The biblical book of Proverbs is one of my favorites in all of ancient literature. I like it for many reasons: its simplicity, its colorful metaphors, its poetic imagery, and the fact that for the most part it can be taken in short snippets. A look through those snippets, presumed by many to be the compiled wisdom of Solomon and others, brings forth a number of recurring themes, which I have summarized in the title of this section. To listen is characteristic of wisdom; to insist on talking, of folly.
Learning to listen, then, is a path to wisdom. The listeners are the best teachers. Those who are eager to learn, are most qualified to impart knowledge. It was Schleiermacher who said that “the true opposite of knowledge is not ignorance, but the presumption of knowledge,” but no matter who has said it, it would still ring true. St. Paul said it even more strongly: “if any man think that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.”
So, to declare these things and assert them as true, am I being foolish and presuming to know more than I do? Obviously.