Real Salt, Proverbs, and the Paradox of Learning and Happiness

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Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. ~Proverbs 3:13

Over the weekend, I flew down to Arizona for some special family events, leaving Hubby and the older two kids at home while I took the baby on my lap. Baby was a champ, by the way, sleeping through every flight (we had to change planes, so there were more flights than you’d think). And on the first flight, I ended up talking with the man next to me for an hour while baby slept. He was headed down to see his new grandchild, and it turned out we had more in common than I would have guessed.

For example, he works for the company that makes Real Salt, and since Real Salt is based in Utah, my parents had asked me to buy some and bring it to them, so I had a pouch of it in my luggage. He told me more about the company, like the value they place on hiring employees who are willing to continually learn new things and broaden their understanding of health-related topics by reading books and participating in continuing education, etc. That got us started talking about the importance of learning, how he’d felt stagnant in his old job driving trucks because despite listening to books on CD, etc, he didn’t feel like he was “growing.”

I could tell by talking with him how happy he is with his current job and also how much he’d learned (he told me about the minerals in the salt; about how leaving it unrefined makes the difference; how even if bits of dirt get in there, the dirt’s “good for you”).

We discussed the paradox of it, though: that despite the joy of learning, it can also be scary as hell.

He likened it to standing at the edge of a cliff when you first realize how much you don’t know. It’s absolutely frightening to feel so incompetent all the sudden.

I can relate to that! I told him how as I’ve learned about health topics, I’ve felt completely incompetent at providing meals for my family. I’d spent eight years collecting recipes that I suddenly learned weren’t healthy (many of them, for example, relying on canned substances whose ingredients labels I had never even glanced at), and there were a couple awfully frustrating months as I experimented with substitutions and new recipes, amid the grumbling complaints of my husband and kids whenever healthy did not equate with tasty.

Maybe especially because of that plane ride conversation, the proverb above caught my attention when I came across it this morning. Am I really happier with all my new understanding of health? It’s been so aggravating all along the way that sometimes I’m hardly sure. Often I’m more inclined toward the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Or in my case, “Ignorance was bliss.”

I thought back to Made to Stick, the book I’ve been (slowly) reading about how to improve the longevity of an idea. It mentions proverbs at least a few times, saying, “Proverbs are simple yet profound. Cervantes defined proverbs as ‘short sentences drawn from long experience.’ . . . The proverb is short and simple, yet it packs a big nugget of wisdom.”

I’d have to agree. That’s why I put a proverb at the top of this post. It manages to say in one quick line what it’s taking me paragraphs to get across.

There is a certain bliss to ignorance, but the happiness of wisdom and understanding is so much deeper, and I think in the “long experience” Cervantes describes, wisdom would win out over ignorance. In the long run, I think my family will be happier by eating healthier, the young grandpa I met on the plane will be happier in a job that lets him keep expanding his understanding, I’ll be happier as a teacher once I incorporate the wisdom from Made to Stick, and the temporary incompetence and discomfort we felt will be just a brief memory.

What do you think? Know any proverbs that say, “Don’t worry — the scared-****less, edge-of-the-cliffs-of-insanity feeling of total ineptitude will be worth it eventually and we (the wise, ancient originators of all proverbs) swear that the happiness of wisdom trumps that of ignorance”? Or equally as good, have you had experiences that prove it?

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10 responses »

  1. For me, my freshest experience deals with my knees. I felt only too happy to assume that they were just tired while working at my old job. Then finding out the truth about Dad’s knee troubles and then my own scared me. Those first few days I envisioned a future where I needed handicap parking stickers, canes and surgeries. But the fear subsided with the knowledge that I could now shape my future rather than having it thrust upon me unsuspectedly in years to come.

    I can’t go up and down flights of stairs without paying a price, but I am exercising and know I will get better in time. You can have bliss in ignorance for a time, however, you will suffer for it in the end. It is far better to learn and grow than to be a victim of circumstance – especially the kind that could be prevented.

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  2. Sweet post! It sounds like you had a great conversation. How about Proverbs 14:18: “The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.”

    I really enjoyed thinking about this. Thanks!

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  3. Pingback: Earaches, Onions, Books and Blogs: Electronic vs Print « All About the Words

  4. Hi Nikki,
    How are you doing? i just recieved this article from the owner of Redmond salt company…that i guess you wrote shortly after the plane ride in Feburary. i am the young grandpa that sat next to you on the way to Phoenix. i hope you are liking the Real Food products. Have you made a trip down to our store on 8th north in Orem? Lots of good stuff and great tasting ideas there…

    Anyhow i thought i would say hi and i guess happy New Year!!!
    Good luck on your quest for better nutrition…

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    • Jim, how cool to hear from you! And how funny to be reminded of this post and read it again from the future. I love Real Foods, both the store and the concept. We’re all whole foods and traditional food prep now, still learning and improving our health as much as we can. Thanks again for a thought-provoking conversation that made for a great plane ride. Hope all is well for you and your family!

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  5. You are asking wonderful questions! It is right to ask people around you how they know what they know. But, the most important person to ask that question of yourself is you.
    Wonderful article, thank you!

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