Ways to Wisdom

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. — Confucius

photo courtesy Becca Gould

I definitely spent a couple decades learning things the hard way: by doing it myself. That’s one of the joys of getting older — I trust my own B.S. filters enough to take into consideration other people’s experiences, so I don’t necessarily have to repeat them. And I’ve got enough of my own under my belt that I can hold my head high and say I was brave enough to take some chances on blazing a new trail. And most likely will do so again in the future, but choosing the path a bit more wisely.

I wonder if he meant to disparage imitation. For some reason I hear it that way. Perhaps because it is set in contrast to reflection, which is “noblest,” as opposed to “easiest.” And reflection, while done in the comfort of one’s home, involves conscious effort and the taking on of responsibility for the conclusions one draws.

Whereas imitation smacks of blind, mindless following.

What else is life for but being purposefully, mindfully engaged?

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