It seems to me, in the material realm… it is foolish to dwell on that which we don’t have, and wise to dwell on that which we do have, while in the realm of knowledge… it is wise to dwell on that which we don’t have, and foolish to dwell on what we have gained. The thirst for knowledge is one of the definitions of a sage that Confucius used. Jesus taught us not to overly value material things. It is only when we keep these truths at the front of our minds do we have any chance, if we are already a sage, to become more enlightened, and if a fool then, less of one. We all do it, value our material things more than they deserve and at the same time, scorn that which is most valuable to us. If however, we try to keep the true value, to us, our growth, our mental as well as spiritual well being at the forefront, instead of vanity and disinterest. Even if we only do it for a short time, the growth in that short time, may carry to the end of our days improving, ever so subtly… our lives.
The sage always seeks knowledge while the dull are happy in the knowledge they have gained. In a conversation, when confronted with knowledge a person doesn’t know, the disinterested will change the subject to something they know, to display their intellect, while the wise will instead focus on learning that new knowledge. The best way to gain utile knowledge is always from other people. Have a pain in your abdomen, chances are you know someone who had the same problem a few years ago and solved it, their knowledge would be useful to you now. If you ignored new knowledge, that information would be forever withheld from you, while at your very fingertips. Even knowledge that doesn’t immediately benefit us has value. History widens our understanding of human nature, math provides structure as does language, art allows the mind to exceed the limits of the material plane and trivia allows us a glimpse into our own societal structure, indeed ourselves. Knowledge is always a thing to be valued.
The wise are always happy with what they have, while the foolish care nothing for what they have, because what they don’t have is all that is important to them, and so the foolish cannot, by that circular logic, ever be satisfied. Since there is an infinite number of things in the universe, and we are finite beings, it is impossible to own everything, even everything we might desire, moreover, to focus on that which we cannot by definition have is futile, shows the foolishness of focusing on that which we don’t have, while ignoring that which we do. We see it every day. Someone gets a brand new car, and is happy for a day, maybe, sometimes two, then they are looking for the next car. No sooner does someone move into a new home and they start planning the next one. Some desire is helpful and is a motivating force to drive our economic station better, but when the total focus is on those material things we don’t have, then it stunts our mental and spiritual growth.
Both ideas, focus on those things we have, and focus on that knowledge we don’t have, can be kept at the front of our minds for a bit. While you are mindful, try to use them as templates to judge those things you focus on. Do you focus on the next door neighbor’s new grill or your own trusty old one. If you think of it, turn the conversation today to something you don’t know. Ask questions to learn not to appear intelligent or trip someone up. Instead of dwelling on the stuff you want, inventory all the stuff you have. Go fishing at a river instead of saying to yourself, “if only I had a boat…,” Walk around the neighborhood, instead of pining for a new aerobike indoor full fitness machine with heated seats and accurate to the centi calorie, caloric calculator. For as long as you can, focus on what you have and be thankful while seeking knowledge from any source available.
Only the most ardent will remember this article much after a month at most, but mindfullness for even a day or two can result in a step closer to enlightenment. It might even lead to a sea change. Pragmatic philosophy are those ideas, that when sown reap sweet fruit, to get a bit better at focusing on what we have and on gaining knowledge, can only lead to a more healthy, happy and enlightened state. Catch yourself once… focusing on what you don’t have or diverting a conversation back to familiar ground, and you have made great progress.