A Mindset of Wisdom By Rabbi Ari Kayser
I try to set aside time to "think about things". This was on my mind today, and I wanted to share it with you.
"Who is wise? One who learns from every person" (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1)
I always found this a little strange. If we look around at society, we don't follow this as an ideal. We choose to learn from certain people and not from others. We learn from our parents, our teachers, and our role models. We look to wise people to guide us and model ourselves on them.
What did this statement see which we have missed?
I believe the answer lies in understanding the value of each and every person. Before separating ourselves into boxes and groups, humankind had a unifying characteristic: we were all made in the image of God. Our unifying features came before our differences. That is a beautiful truth to behold.
Each and every person is an incredible, unique being. They posses something to contribute to the world that nobody else can.
Perhaps this is what the sages meant when they said that wisdom is the result of learning from every person. They recognised that each human being sings a different song in this world, and together those sounds harmonize to grace the world with the orchestral masterpiece we call life. To dismiss someone as not able to contribute wisdom, because of their profession or age or education, would be to miss an opportunity to learn about oneself through the eyes of another, and to better understand the world around us by stepping into another's shoes which may not be a perfect fit.
In this light, we could suggest that not only can we learn from every person, but also from every opportunity we find ourselves in. One who learns from all persons and all things, is someone who is living with a "mindset of wisdom". To that person, wisdom is not merely the acquisition of knowledge or information. It is a state of mind. An expansive perspective on life, people, and the world around us. Life itself is our greatest teacher, but will we stop to listen?