Wise Words


A sage is one who is shrewd from experience and thoughtful reflection; who offers sound judgement and wise words. Throughout history, the sage’s outpourings are often expressed in the form of proverbs and idioms – insightful thought-provoking truisms. Sage is also an acronym for the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons but that’s not the intended direction of this piece.

The Ancient Greeks inscribed the entrance to Apollo’s temple with the profound “Know Thyself”. Descartes came up with the gem, “I think, therefore, I am” as his philosophical proof of the thinking entity and consequently the existence of a divine being.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius is probably the most widely-quoted sage and perhaps the popularity of his short, sharp sayings is reflective of a modern world that cries out for pocket-sized bits of data. “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance; Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it; I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand; Man with one chopstick goes hungry!!”

History can deceive and there is little doubt that some of the proverbs have been misappropriated – both inadvertently and mischievously. Did Socrates really say that “true wisdom is knowing what you do not know”?

The evocatively named Baruch Spinoza was a Dutch Sephardi Jew from the 17th century. Although less well-known, his sayings, perhaps more than most, are worth further deliberation. “Peace is not an absence of war; Reason is no match for passion; Don’t cry and don’t rage – understand; A thing does not cease to be true because it is not accepted by many.”

Reciting these words is all very well and even taking time to ponder them is grand but how can we put them into action – indeed should we even bother? They are easily dismissed. Time moves on and another choice presents itself and then another and another. Life seems to be one constant escalation of selections and decisions. We, somehow, hope that we will make progress in what seems like a forward direction; but we often recognise that we’ve passed this way before and, therefore, must be travelling in a circle.

Finance is not without its idioms and sayings. “What goes up must come down”, may not have been coined for share prices but it certainly holds true, nonetheless. “Past performance is not a guide to future performance”, is well worth remembering but we seldom do. “A fool and his money are soon parted; All that glitters is not gold; Money doesn’t grow on trees” – all of these relate to financial profligacy that we constantly repeat.

Wise words are difficult to decipher. If consumers are fortunate to receive well-intentioned financial advice, they may not recognise its true value. It may sound just like a well-worn proverb or expression – catchy, witty and deep but barely worth following. MMPI places great store in sound financial advice.

“When clowns invest in the financial markets, they don’t become rich. Their investments become the actual circus!”

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