When a wise man starts to believe there is fault in him, even throughout endless reflections of mind soul and body, into the cycles of thinking, all he discovers is that he is more and more sane. Still, he seems to think he’s faulted somewhere, and so he asks himself what is missing. How does the wise man move on?
Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz
I have known people who have known ‘wise men’ who match your description. They usually live in a monastery or a hole in the ground in the desert, and similar places. In short they hide themselves; they turn away from life to seek God. The impression they leave on others is not, however, of conspicuous wisdom. Rather they tend to radiate some kind of sanctity, or ‘holiness’.
To echo your words: they don’t move on. These are people who have a problem with coping. I’m sorry if this sounds negative to you; but I don’t believe in holiness, and I don’t accept this retreat into their self and despair over the imperfections of human life as wisdom. When you look over the history of philosophy as well as religion you will find, on the contrary, that the ‘wise men’ were not defeatists, but men who grabbed the bull by the horn and acted. Some of them changed the world.
You might not have noticed, but your description of a wise man matches Martin Luther exactly, so take a look and study how he moved on. Another, who contemplated his thinking endlessly because he was forced by authorities to this survival technique, was Nelson Mandela. He also moved on eventually. While you’re at it, proceed to Socrates, Augustinus, Gandhi, Confucius, Albert Schweitzer and others. I won’t give you a long list, these names will do. And you might then recognise that your question attacks a straw man.
Wise men are those who plunge into life and live their philosophy. They usually want others to wake up and live a meaningful life, and therefore they act in the world. They are the men who have understood that life is intrinsically action, not thought; but they also understood that thought, intellect, reason, sanity, creativity, understanding, judgement etc. must activate them for the good of their acts, so that something good comes out of their deeds.
The wise man of your question is not a wise man at all. He’s a cliche. Wise men, the whole idea of wisdom, is not what this cliche insinuates. As some insightful wise men have said repeatedly over the course of history: The meaning of life is not repose, peace and boredom, but striving, achieving something and, yes, moving on.