We do not often marry matters of wisdom and folly to those of love and hatred.
The biblical proverbs do not suffer this hesitation.
Not only does the Book of Proverbs rather daringly personify both wisdom and folly as appealing women in the street, calling out to passersby. It also sketches out the young man’s choice in terms of the strongest emotions of the heart.
Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.’ (Proverbs 1:20–23 NRSV)
Biblical wisdom understands that its alternative is, in the short term, both attractive and rewarding. It is quite normal for the simpleton—the one who will neither take the time nor invest the energy required to discern right from wrong and health from disease—to love his immediate gratification. The simpleton’s life does gratify. Wisdom makes no bones about this.
Likewise, Lady Wisdom knows the personal buzz that the scoffer enjoys as well as the tight-knit kinship that bonds together those who thrive on what has lately been called ‘ironic detachment’. Such a life is, within the limits of its own myopias, a good life. For the moment, it satisfies deep needs.
Not without reason do scoffers acquire an aura of coolness about them. To claim it does not exist or fails to allure is, in its own way, a virtuous but misguided blindness.
We learn also, if we accept Wisdom’s plea to listen to her words, that fools hate knowledge. Theirs is no dispassionate choice in favor of self-entrancing ignorance with no offense intended towards the wisdom they passed over. The affections of the heart are very much in play when we choose a path that over the long run hollows out our soul and cripples our community.
Wisdom and folly are no white-bread choices from among a menu of options, none of which matters terribly.
Our choice does matter, and terribly, no less than love and hatred which ignite the bones and fire the soul.