Sunday, May 25, 2008

One head cannot hold all wisdom

In this day and age of information overload this probably seems very obvious; not even the mighty Google can manage it.

This proverb seems like a variant of: two heads are wiser than one. Humans are designed to work in groups with a leader who co-ordinates and directs. This makes the group stronger and more effective than a loose bunch of enthusiasts who pull in different directions and end up quarrelling.

We live in a time of increasing specialisation where individuals know a great deal about ever-narrowing fields of study. This is where proverbs can be particularly valuable as they attempt to condense much experience and knowledge into a short pithy statement.

As William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, put it: "The Wisdom of Nations lies in their Proverbs, which are brief and pithy. Collect and learn them… They are notable measures and directions for human life. You have Much in Little; they save time and speaking, and on occasion may be the fullest and safest answers."

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