We can be knowledgeable with other mens knowledge but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom.Michel de Montaigne
Kohelet sought to find pleasing words and he wrote words of truth honestly.Kohelet, 12:10
We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections. — Niels BohrPhysicist Niels Bohr, in response to questions on the nature of language, as reported in Discussions about Language (1933).
What is it that we humans depend on? We depend on our words… Our task is to communicate experience and ideas to others. We must strive continually to extend the scope of our description, but in such a way that our messages do not thereby lose their objective or unambiguous character … We are suspended in language in such a way that we cannot say what is up and what is down. The word “reality” is also a word, a word which we must learn to use correctly.Niels Bohr, Quoted in Philosophy of Science Vol. 37 (1934), p. 157, and in The Truth of Science : Physical Theories and Reality (1997) by Roger Gerhard Newton, p. 176.
The words we choose to communicate are important. And yet language has its limits. As careful as we may be in choosing our words, it is inevitable that others will draw their own meanings, meanings we never considered.
Perhaps this is why scholars have debated the meaning of Ecclesiastes for centuries and why every year new books are published that repeat eternal wisdom that appears in the Bible, the works of the ancients, the stoics, and so on.
In the words of Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” So why must this wisdom be repeated?
The answer lies outside of the books:
Any attempt to convey wisdom in language is bound to fail, because words at best can only describe something. But the words are not the things themselves, they are merely descriptions.
Herein lies the irony of trying to gain wisdom through reading, or trying to impart wisdom through writing:
True wisdom comes from participation, observation, reflection, and introspection.
True wisdom cannot be learned from a book; it must be earned through firsthand experience.