Wisdom of the Elders
I have always enjoyed reading good quote books. Even as a youngster, I
found that I enjoyed reading quote books that my parents or grandparents
had in the house. As a teenager, I would read books such as Apples of Gold
over and over again, meditating on the wisdom that they held for those who
were willing to spend the time and effort to actually assimilate the wisdom
that these books provided. Goethe put it this way, “It is delightful to transport
one’s self into the spirit of the past to see how a wise man has thought before
us.” In my opinion, this is what a good quote book does for the reader.
Over the years my interest in quote books remained just as strong as it had
been as a teenager and my personal collection of quote books grew and grew.
I literally bought every one that I ran across and quickly devoured each one
that I brought home. Some of these books were good and some were filled
with mostly quotes that could best be described as nothing but filler material
– void of any real wisdom and only meant to entertain those who care little
about true wisdom.
Of course there is a place for humorous quote books or quote books filled
with quotes from celebrities or sports figures whose words are only included
because of their name and not because of the actual content, but those were
not the type of books that I found interesting. I was only interested in reading
quotes which contained wisdom and something which could be of value in
my life, not fluff. I have never really been as impressed by what the current
celebrities thought about life, as I have been by what the sages believed and
This attitude has led to many a disappointed hour reading what I had
hoped would be a book full of wisdom and sage advise, only to find that it
was a book full of celebrities and well known people trying to be witty, with
a few morsels of wisdom scattered throughout like pieces of gold in a river
bed of worthless pebbles. This was a bit frustrating to say the least. It seemed
that most of the quote books that I ran across had a handful of great quotes
which were useful in guiding people in ways to improve their lives and tons
of quotes which were utterly useless for anything more than a quick moment
Although this was a bit wearisome, it led to a specific habit which has
served me well over the years – highlighting. I began to highlight every book
that I read, marking only those quotes or passages which I considered worthy
of reading again or going back and meditating on at a later date. All of my
books were highlighted and some even color coded with different colors for
different categories so I could quickly go back and find exactly what I wanted
My frustration in finding the wisdom that I wanted in quote books also led
me to go straight to the source to find the wisdom that the sages had to offer
instead of hoping to find the wisdom that I was looking for bundled up in a
nice, neat package for quick and easy access. I began to study the religious
texts from throughout the ages and across the world. I read the original works
of men which time had proven to be men of great wisdom and insight. I began
to study paremiology, the study of proverbs, and research the origins of many
of the wise sayings that we all recognize.
In short, I searched the world of literature for all of the wisdom that I
could find, and not simply wisdom, but universal wisdom – wisdom which
holds true throughout time and in various locations. What I found through
this exercise is that there is indeed such a thing as universal wisdom. There
are values and principles which hold true for people throughout the world. I
discovered that the same proverb that was found in America could also be
found in Asia or Europe, although it may be phrased a little differently in
each place. The same thing applied to the universal principles of wisdom.
The same wisdom that has been taught for centuries in our country can
also be found in other countries and other time periods. Specific principles
concerning specific actions have been taught throughout the centuries in all
different cultures and locations. Human beings have certain traits that appear
to be universal and because of this they can be counted on to behave in a
certain predictable manner; this has held true throughout the ages. Therefore
certain wisdom pertaining to human behavior generally holds true regardless
of the time period or geographic location.
One example to illustrate my point is people’s tendency to talk too much
and say things that they may later regret. I have found proverbs and writings
from virtually every culture which warn people of the danger of speaking too
much or speaking without first thinking of what you should and should not
say. This is a good example of a universal human trait, and it is also a good
example of universal wisdom which is good advice for people throughout the
world, regardless of their culture or other factors. True wisdom does not grow
old or become outdated.
As you might imagine, my library quickly grew to require a sizable number
of bookshelves to hold all of the books which I had purchased over years of
researching wisdom (the library takes a dim view of highlighting their books).
My collection of wisdom literature quickly grew to monstrous proportions,
with each book being completely covered in a spectrum of colors from my
highlighting what I considered to be the important parts. I had an open mind
where wisdom was concerned. My philosophy was (and is) that you can learn
wisdom from anyone or any source. You simply have to use what is useful
and disregard what is not useful.
I found wisdom in the ancient texts of Egypt, China, and India, and I also
found wisdom from the Vikings and the Native Americans. The source did
not matter. What mattered was that the wisdom rang true in my spirit. I
devoured text after text, highlighting each as I went for future reference, but
found one small problem – when I wanted to refer back to the wisdom which
I had highlighted, it was scattered throughout many, many different books.
This was a bit of a inconvenience to say the least. I wanted all of this wisdom
easily located in one central book for easy reference and study, so I began to
put all of my highlighted wisdom into a single computer data base.
I wanted this wisdom to be convenient and to the point, spelled out in
short anecdotes and maxims for easy reference in order to keep it fresh in my
mind. What I wanted was the kind of quote book that I had spent years hoping
to find in the bookstores – a quote book filled with wisdom, minus the fluff.
This was where Wisdom of the Elders was conceived. I wanted to compile
the best quote book on wisdom available. Notice that I said that I wanted
Wisdom of the Elders to be the best quote book available, not the most
exhaustive quote book available. As Christian Bovee stated, “A book should
be luminous, not voluminous.”
There are many reference books available which contain hundreds of pages
of quotes from various sources and pertaining to various subjects. This is not
what Wisdom of the Elders is, nor its goal. Wisdom of the Elders is not an
exhaustive reference book or an encyclopedia-size book full of various quotes.
It contains quotes specifically dedicated to wisdom and living a life of
excellence. As Francis Bacon stated, “Some books are to be tasted, other to
be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Wisdom of the
Elders is to be chewed and digested, then applied to your life.
Goethe said that a collection of anecdotes and maxims is the greatest
treasure for a man of the world. Wisdom of the Elders contains over 5,100
anecdotes, proverbs, maxims, and insights from the sages and some of the
wisest men and women the world has known. It is divided into 59 different
categories, each addressing either specific character traits or subjects designed
to give the reader insight and help the reader improve his or her life in order
to live a life of excellence. As with anything that you read, you should meditate
on how these wise sayings apply to your life, take what you find useful, and
disregard what doesn’t “feel” right to you.
None of the wise words included in this book will be of any use in your
life if you don’t take the time to meditate on them and actively apply them.
You can have all the money in the world at your disposal, but it will not do
you any good until you actually put that money to use. Wisdom of the Elders
gives you access to an abundance of wisdom, how it affects your life is
completely up to you. Elizabeth Drew stated that the test of literature is whether
we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it. Hopefully Wisdom of
the Elders will pass the test and you will live more intensely after reading it
and applying it to your own life.