They and other great thinkers who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago still offer surprisingly relevant advice that one generation can pass on to the next.
“The search for knowledge and how to lead a meaningful life is nothing new,” says Dean Chavooshian, author of The Pursuit of Wisdom (www.thepursuitofwisdom.net), which explores more than 80 great thinkers in philosophy, religion and science.
“If parents introduce children to these ideas from the past, they will have a better understanding of how to live, think and make decisions in the world today.”
Of course, skeptical young people might doubt that anyone who predates the Internet has much to offer in the 21st century.
They are wrong, Chavooshian says.
“These ideas are relevant whether people are wearing togas or jeans,” he says, “and they have practical applications that can help all of us.”
Examples of everyday advice these extraordinary minds left us include:
- Ask questions to understand other viewpoints. When people hear an opinion that differs from their own – whether it’s about politics, religion or the merits of a favorite entertainer – their immediate reaction is to argue for their side. But Socrates’ favorite method for weighing the validity of someone’s argument was not to counter with his own arguments. Instead, he posed questions. Lots and lots of questions – hoping to lead to a broader understanding of issues.
- Treat others well. Good manners aren’t just empty gestures you reluctantly agree to because your grandmother expects it. Roughly 2,500 years ago, Confucius stressed the importance of paying attention to rules about politeness and decorum. How you treat others really does make a difference in how they treat you. Confucius’ disciples marveled that he made his point “by being cordial, frank, courteous, temperate, (and) deferential.”
- Nurture your curiosity. The world is filled with endless topics to study. You should never stop learning. Chavooshian suggests young people look to Leonardo da Vinci for inspiration. “He was fascinated by just about everything,” Chavooshian says. Da Vinci’s journal pages were practically an encyclopedia of conceptual inventions and observations in the fields of architecture, engineering, astronomy, zoology, biology, geology and hydraulics. Somehow, he also found time to paint “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper.”
“We all have a hunger to unravel the mysteries of life,” Chavooshian says. “But it’s important to remember that you don’t have to start from square one. A lot of wonderful thinkers have already laid an excellent foundation for us.”