And the greatest of these is Wisdom

Some of the older established educated societies in Europe and elsewhere are failing to raise literate and numerate youngsters. They are still ahead of less-developed countries but not as far ahead as they were. The concept that the computer does all the work and you merely plug in a checklist or formula is taking hold in a way that is undermining basic educational standards. More frighteningly, it is encouraging substitutes for thinking.

An educated society is one that knows its purpose beyond hedonistic, alcoholic and opiate oblivion. It is one that can create, appreciate, extrapolate and invigorate human inventiveness. Not everyone in it can be brilliant but all can become wise. For many, such achievement is all they really want from life. Trouble is, they seldom realize it. This is sad because a life of hard, risky, exciting work is satisfying but not of itself a total reward. How many people when they retire, or think they are getting old, sum up their lives mentally by saying ‘I got by’?

David Attenborough is sometimes regarded as almost too good to be true. But that is misleading. He enjoys a life of amazing exploration and adventure with the end product a gift for everyone and a warning for all. It is possible that he is the most influential person on the planet when it comes to survival. We can’t all be David Attenboroughs but we can all learn from him the meaning of purpose and the reward of giving. To give the way he does is to leave financial donations, even lecture time, way behind the eight ball. He gives hope.

So how much hope have we given in our lives so far, whether we are twenty five or eighty five? Almost certainly quite a lot. It’s not advice that I am talking about, though we all do give advice and it is important that we sometimes should. It is not education that we are talking about, though education is key to many stages of progress in life. I speak not of charity though perhaps we should all be more charitable than we are.

All the above are acts of decency towards others. All are highly desirable – with the caveat that we learn what we think we taught ourselves not what we think others taught us. But there is an added ingredient of hope missing from much of these sorts of giving. How was I given hope when I had a hard time adjusting life and culture styles from advertising in the glitzy West End to wheat buying, flour milling and bread baking in the City of London? Almost solely by one person who devoted time to me. He was my boss, then my friend. Peter Reynolds made it his job to expand my horizon. That was in the interest of the business too, of course, but it was greatly in my interests.

We talked about the nuts and bolts of the business, about the people we worked with, the customers we had, the suppliers, the environment, the market place and about life. We discussed strategy not just for the company but for the coming world. He put my uncertainties and lack of confidence into perspective, not pretending they weren’t there but encouraging me to believe that I could deal with them. Above all he paid attention to me and gave me hope.

Three threads to be drawn together – literacy and numeracy, hope, wisdom. All interdependent, all developing until our last breath. We need all three. Together, a glorious Bouillabaisse of what is available for everyone.

The first makes us educated; the second, human; the third, potentially makes us supreme.

Those who make the journey understand what happiness is.

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