the wisdom of my parents. Not only my parents, but my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and all of those who have walked before me.
I learned, from being prideful and arrogant, that I knew nothing. I learned that, although not perfect, my elders knew more about life than I did. I learned that I had so much to learn.
So, what, other than being a charming little anecdote, does this story have to do with the price of tea in China? It has to do with looking to our past to determine our future.
We live in a society that has forgotten the wisdom of our fathers. We behave like spoiled, prideful children, spurning our parents advice. We are certain that our fore-bearers, who, incidentally, managed to build the most successful country in the world, were nothing more than back-woods bumpkins. Systematically, we are dismantling what our fathers built and are replacing it with politically correct, pseudo-intellectual facades doomed to crumble under the pressure of reality. Our prideful arrogance will fail us.
Our fathers knew things that we have forgotten. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Life is hard, but the the hardships temper us, making us stronger. Circumstances don't make the person, rather the person defines the circumstances. Life isn't safe. Hard work isn't something to be avoided, it gives us purpose. Life is bigger than just me. One of our greatest gifts is our right to live how we choose - we give that up when we allow someone else to be responsible for our lives.
It is time for us to regain the wisdom passed on to us by our forefathers. Our rebellion has brought us nothing but weakness and failure and unhappiness. We need to reclaim our history, learn from our mistakes. Only when we remember the wisdom of the past will we have a straight path for the future.