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Learning from Every Source, No Matter What
by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
A great Sage once said, “Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone.” The ability to learn new things, to integrate them into our lives, and through them to better our lives, is probably one of the greatest benefits of our humanity. Truth, be it objective or subjective, is one of the greatest things that anyone can learn. Therefore, whatever the source from which one can learn truths, such a source should never be dismissed or censored. Wisdom can be learned from almost anything. Yet, one must have open eyes to see it, and an open heart to receive it.
The pursuit of knowledge should be the pursuit of truth. Pursuing knowledge, and truth, is most likely the fundamental curiosity in human beings. We are always asking the question, “why?” When something bad happens, or something good, we find ourselves stuck with a knee-jerk reaction, which asks, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?” Granted, we may, or may not ever get the real reasons that underlie fate. But, regardless of what we do understand, or not, we will never stop asking, we will never stop trying to understand. This innate curiosity is simply part of who, and what, we human beings are. Why then should we inhibit the pursuit of knowledge, or the pursuit of truth, by limiting our options of discovery? This makes no sense.
Truth is said to be one of the “names” of God. Therefore, truth must be pursued anywhere that it may be found, and truth must be acknowledged, whatever be its source. For ultimately truth is from God, and God plants seeds of truth throughout all creation. To deny truth because its source its unacceptable, or politically incorrect, is to deny the God, who allowed (or ordained) for truth to be found where it is. What all this means is simple, we are supposed to acknowledge truth no matter its source. This, according to the Sage, is the definition of wisdom. And wisdom, Hokhma is one of the highest manifestations of the Light (sefirah) of God.
A small mind is willing to see only small things. A closed heart receives nothing. Small minds, and closed hearts, cannot know truths, nor can they receive wisdom. Unfortunately, there is no lack of individuals who call themselves wise (Hakham), but in whom there is no wisdom. There is also no lack of those who shout from the proverbial mountaintops that they, (and usually they alone), know all the truths that need to be known. Usually the truths spouted by the small minds, and closed hearts, are nothing more than divisive opinions that seek to put an end to any pursuit of wisdom, or truth, which they, for whatever reasons, may find objectionable. This is not wisdom, this is foolishness. We have no shortage of fools who masquerade as wise men.
With this being said, let's not waste any more time. Let's not feed the problem, but rather let us work to feed the solution. And what solution is there for foolishness, prejudice and ignorance? The answer is again simple. Learning is how one overcomes a lack of wisdom, a lack of understanding, and a lack of knowledge. Learning is the magic key that can open both closed eyes, and closed hearts.
Like the Sage quoted above said, to be wise, is to learn from everyone. Everyone includes people, and sources, from outside one's own personal point of reference. Let me be blunt. Learning from everyone means to be open to receiving words of wisdom, and truth, even if such words comes from religions, religious persons, or any other persons from a different background than one's own, even if that background is the opposite of one's own. Wisdom knows no bounds, the pursuit of wisdom should be equally unhindered.
The different religions of the world abound with words of wisdom. Even one who is rigid in one's embrace of one's own religion cannot deny that other religions, and their adherents, often are the source of very wise words, and profound concepts of truth. We do not necessarily acknowledge, or embrace an entire religion just by finding value in some words of wisdom that comes to us from one of its followers.
Why is it that people of one persuasion refuse to mention the wise words of people from different walks of life? The answer is usually because of prejudice and arrogant supremacy. The underlying attitude is, “What good can come out of them?” This attitude is often unspoken, but it is expressed in many different ways. Another expression of prejudice is, “Why quote one of them, when you can quote one of us.” The insistence that “we” have greater wisdom than “them” is nothing other than an expression of arrogance, and an excuse to deny knowledge, and truth.
If indeed “we,” and “them” speak the same or similar words of truth, then this should be proof that what unites us is greater than what separates us. If “we,” and “them” speak similar words of wisdom, then maybe we are not so different as we might think. Maybe “we,” and “them” should learn the wisdom that each holds so dear. Maybe we would discover that “the other guy” is not so bad, so strange, or so different.
We might just discover the truth, that the other guy, who, like us, is also created in the Image of God, also has access to profound truths from his or her own point of view, that might have escaped us, because of our own limited point of view. Learning to see things from a new and different perspective, is truly a sign of wisdom and spiritual growth. This is how we open the mind, and this is how we heal a broken heart.
One may be surprised to discovery how many of the sacred truths of western religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism), have their sources in the Greek philosophies of Aristotle, or Plato. Have you ever studied Maimonides? If so, then you are studying Aristotle! Have you ever studied the Zohar? If so, then you are studying Plato!
Of course, without direct knowledge of either Aristotle or Plato, one would not know this. Yet, if one studied the ancient Greek philosophers directly, then one would clearly recognize their ideas in the words of those who adopted them. Apparently, the authors of sacred texts had no problem in looking for wisdom wherever it may be found, and equally had no problem of using that wisdom, and benefiting from it. If it is good enough for the Sages of old to do this, then we should not think ourselves better than them to not do so.
Have you ever exposed yourselves to the mystical wisdom of the Sufi? Have you ever studied the wise words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu? Have you ever delved into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali? Have you ever contemplated the simple words of wisdom recorded by Native America chiefs? If not, then you don't know what you're missing! And you are missing a great deal of wisdom, and truth. Who knows? It may be these very words of wisdom, and truth, that can touch you personally, and transform your lives in profound ways.
One should not be scared, or afraid of exposure to the different. Do not allow the voices of prejudice to turn you to foolishness. Instead, reject foolishness, and reject the fool. Follow the wise words of the ancient Sage, be wise, learn from everyone. In so doing, you will make yourself more educated, and more wise. You will not see yourself fall away from your chosen path, but on the contrary, you will see your chosen path in a whole new light, with reinforced conviction.
The pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, is the pursuit of life itself. This is what brings one closer to God. The open mind and the open heart are the only ones that God can fill.
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The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
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