Saturday, November 9, 2019

Wisdom and the Search for Truth

Wisdom is to understand what is going on in the world and to think and act accordingly, so begins an article on wisdom in the Kyeongyang magazine by a psychiatrist. A wise person is not one who knows a lot. What is it?

The Seoul National University's motto is Veritas Lux Mea (Truth is my Light). Sogang, the Jesuit University's motto is Obedire Veritas (Obey the Truth) and Yonsei University's motto Veritas vos Liberabit (Truth will make you free). Australia National University's motto is Naturam Primum Cognoscere Rerum (First to know the nature of things). These are not only foreign Latin expressions as some would like to say for truth is truth here and everywhere.

The word truth and wisdom appear in the Christian Scripture often. It appears a little bit less than love but more often than faith, hope or salvation. This is also true in the Asian classics. In Confucian literature, wisdom is one of the four necessary qualities of a right living individual.

We live in a world where everything is reduced to money, consequently, even learning has been reduced to a means of getting a job and money. Classes in how to get a job are very popular and literature, history, and philosophy no longer attractive. True also in the continual study of teachers deciding on how much the monetary returns will be from their studies. The search for truth has become only a means for material well being—are persons like Socrates who failed to succeed in life are we to say they weren't wise?

Wisdom is not sought for success. It is valued for itself. Creation and the world order are examined and the thinking gives birth to other truths. It doesn't matter that there are no material benefits. If this was not true the colleges would have as their mottos worldly and material success as their goal.

Do we leave the search after wisdom to the scholars?  No says the writer for is not the heart more important than the head? More than intelligence is sensitivity. Moreover, when the heart is on fire we can compensate for what we lack in mental capabilities— "The heart has its reasons of which the reason knows nothing."

St.Thomas Aquinas in our tradition was not famous only because of his learning. He made known that the study of truth was a way of approaching God, a holy endeavor. God is the truth and when we close our eyes to the truth we are turning our backs on God.

For thousands of years, God was found in the study of nature and creation. Ancient knowledge continued to be dressed in new clothes. The search for wisdom has always been the same. The book of nature has given us much wisdom. This study in itself is a college education.

Few can say they have a natural disposition to study but we do have the ability. We have the natural capacity to be curious about the workings of nature. When we remember the rote memory of our school days we should not associate it with the search for truth. The study of nature is satisfying, completely different and a reason for great joy.

Both Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton studied theology intending to become Anglican clergy but they abandoned this desire, although not orthodox they had great respect for nature from their studies.

The search for truth doesn't lead to the making of money nor becoming famous, although this may happen, it is not the intention but only the result. A fisherman's joy doesn't come from a big fish, likewise, the joy that comes from the search for truth is in the process. The joy that comes in the possession of wisdom is eternal truth.

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