What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9
I always find it sad when people of our generation display a sense of self-importance in terms of thinking that we are at the cutting edge, and that we are much smarter or wiser than people who have come before us. People who think that they are on ‘the right side of history’. We might know more today about things in certain fields, but we certainly aren’t more intelligent or wiser than those who came 100 or 1000 or 2000 years before us. In fact, they may have been much wiser in many areas, because they didn’t have distractions like television, or other things we take for granted.
“To be ignorant of what has occurred before you were born, is to remain always a child.” – Cicero
When people say they don’t trust ancient works like the bible for example or any of the wealth of philosophy or knowledge from centuries past, simply because ‘it’s old and antiquated’ they really don’t know what they are talking about. Attaining wisdom and understanding requires you to humble yourself in front of the wider world, and accept the wisdom of the ancients. What could be more ignorant than thinking you are better than those who came before you, and that your ideas are more original or more valid? Accepting that we don’t know everything, and that we might never know everything will lead us to discover true principles on which to base a fruitful life. This will bring us true liberation.
“The illustrious ancients when they wished to make clear and to propagate the highest virtues in the world put their states in proper order. Before putting their states in proper order they regulated their families. Before regulating their families they cultivated their own selves. Before cultivating their own selves they perfected their souls. Before perfecting their souls they tried to be sincere in their thoughts. Before trying to be sincere in their thoughts they extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such investigation of knowledge lay in the investigation of things and seeing them as they really were. When things were thus investigated knowledge became complete. When knowledge was complete their thoughts became sincere. When their thoughts were sincere their souls became perfect. When their souls were perfect their own selves became cultivated. When their selves were cultivated their families became regulated. When their families were regulated their states came to be put in proper order. When their states were put in proper order then the whole world became peaceful and happy.”