Zomo the rabbit, though not big or strong, was known to be very clever. Zomo decided it was time he was known for wisdom too, so he approached Sky God.
Sky God told him he would have to earn it by bringing him the scales of the Big Fish Of The Sea; the milk of the Fearsome Wild Bull-Cow; and the tooth of the Mighty Leopard.
Zomo confidently agreed. He began playing his drum so loud at the shore, that the drumbeats went down to the bottom of the sea. Big Fish, dancing to the irresistible rhythm, flipped right out of the water. Zomo drummed faster and faster; Big Fish danced faster and faster, so fast that its jingling scales fell right off. Embarrassed, it jumped back into the sea. Zomo grabbed the scales and ran.
Back in the forest, Zomo climbed a palm tree till Wild Bull-Cow showed up. He goaded Bull-Cow, telling it that it wasn't really big and strong, daring it to knock down the little palm tree. Enraged, it charged. However the palm tree was soft and its horns stuck in it, so Zomo slid down, turned his drum upside down filling it with milk before it got free.
Zomo then ran to the top of the hill where Mighty Leopard lived, sprinkled some fish scales and a few drops of milk on the path, and hid. Leopard came striding down and slipped, rolling down the hill, hitting a rock. Its tooth immediately popped out. Zomo caught it and hopped away to Sky God.
Sky God smiled. "You are clever enough," he said. "But not wise ... three things in this world are worth having: courage, good sense, and deep understanding of things and creatures," said Sky God. "Little rabbit, you have lots of courage, a bit of sense, but absolutely no understanding. So next time you see Fish, Cow or Leopard ... better run fast!"
Like Zomo, we imagine that cleverness can easily bring us to wisdom, or that they are sister states of being. Actually they are more like distant relatives.
Cleverness is satisfied with short-term gains; wisdom acts from a wider perspective. Wisdom is founded on confidence rather than arrogance; learning from experience, yet forever open to the power of new possibilities.
Most of us are good at being clever, and are encouraged to be so, appreciated for being so. Being clever has made us more powerful. We are technologically advanced. We can build organisations, cities, countries. We can also destroy them.
How does it make sense to say, "He is a wise man but he does foolish things."
Wisdom is not just thinking intelligently, but living intelligently. More than just being effective in daily life, it means we choose our values and basic priorities well and we live by them. It means we can fail, but learn from mistakes. It means we take responsibility for the intended as well as unintended consequences of our actions.
When cleverness does serve wisdom, knowledge, information and experience can be distilled in a meaningful way. Often cleverness, recognised in showy brilliance, involves resourceful manipulation of elements; wisdom deals with accepting reality, putting things in perspective, and acting accordingly. While cleverness is often context-dependent and compartmentalised, wisdom is timeless, free of any particular context. Cleverness mostly is purposive -- a means to something else, and is often for a narrower gain; wisdom, recognising the interrelatedness of everything, is always for the good of all.
Lovely Thoughts for Lovely People Just Like You