And Elihu…answered and said:
“I am young, and you are very old; thus I was afraid and feared giving my opinion. I said: ‘Days should speak, and many years should teach wisdom. But it is the spirit of God in man, the inspiration of the Almighty that grants him understanding. Great men are not always wise, nor do the aged necessarily understand judgment.’ Therefore, I said: ‘Listen to me. I, too, will tell you what I think.’ ”
Have you ever not had a job… Have you ever been in the process of deciding where to go to school… Have you ever searched for a new house or car… Or have you ever been stable with car, house, job, education, et al…
…and it seems that most everyone you speak with wants to know, like an unwritten rule of discussion...
How’s the job going? How’s the car, house, boat? How’s school?
Sure, there may be more worthwhile questions asked, like, “How’s the family?” But the average conversation so frequently seems to sit in the area of the hackneyed and outwardly oriented. (To say nothing about general complaints and topics like economics, politics, gas prices, the weather, pro sports [ha!—see: “The Fix Is In”], etc.)
You see Uncle Stevie at a family party and he wants to know how the job is going. After you finish talking to him, you bump into Aunt Clair—“How’s the job?” she asks promptly. Now that you’ve elucidated on the mundane (a mere rehash of many prior conversations), you desire nothing more than to get a cold one to quench your thirst. If only you can make it to the cooler without being verbally assaulted…
20 more steps to go… 15 more steps… 10 steps… 5 ste— And there’s Great Grandma Bessie, coming through the doorway just next to the cooler.
“Hey. How’s work these days?”
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud, Grandma! How many times are we going to go over this? You ask me every week and every week I tell you the same thing!”
Okay, so maybe you don’t go that far…or maybe you do… But what in the world is so fascinating about this question? Or any like it? How have they've never gotten old? How is it that there are such an abundance of facets to life yet we continually revert to the same mundane topics and questions?
Is there nothing more worthwhile or authentic or profound or important or enjoyable to speak of—in the 99.9993 percent of times when such conversation is not being forced upon us (like G-ma Bessie’s death) or more applicable (new job or job loss)?
If only subconsciously, what are we trying to avoid by creating such tight boundaries on what we discuss with others?
Don’t get me wrong—practical matters have their place in thought, word, and action. Yet, word is born of thought and action. So we must be doing a lot of thinking and acting (yes—acting) in these value-less areas to have so much desire and need to talk about them.
But to what end does all of this thought and action take us? What lasting value is all this mental and physical do-ing bringing into our own lives and the lives of others?
If we need a specific word or phrase to better hone in on what I am referring to, how about, soul value: the value, the wisdom, that can be applied no matter where our soul ever goes.
Because in this realm of life experience, there are two types of wisdom: practical/earthly and spiritual/eternal. The difference and level of value between the two and the degree to which we acquire and apply them in life are of monumental significance.
For example, consider the “earthly” man who has great financial wisdom. Being in the industry for a few decades, he’s learned how to buy, sell, and trade financial assets like no one’s business. Not surprisingly, he thinks about his work quite frequently and can and does talk off people’s ears about it.
But what happens if, oh, I don’t know, if the stock market goes offline and never comes back on? What happens if this man injures himself severely and can no longer work his financial magic? What if, plain and simple, he gets too old to work?
When the market is gone, when he’s laid up in intensive care for a year, when he's retired, when all sources of outward value have disappeared, what’s he to do? How’s he going to make it through his days armed with nothing other than earthly, gotta-keep-moving know-how?
What if he dies—what happens when he tries to pass through the Pearly Gates? What did he really learn in life to make him worthy of eternal life in heaven? What soul value did he gain in life that will make his next incarnation deservingly better?
Naturally, I’m not trying to pick on the financial sector. This goes for anybody whether they are an auto mechanic, a head of state, a seamstress, or a world-class champion in Texas Hold ‘em. All these people and the things they do for a living have their place, they have a purpose. I don’t mean to condemn others for the path they choose in life. My aim is to push us to expand our awareness, to think a little further outside the box than we are probably used to.
What are these things that we put so much time and energy into doing for our souls—for that special piece of us which exists with or without a physical vehicle?
When our practical endeavors cease, regardless of hows or whys, what will our souls have to carry forward? What now fulfills our souls that hadn’t done so prior? What now fills “the void” that always seems to reawaken when we take our focus off the material plane?
When we’re standing at the Pearly Gates waiting to get into heaven and God asks why we belong there, why we shouldn’t be sent back to try again, what do we say?
“Well, God… Surely, you must already know… I earned a Ph.D. I was an internationally acclaimed public speaker. I operated a successful webstore. I had a pilot’s license. I received training…”
And as we’re rattling off all of our credentials, Little Billy comes over and starts tugging on God’s robe. “Can I go in?” Billy asks innocently.
Looking down, God replies, saying: “Give me one good reason.”
“Umm…well…I haven’t really had the chance to do much in life… But just before my mom killed me, I looked her in the eyes. She hurt so much inside. And that’s when I realized that she was angry at herself, not me. I forgive her, and I love her.”
“The kingdom is yours, Dear One.”
We spend the majority of our lives in search of earthly knowledge and wisdom. Little do we spend on the deeper enrichment of our souls.
I have to work hard to survive.
I need bigger, better, faster, stronger.
My life is valuable because I have [this, this, this, and this] practical know-how.
It’s not me, it’s them.
I don’t want to think about my anger. It makes me angry.
This is just the way I am.
The truth is too painful to acknowledge.
Yes, it’s a part of life, but it’s taboo. We just don’t talk about these things.
My religion, government, TV promise me that I'll be okay.
As long as I can fill the spaces with something—anything—then everything will be just fine.
Think about it… Spiritual knowledge and wisdom—soul value—will come to the earnest seeker, to the young and old alike, just as practical knowledge and wisdom will. (Useless entertainment and information, equally so.) Only the spiritual is much less common because it requires a shift away from “them” and the herd mentality. It requires us to be more brutally honest with ourselves than we’ve ever been.
It’s very human to want to avoid suffering, to avoid admitting self-wrongness; that perhaps the things we define ourselves by are not actually as beneficial as we’d led ourselves to believe.
But if we want spiritual wisdom, if we want to begin making payments on our golden ticket to heaven, we must—must—be sure that we’re putting in the effort to earn it. That we are not wasting away our lives by hiding from the truth amongst our material wizardry, by going in the wrong direction because we think it too uncomfortable to self-challenge our beliefs, or by thinking that age has automatically made us wise.
The only thing age brings is further experience. Yet our experiences matter little in comparison to our understanding of them. If we haven’t gleaned any spiritual wisdom from them (and spiritual wisdom is our main purpose for existence, after all), the only thing age is making us is foolish.
“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”