The Wisdom Trap

“Wisdom Trap.” Nin had used this phrase before, had thought the words to be true, but he didn’t yet have a proper, tangible, working definition. It tingled just outside his perception, his mind grasped for it, but he could not see it clearly.

Nin decided to ruminate on these words—his words—and decide for himself what he meant.

First, he knew, that seeking wisdom was a good thing. There was no denying this. But, after wisdom had been acquired, then what?

He remembered a story of a young fox that lived by a farmer’s house. Now, a fox by a farm has all sorts of food options available, but this fox desired in particular the large red juicy shiny perfect apples that grew in the farmer’s orchard. He coveted them. This was a fox of culture and of pride, and he could hardly be satisfied with the common or the easy to acquire.

Unfortunately the orchard was guarded by a mean old hound. This was a fierce beast, always on patrol, always on alert. In all his years the fox had never seen the dog let even the tiniest little field mouse through into the orchard.

Of course, being a clever fox, the fox thought up a clever plan. One evening, while the farmer was away, the fox stole into the farmer’s house and poisoned the dog’s food. Not enough to kill the old hound (for the fox above all respected the dog for his work, and considered him a worthy adversary) but just enough to make him sick, to make him unable to preform his duties as guard.

And it worked! The fox entered the orchard. He danced and frolicked and went around inspecting the trees until he found the biggest, juiciest most perfect apple in the entire orchard. And he plucked it! And then he ran out the orchard, away from the farm, all the way back home to his den.

But here, now, is where the fox met his downfall. Having acquired his perfect apple, he paraded it around to his friends, he displayed it proudly in his home. He rubbed and shined the apple until it gleamed. He recounted his daring exploits to all who listened.

But he dared not eat the apple. He coveted it too much. To eat the apple would rid him of his prize, would destroy the evidence; the trophy of his victory.

And, of course, in due time, the apple rotted away and the fox was left with nothing. He did not get to taste the crisp freshness, the refreshingly tart, yet sweet flesh of the apple. The juice of the apple did not flow down his little chin.

Yes, Nin concluded, the wisdom trap was such—the acquisition of wisdom was worthless in and of itself. Rather, it was the application of wisdom that was important. Apples are, after all, meant to be eaten.

Perhaps merely finding that which resonated with the truth that beat within his heart was not enough, thought Nin. Perhaps there was more too it than that.

A philosophy of life must be lived.