MENTORS: It is better to be guided by sages
PEOPLE are not born wise but they have the capacity to be wise. To develop themselves to be wise, they can learn from mentors. But mentors can be the wrong mentors. There must be wisdom in the ways people select mentors who contribute to develop others to be wise.
Michael Douglas, who played Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, made a speech that became a compelling lesson to some ambitious people.
"Greed is good, greed works, greed is right, greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit, greed in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind, and greed, but you mark my word, greed will save ... the other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."
In the sequel, Money Never Sleeps, Gekko, who made a comeback after being in jail for several years, gave another speech: "Someone reminded me I once said 'greed is good'. Now it seems it's legal because everybody is drinking the same cool air ... sometimes prison is the only place to stay sane in and look out through the bars and say, 'Is everybody out there nuts?'"
It has been said by some economic observers that the economies of particular societies only get going because of the good of widespread corruption.
This argument or acceptance of a state of wrongdoing is used as justification for the rich to get richer and for the corrupt to become powerful and influential through abuse of privileges and positions.
Fiction mirrors reality and the fiction of the movies mirrors the reality script of life and its social chaos. When society is driven by the pursuit of wealth; when society is driven by the celebration of technicalism; when society is driven by managerialism, there is the loss of wisdom.
It is better to be guided by the sages on how to lead the meaningful life rather than to be guided by ignorant, technocratic or evil people. Sages convey messages on enjoining the good and right, avoiding and preventing wrong and evil actions. Sages inculcate universal and eternal values in people and guide them to refrain from lusts and sins.
Wisdom is often defined as humility, as extensive factual knowledge, as knowing how to live well. Across the generations, there can be the honing of moral skills and the nurturing of moral will.
Wisdom encompasses values of honesty, sincerity, kindness, care, compassion and hope for goodness and beauty. Wisdom is usually considered as the contemplative life in search of truth, the wisdom shown by senior statesmen, and those who have enlightenment and understand things from scientific or revelation perspectives. Wisdom is closely intertwined with philosophy, which means "love of wisdom".
Wise people make efforts not to profess to have knowledge beyond their area of expertise. The way to develop a knowledge and virtue-based society is to celebrate character -- to celebrate moral leaders, from all faiths, from all occupations and from all walks of life.
Typically, practical wisdom of understanding that no man is an island, answers the question regarding social responsibility. Loss of wisdom and quest for greed answers the question, "What serves the personal interests. What is it for the person to gain?"
The ethics of social responsibility, self-awareness, self-realisation, selflessness are the foundations of practical wisdom. Practical wisdom is about moral skill and moral will to do the right thing.
Knowledge as wealth is good. Virtue of restraint from greed and selfish wants is good for personal and national integrity. Knowledge and virtue will save the malfunction organisation and state.
Practical wisdom is the daily exercise of mindfulness for every significant or common decision.
Practical wisdom is about understanding rules, regulations, procedures, incentives, and, when to use them but also when not to abide by them mindlessly. Practical wisdom is about trusting the judgment of man and not surrendering judgment and decision to machines or rules and regulations.
The ascending transformative wisdom for individuals and society can be cultivated.
Wisdom would be founded on the lessons of history and philosophy, the lives of those before us, revelations from religions, the genius of the people, great thinkers and writers, and ordinary people who experience life thoughtfully.
Society has the choice to be hedonistic, or to be noble and celebrate and hone wisdom from all of its societal experiences.
To ascend and sustain true enlightenment, society must itself resolve to be consciously in pursuit of wisdom.
Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid | email@example.com is a deputy vice-chancellor, INTI Laureate International University New Straits Times Columnist 16 November 2012