Jack M. B. Selway Essays on History

Jack M. B. Selway

Rotary eClub of the Southwest USA

March 17, 2008

Earlier in this eClub meeting I tried to sing “Danny Boy” and perhaps to your delight all you could do is read the lyrics. Though I have successfully sung this song for many Rotary clubs, I must confess that my ego has often suffered in the process of inflating itself… An ego, I have found, is a very thin balloon which must not be inflated or it will burst.

In the spring of 1990, after a bold and egocentric effort that landed me with the opportunity to sing the National Anthem for the International Convention in Portland, I quickly set out to impress others, or perhaps only me. I’ve since learned that when you realty “try to impress others, you’re going to be lucky if you impress only yourself.

I attended the noon meeting of Rotary Club Danville, D 5160, California, USA and more than casually announced to the president that I was to be the singer for the convention. And, by the way, would he like to have me sing today? “We don’t have a piano, said the president. “Not a problem, I don’t need one, was my reply. So he introduced me: “Folks today we have Jack M. B. Selway, who will be singing for the International Convention in Portland, and today Jack will sing without accomplishment.

Born in St. Patrick’s Hospital on St. Patrick’s Day of 1944, a “war orphan of three weeks whose mother was not yet aware of the death of his father… What a way to begin, and how did this help this helpless fellow to gain any wisdom?

I begin with “what is wisdom. My favorite quote is found on Google. I queried “Knowledge without Wisdom, and found the following.

“Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass.” Japanese Proverb

Wikipedia: Wisdom, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is defined as the “1 a: Accumulated philosophic or scientific learning-knowledge; b: Ability to discern inner qualities and relationships-insight; c: Good sense-judgment d: Generally accepted belief <challenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians ” Robert Darnton>. 2: A wise attitude, belief, or course of action. 3: The teachings of the ancient wise men”

Most psychologists regard wisdom as distinct from the cognitive abilities measured by standardized intelligence tests. Wisdom is often considered to be a trait that can be developed by experience, but not taught. When applied to practical matters, the term wisdom is synonymous with prudence. Some see wisdom as a quality that even a child, otherwise immature, may possess independent of experience or complete knowledge. The status of wisdom or prudence as a virtue is recognized in cultural, philosophical and religious sources. Some define wisdom in a utilitarian sense, as foreseeing consequences and acting to maximize the long-term common good.

As such, in general, wisdom is looked at his/her ideals and principles that govern all actions and decisions. Applications of personal wisdom include one’s ethical and social guidelines in life that determines one’s unique style of personality, the particular nature of short and long-term goal(s) pursued in life (spiritual or materialistic for example), perspective on life, social attitudes, etc.

Allen D. Albert, president of Rotary 1915-16, from The Rotarian, December, 1934 “One source of sturdiness in the Rotary tree has been that it has never been grafted to grow more than one kind of fruit. From the first coming together of delegates from several clubs, now twenty-four years ago, we have had only one objective – the development in the individual Rotarian of a new capability to serve others. Every year since the second convention, in Portland, I suppose, men have come to each succeeding gathering afire with devotion to some fine movement for the public weal, appealing to us to make Rotary more definite, to make it count for something, as they might put it; and every year Rotary has found the wisdom, after hearing their pleas, to stick to the one work which distinguishes it from associations of commerce, civic bodies, neighborhood improvement groups. Rotary would not have gone to the heart of the world if it had been only a “luncheon club.” It has gone to the heart of the world because it spoke to the world of man’s larger possibilities of service.

At the Ostend convention of 1927 “Fred Sheldon, author of the motto “He Profits Most who Serves Best told the convention: “As a man comes into light of wisdom, he comes to see that only the science of right conduct towards others pays. He comes to see that the science of business is the science of human service. He comes to see that he profits most who serves his fellows best.

Well, I’m learning a bit in the process of writing this… “Wisdom? Only history will tell for sure, but given the definition above and the comments from president Albert and business teacher Sheldon, I would agree that what I now think of as my wisdom is what I have gathered from proper perspective on experiences.

In Rotary particularly there is a great opportunity to learn from the wisdom (experiences) of our past leaders. Whether you can “learn from them depends on your willingness to apply their own lessons to your life.

To apply wisdom to an old body one must, I believe, prepare the surface to be “painted with a coat of wisdom. Surface preparation is similar to painting a car: first strip off all of the old paint and start fresh with nothing but bare metal, dull, and uninteresting. Get rid of the rust, the nicks and dings of life.

Trust me on this, none of your present “coat of paint (unless it is wisdom gained of great effort), is worth keeping for the sake of appearance. Wisdom is something of worth to show the world and yourself. Don’t be too concerned about anything else.

For much of my life, I was so busy patching, sealing, and repairing my image that I missed the value of wisdom. Through a lucky chance, I had my entire paint removed and discovered that as long as this had happened to me, I was going to find a better coating. What ever your faith or none at all, belief in something greater than yourself will offer opportunities for wisdom.

Want to skip all this and buy some wisdom? A wealthy oilman from Texas traveled to the heights of the Tibetan mountains and sought out a guru sequestered in a mountain side cave. “I’m here to buy wisdom.

“Wisdom cannot be sold, it must be earned.

“Well, I’ve got 100,000,000 dollars that say otherwise.

“Okay mister, here’s a jar of wisdom pills. Take one a day and see me in a month.

At the end of the month, a most frustrated rich man returns:

“These pills taste like rabbit droppings!

“Ah, you see you are gaining wisdom.

Want to gain some wisdom with no cost except your time? www.whatpaulharriswrote.org

Jack M. B. Selway was a member of ReC of the Southwest USA and founder of Rotary Global History and is continuing to attempt develop and share some wisdom. Written 8 June 2004

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