Two different paths

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One of the most complex and perhaps most difficult concepts to describe in life is ‘Wisdom’. What exactly is wisdom? The truth is, this concept is bound to have different meaning to different people. Like the concept of morality, life’s purpose, the existence of a supreme being, and the concept of knowledge, what you consider to be a wise action may be considered by another person to be an unwise action. For example, while Elliot thinks that it is wise and expedient to steal from the rich, Harold thinks that it is unwise and wicked. And while Harold thinks that business practices should be ethical, Elliot thinks that the best entrepreneurs are those who are not afraid to get dirty. Clearly, what Elliot considers to be wise are very different from what Harold considers to be wise. In the same manner, what you consider to be wise may be considered by another person to be ludicrous. 

There are numerous perspectives that can be held on different subjects, but all these perspectives can be found along a spectrum with two opposite extremes. There are indeed two major perspectives that drive all human actions. The first perspective is the egocentric perspective of life, and the second perspective is the humanistic perspective of life. According to the egocentric perspective of life, a man becomes wise if he pursues security, safety, and comfort over all other things, regardless of what negative impacts his actions may have on other people. A person with an egocentric perspective would be unwilling to give a helping hand to a neighbor in need if he realizes that doing so will be a source of inconvenience. He would rather invest his time, money, and energy on productive activities that will yield benefits for him in the future, than show loving kindness to a fellow neighbor in need.

According to the humanistic perspective of life, a man becomes wise if he strives to make other people better off, even if he experiences discomfort, pain, and stress in the process of doing so. A person with a humanistic perspective would be willing to give a helping hand to a neighbor in need, if he realizes that doing so will make such neighbor better off, regardless of how uncomfortable and agonizing the experience may be for him. Such person is sacrificial and selfless, always seeing the good in people, merciful, and sympathetic. Even though some people who have this outlook are sometimes taken advantage of and hoodwinked by crafty and fraudulent people, they hold on to the belief that they exist to make mankind better off. According to them, this is the wise life. 

Like I said earlier, it is impossible to define a truly wise life, simply because various thinkers and people across the world have differing viewpoints concerning the subject. Some people think that benevolent people are weak and needy, while there are those who think that selfish and self-centered people are delusional or diabolical. In the same manner people argue about the true religion, the existence of a deity, the purpose of life, what is right and what is wrong, and so on, the concept of wisdom will always be a subject of philosophical argument. Regardless of this reality, it matters that you stick to your principles, irrespective of what other people think about your actions. To some people, your actions are noble, while to other people, they are absurd. What matters isn’t what other people think about those actions, but rather, what you think about those actions. If you are kind, there will always be people who are bound to think that you are weak, needy, and naïve. And if you are self-centered, there will always be people who think that you are a most despicable entity on the planet. No matter what you do or what you believe in, you certainly can’t please everyone.