Australian apologist JOHN SMITH remembers the wisdom and truths contained in many of the old maxims that used to be quoted by his grandparents.

John Smith
John Smith

When I was a youngster I was fascinated by the concise truths of the old fables and sayings of my grandparents. While I don't hear them recounted much these days, I have no reason to doubt the distilled wisdom they offered. Uncle Remus' stories of Brer Rabbit and Aesop's Fables were a trusted source of conventional wisdom. Bible stories, particularly the parables of Jesus, were taught at mothers' and fathers' knees. The slower, more relaxed gran and grandpa sealed the mysterious wisdom of their storytelling with a finality as enduring as the mountains or the endless ebb and flow of the tide of the sea. Today's false sense of relevance attached to age in the wake of technological wizardry may explain the eclipse of the wise old one-liner. Or perhaps the break up of the family (causing also separation from grandparents) has reduced the influence of the story and fable telling nana and pa. Perhaps today's grandparents are themselves often unaware of these enduring morsels of wisdom. Certainly the triumph of the secular society has not provided a dynamic equivalent.

Political correctness, ignorance and ideological cussedness have bypassed the old Biblical stories from the Christian society while the Jewish community with its ancient genius for story-based maxims still thrives in the rigor of the Rabbinic method of question-and-answer teaching.

The extraordinary success of The Book Of Virtues, and the popularity of the cartoon version of these ancient moral wisdoms on overseas television, indicates a modern heart cry for straightforward, unapologetic values couched in stories and summarised in uncomplicated bite-sized chunks of definitive maxims. Really nothing much has changed and the old sayings remain unassailable despite modern self-deceptive obsession with novelty.

Just ponder for a few moments a handful of the old maxims from Biblical and other sources:-

Slow and steady wins the race (from the parable of the race between the hare and the tortoise).
If the blind lead the blind they all fall into the ditch together (advice of Jesus to self-opinionated zealots).
A stitch in time saves nine.
Save the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.
The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.
A fool and his money are soon (easily) parted.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
Act in haste and repent at leisure.
Never judge a book by its cover. Don't let the sun go down on your wrath.

It would be a good exercise for a quiet family evening to sit down together and see how many such maxims the whole family can recall. We live in a day when the search for wisdom beyond knowledge and simplicity beyond complexity seems to be in a state of fortunate revival. Let's hear it for handed-down enduring wisdom. May it be carefully thought through and actively applied in our daily lives.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.