Wisdom of Folly

Zorba the Greek is one of the most fascinating fictional characters that I have ever come across. Though he is in his 60s, his passion for life is still youthful. He loves music and dance, wine and women, hard work and quiet sleep. He doesn’t look any different from the man next door. But he is different. He is enlightened. Religion and philosophy don’t appeal to him. They are absurd, according to him. What can a god mean in a world of injustices, cruelty and untold pain? What does the wisdom of the philosopher amount to in front of the beauty of a lily or the gurgle of a mountain brook?

Cast your gods and your wisdom into the sea, Zorba would say, and listen to the rhythm of the waves if you want to enjoy life. Life is not to be understood by philosophy and theology. Life is to be enjoyed every moment. Every moment, yes, up to your grave. Enjoy not only your food and wine but also the work you do. And don’t try to understand too much of anything.

“You understand,” he admonishes the narrator of the novel who is actually his boss, “and that’s why you’ll never have any peace. If you didn’t understand, you’d be happy!”

This is one of the many lessons of life that eluded me for a long time. Now that I have reached Zorba’s age, I know how right he is. I first read the novel, Zorba the Greek, when I was in my late 20s. I loved it. I admired Zorba. But I could never bring myself to emulate his spirit. I guess that’s how life is: we have to arrive at certain truths the hard way.

Once we arrive there, we know that even the wisest person is never far from folly. “Every man has his folly,” as Zorba puts it, “but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.” Zorba and Albert Einstein, Michelangelo and you my wise reader, all had/have irrational desires and incompatible aims. The greatest of geniuses and the holiest of saints are not free from delusions and aberrations. Even these geniuses and saints are evolved apes who blunder again and again along the way.

It’s okay to blunder. If only I had accepted that long ago, my life would have been far less miserable.

PS. This is the 3rd part of a series #MissedLessons. The previous parts are:

1. Idealism vs Realism

2. An Ounce of Appreciation


  1. Hari OM
    Life is designed for the 'blunder' - the gaining of experience is what gives it the grit from which to form a pearl... again I say, this is a fine series you have set in flow! YAM xx

    1. Thanks, Yamini. The flow was broken by a cataract surgery I had on Saturday.

  2. I feel that like your writing is telling me something...

    "Live your life the way you want... Be in the moment... just start livin'."

    1. Yes,live your life the way you HONESTLY want. Discover your truths. Borrowed truths won't bring lasting happiness.

  3. Loved it! As they say, wisdom comes from experience and experience from mistakes!

    1. One mystery for me is why certain people never learn from their mistakes and experiences.


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