Your Wisdom Dies With You
A passage in the Oxford Companion of the Mind recently reached out and arrested my attention from thinking about much else:
" . . .however hard one struggles to be good or wise, one's virtue as acquired by one's own efforts dies with one." p.419
The quote comes from the entry regarding Lamarckianism, which offered the idea that traits we acquire might pass to our children. However, it has never been proven. All the evidence points in the other direction, that whatever we develop deteriorates without it being made new all over again.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics, telling us all things deteriorate over time, applies to our future far more than a Lamarckian hope, promising things made better will remain that way.
I read this to my wife, Patricia, remarking that I feel some absolution for the good I've attempted being unmade by others. I also feel a rebuke for my sense of hyper-responsibility that repeatedly led me to think of myself as a heroic rescuer, preventing people from the needed labor to find their own way to wisdom.
In the end, I can bring good, even good that benefits others, but my effort does not accrue to someone else. And I can be wise, even sharing that wisdom with others, but wisdom does not inject itself and remain without their embrace.
This understanding grows more deeply in me as I watch my children form their households and choose their lives, and as former business partners assume responsibility for enterprises I helped bring to the world.
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February 7, 2023