As a parent and a teacher, I have often tried to give some piece of wisdom to the children in my care, and when they ignored it, or just seemed incapable of incorporating it into their lives, I found myself frustrated and bewildered, until….
One year, I heard a wise homilist explain the meaning of the Parable of the Ten Foolish Virgins – a parable that likens Heaven to the story of the ten virgins/bridesmaids who carry a lamp as they await the coming of the bridegroom which they expect at some time during the night. Five of the virgins are wise and have brought extra oil for their lamps in case they have to wait longer than anticipated. Five are foolish and have only brought their lamps. At midnight, all the virgins hear the call to come out to meet the bridegroom. Realizing that their lamps have gone out, the foolish virgins ask the wise ones for oil, but they refuse, saying that there will certainly not be enough for them to share. While the foolish virgins are away trying to get more oil, the bridegroom arrives. The wise virgins then accompany him to the celebration. The others arrive too late and are excluded.
I had always found this parable to be somewhat mean-spirited and could never understand why those wise virgins couldn’t be kinder and share their oil! But the homilist explained that the reason the wise virgins did not share the oil, was not that they were selfish or judgmental, but rather, that it was simply impossible for them to do so. The “oil” represents their spirituality, and spirituality, like wisdom, is something unique and particular to each individual – it is not a commodity that can be bought or bartered or just instantly handed over to another. Again, a counter-cultural notion in our world of instant gratification and ubiquitous consumerism.
Some of my favorite words of wisdom to ponder this week
“The color of your thought dyes your soul.” Marcus Aurelius
“Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.” Socrates
“Be kind to one another for we do not know the burdens another may carry” (a friend of mine)