23 September 2012

Wisdom vs. morality

From This American Life episode 467 “Americans in China”:

In urban China, the sight of a foreigner no longer causes a crowd to gather and stare. But in the rural half, people still approach me with friendly, cautious curiosity, the way you might if a giraffe wandered down your street. I read that the comedian Steve Martin used to hand autograph seekers a signed name card that confirmed the person had met Steve Martin and found him to be warm, polite, intelligent, and funny. I've often thought of making a similar card to present with a silent smile, answering the usual six questions asked of me in this order.

One, I'm an American. Two, I've been in China a long time. Three, I was born in the Year of the Rat. I'm 1.86 meters tall. Four, I do not have a salary. I'm a writer. Five, Chinese is not hard. It is easier to learn than English. Six, yes, I can use chopsticks. We eat Chinese food in America too, but often it's expensive and orange.

On rare occasions, someone starts me off with a curve ball. A gruff construction worker sidled up to me last week, hard helmet in hand, to ask if anyone has ever told me my beard is beautiful. Once, a gentleman in a business suit, standing on a country lane, wondered if morality was more important than wisdom.

Is wisdom more important than morality?

1 comment:

richard said...

Without definitions of either wisdom or morality it's hard to say. Still, I can imagine versions of the question where the answer is yes much more readily than versions where the answer is no.

...great story.