How to gain wisdom? Read some of Aesop’s fables
Everyone wants to gain wisdom. Wisdom is one of the greatest qualities that human beings can possess. So, seek it, hold on to it, share it, and treasure it. Why? Because it will help you navigate through choppy waters, it will lift you up from the depths of despair, it will help you put everything into perspective, and ultimately it will turn you into the hero of your own story. But, how do you gain wisdom? I suggest that you start by reading some of Aesop’s fables.
With the possible exception of the New Testament, no works written in Greek have been more widespread and better known than Aesop’s fables. For more than 2500 years, Aesop fables have been teaching people of all ages valuable life lessons in the most entertaining and cynical way.
Want to hear a rags-to-riches story? Meet Aesop the Wise-Fool
Aesop’s life reads just like one of his fables. Aesop is believed to have lived between the period from 620 to 560 BC. He began his life as a slave and was said to have been remarkably ugly with some physical deformities and as this wasn’t enough misfortune, he was born mute, unable to utter a word. On the positive side, he was intelligent, resourceful, and kind. His life took a turn for the better after he rescued a priestess of the goddess Isis from a difficult situation after she had strayed from the road and became lost.
His divine reward for this act of kindness was the gift of speech and a remarkable ability to conceive and elaborate wise tales in Greek. His talent for storytelling, his wisdom, and his wit set him free literally. Aesop acquired freedom, fame, and fortune in the same breath. Not bad for an ugly, deformed mute. He acquired some kind of celebrity status by hanging out with the most prominent and powerful personalities of the time offering to solve their problems, giving them sound advice, and telling fables along the way. But in the end, it was his very success that leads him to his ruin.
Aesop made a good living as a storyteller traveling from city to city to perform his art, acquiring fame and fortune along the way. When he arrived in Delphi, he realized that his wit and sarcasm didn’t work so well on the Delphian audience, who refused to give him any reward for his performance. Disappointed and vexed by this cold treatment he lashed out and mocked the Delphians comparing them to driftwood (something worthwhile at a distance but is revealed to be worthless when see closed-up). He should have stopped there, but continued his tirade realizing too late how outraged the Delphians were by his insults. They kicked him out of town, but unbeknown to him they hid a golden cup from the Temple of Apollo in his luggage and as he was leaving the city he was arrested, charged, sentenced to death, and executed unceremoniously by being pushed off a cliff.
Moral of the story: Storytelling and wit can set you free, but it can also make you fly off a cliff.
Want to survive a bad situation? Follow the cat and not the fox
I don’t know what was Aesop’s final thought before he died but I am going to speculate that he may have recited to himself the Fox and the Cat fable that he himself wrote a little while before.
The Fox and the Cat
A fox was boasting to a cat of its clever devices for escaping its enemies. “I have a whole bag of tricks,” he said, “which contains a hundred ways of escaping my enemies.”
“I have only one,” said the cat. “But I can generally manage with that.”
Just at that moment they heard the cry of a pack of hounds coming towards them, and the cat immediately scampered up a tree and hid herself in the boughs.
“This is my plan,” said the cat. “What are you going to do?”
The fox thought first of one way, then of another, and while he was debating, the hounds came nearer and nearer, and at last the fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds and soon killed by the huntsmen.
Miss Puss, who had been looking on, said, “Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon.“
Want to hear another truly inspirational tale? Meet The Peddlar of Swaffham
Please allow me to take you to Norfolk, England in a small village called Swaffham, where you will hear the extraordinary tale of the Peddlar of Swaffham.
The Pedlar of Swaffham
“Tradition says that there lived in former times in Swaffham, Norfolk, a certain pedlar, who dreamed that if he went to London Bridge, and stood there, he would hear some very joyful news, which he at first slighted, but afterwards, his dream being doubled and trebled upon, he resolved to try the issue of it, and accordingly went to London and stood on the bridge there for two or three days, looking about him, but heard nothing that might yield him any comfort.
At last, it happened that a shop keeper there, having noted his fruitless standing, seeing that he neither sold any wares nor asked any alms, went to him and most earnestly begged to know what he wanted there, or what his business was; to which the pedlar honestly answered that he had dreamed that if he came to London and stood there upon the bridge he should hear good news; at which the shop keeper lighted heartily, asking him if he was such a fool as to take a journey on such a silly errand, adding:
“I will tell you country fellow, last night I dreamed that I was in Swaffham, in Norfolk, a place utterly unknown to me where I thought that behind a pedlar’s house in a certain orchard, and under a great oak tree, if I dig I should find a vast treasure! Now think you, says he, that I am such a fool to take such a long journey upon me upon the instigation of a silly dream? No. No. No. I am wiser. Therefore, good fellow, learn wit from me, and get you home and mind your business.”
The pedlar observing his words what he had said he dreamed and knowing they concerned him, glad of such joyful news, went speedily home, and dug and found a prodigious great treasure, with which he grew exceedingly rich; and Swaffham Church being for the most part fallen down, he set on workmen and rectified it most sumptuously, at his own charges; and to this day, there is a statute therein with his pack at his back and his dog at his heels; and his memory is also preserved by the same form of picture in most of the old glass windows, taverns and ale houses of that town unto this day.”
Source: Sidney Hartland – English Diary and Other Folks Tales (London, ca. 1890) which in turn refers to the Diary of Abraham Dela Pryme – 1699. Text available under Creative Commons CC-By-SA-4.0 License.
My own reflection on this tale is that the moral of the story is as follows:
- Listen to your inner voice, your intuition, your gut feeling, your inner compass;
- Don’t be afraid to be ridiculed. Be patient. Have grit. Have resilience. Have faith;
- Have the courage to act upon your dream and remember that a thousand-mile journey starts with the first step;
- The journey will no doubt be marred with uncertainties, danger, surprises, and some intriguing encounters;
- Pay attention. Listen to the signs. Listen to the messages, the tips you receive on your journey. There may be joyful news awaiting you;
- In the end, your courage, your efforts, your convictions will pay off and success will flow towards you, abundance will flow into your life;
- When prosperity falls upon you do not hold tight to the wealth you seek but keep a healthy vision of its power to heal and the power it will give you to fulfill your purpose and spread goodness all around you.
And this, my Dear Companion, is Your Quest!