Central Idea: It is important to surround yourself with words of wisdom.

For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;

In my old office at Borgia, I had no windows to the outside world.  To compensate, I had an annoying habit of taking some words of wisdom, printing them out and taping them to the wall next to my desk.  They are anything and everything that hit my fancy, but they usually are things that will either get me through a crisis or problem of some sort or will help me focus on what is truly important and vital in my work.

Sometimes the words of wisdom just made me laugh.  For instance, one of my signs simply read:

Good morning! I see the assassins have failed!

I did not think there was or is anyone really out to get me, I hope there is no one out to get me, but it was a not so subtle reminder that things could be worse and that I have been given the gift of another day.

Another one read:

On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our bottom.

It was a reminder to me not to get too big for my own britches. There’s a timely thought.

One of my quotes was a classic from the book The Art of War.  It is a reminder to think ahead and prepare.  It says:

Every battle is won before it is fought.

Pretty wise, eh?

Another was a reminder to me about how I am supposed to act as a leader:

Learn to be strong but not impolite.

Learn to be kind but not weak.

Learn to be bold but not a bully.

Learn to be humble, but not timid.

Learn to be proud but not arrogant.

Learn to develop humor without folly.

Learn to deal in realities.

Another sign reminded me that as a leader, I am going to have to suck it up and take criticism, take denunciation, take denigration.  After all. Quote:

What is to give light must endure burning.

Ouch, thanks Viktor Frankl!  Nevertheless, as another sign says:

Dissenting opinions are useful even when they’re wrong.

My favorite sign of all time may be the shortest. Just four words. It is a quote from a principal in a tough urban school, and it is what she continually told her students.  And it is simply brilliant.  I just might get this tattooed on my arm.  (not really)  It reads:

So what?  Now what?

We live in a world where everyone seems to be angry all the time.  Bad things have happened.  Things have not worked out as one would have liked.  Life has dealt you some bad cards.  OK.  So what? Now what? It is not a callous, insensitive and hard-hearted attitude. For me, this is a not so subtle reminder that I only have one way to proceed and that way is forward.  I can sit and stew and whine and gripe and moan.  Poor, poor, me!  Or I can figure out a way to go forward, get off my duff and move ahead.  So what now what?  Sounds like an every day prayer.

One of the things I am dealing with in my life is that I am entering into its final stage. Oh, I know I appear young vibrant and healthy.  My joints in the morning tell a different story. It is somewhat scary.  But there are some benefits, there are some pleasures, there are some joys.  But things are different now than they were twenty years ago.  That is why on my wall there was a prayer from an anonymous abbess.  It, like all my other signs, is brilliant.

Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity. 

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends. 

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. 

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.  Amen.

I encourage you all to collect and surround yourself with similar words of wisdom.  You may even want to email me your personal favorites.  I would love to read them. Yours may be different than mine.  Ponder them everyday, especially when things get hairy and scary and weird.  And if you don’t want to do that, I’ll send you this homily and you can steal mine just like I stole them.

For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;

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