February 20, 2015

Knowledge and Wisdom

Rico is the son of a successful businessman. He grew up with his future carefully laid out for him. He should go to the best schools and be among the finest lawyers in the country.
Brought up by high moral standards, Rico proved to be the ideal son his father wanted him to be when he became a lawyer at 25. Living up to expectations, Rico became a fine, just and respectable lawyer. He read various books to help him solve cases. He acquired knowledge but still craved for more.
For years, he won case after case and became famous for his anecdotes and trivia from the most cliché to the most outrageously unlikely facts. It never fails to amuse Rico to see the faces of his audience, as he delivers his argument, turn from self-assurance to skepticism and finally to submission when Rico is proven right.
Life, for Rico, is an unending quest for knowledge. After several years, however, there were things that Rico still could not understand. He kept on reading and searching, but still, there are things that he could not deliver with passionate conviction. It was as if there were things he knew only in his mind but never in his heart.
Then one day, while he waiting on a bench outside a church, he met an old gardener with bright eyes and burnt skin. As was typical of him, he engaged the old man in conversation and was surprised to find he was enjoying himself. The old man, if he were telling the truth, was a former soldier who deserted his post to hunt down his wife who ran away with his best friend. He found them after a few years, his best friend drinking himself to death trying to drown the guilt and despair of living with a woman who didn’t love him, and his wife living in endless regret but chose to stay because she had nowhere else to go.
One look at these creatures and the old man saw himself just as pathetic, as insignificant and as dispensable as they were. He wasn’t any better than his traitorous friend nor his undeserving wife.
Rico found himself extremely amused that he handed the old man P1000.  The old man, taking no offense, looked at him..
What is this for?”
For your company. It is not very often that I meet a person whose company I enjoy as much as I enjoyed yours today..”
I know who you are, and I respect what you do. But you wont get any wiser from the books you read every night. Wisdom comes from the streets. They will tell you how a family grows big when there is no father around, and how they manage to live in a cart as big as the trunk of your car.
“If you want to understand the world, leave your fancy clothes behind and live with ordinary people. Let’s see how wise you get after a week.”
Rico found the old man’s suggestion interesting. So, the following day dressed in old shirt and faded jeans, he left his house. His money was only enough to rent a room for one month and he he had were a few extra shirts and a small notebook to write his experiences on.
He came to a small town and was accepted as a dishwasher in a small restaurant. His salary was enough only for food so he lived very frugally. He walked to work every day with his packed lunch in a canvas bag.  He walked back home at night, spent an hour listening to his neighbors talk, and go to sleep. After a few months, he became a part of the community and stayed there for two years.
On the night Rico came back home to his old life, the first thing he noticed were the lines on his faces, next was the thick calluses on both the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet and finally but most importantly, the discerning look in his eyes.
He’d seen so much in two years. He helped deliver a baby, rushed a convulsing child to a hospital, held a friend’s hand as he bled to death on the street, helped extinguish a roaring fire, helped people across a flood, lay on a public hospital bed delirious with fever, ate stale bread, slept with empty stomach, played Sta. Claus at the plaza, drank beer and puked on the street, went to work without taking a bath for three days, and fell in love with life.
The following day, Rico went out to see the old man at the church to thank him. But when they stood facing each other with profound understanding in both their eyes, he grabbed the old man’s hand and shook it. They sat down on the bench and stared at the setting sun. Neither talk. No one needed to. It was the kind of silence shared only by people who knew life for what it was.
Rico resumed his law practice and became one of the greatest lawyers in the country.
 (Original story by the blog author. Any similarities with other stories, fiction or otherwise, are purely incidental.)

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