Are We Wise? – Part 1

Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it. Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone. He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death. The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men. As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold. There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: the lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it. He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots. He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.

But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; to make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. Job 28:1-28

When I was in secondary school, there was a boy (whom I shall call Hercules) who was a few years my senior, probably two classes or so. This boy was, quite simply, a phenomenon. He was involved in virtually every field activity; and he outshone everyone in whatever he chose to do. I remember in particular that he was the all-time best hockey player and best swimmer at school. He excelled in every swimming style: backstroke, butterfly, breast.

During one of our school dormitorial swimming contests I was chosen to represent my dorm against other contestants, one of whom was Mr. Hercules. It is a mistake my dorm leaders must still be mulling over, 3 decades on.

The guy must have hit the water before I even heard the whistle. The rest, as they say, is history. By the time I finished the race, he could have gone to the Hilton downtown, had his lunch and walked back.

“Life’s not fair!” says the graceless Scar in Disney’s ‘The Lion King’. Hercules was built to bring much more misery to us. One can be athletic without necessarily having an athletic body, right? But it was not so with Hercules. He had the most athletic body that I can recall even to date. Broad, powerful shoulders, a muscle-ribbed torso, powerful legs, the works. You did everything you could to avoid being found anywhere near this sensation of a man.

Naturally, Hercules was also one of the top school prefects. It seemed life revolved only around him.

Now, you would think that if there was a God (something I was taught to believe since I was a child), He would have mercy on us poor ungifted souls and put a brake on things right there. We thought things could not possibly get worse, but they did. This time God did not simply turn the handle a notch higher; He sent it hurtling into space. A disaster of Herculean proportions was in the making and none of us boys had the slightest hint of it until the day it hit us like a tornado. This one must have affected the entire student body…

Apart from his many other superior virtues Hercules was also extremely handsome. This, however, was not too much of a problem since we had no girls to compete for in our school. But all this was about to change and, unknown to any of us, Hercules’ good looks would provide the coup de grace that would wipe out the last vestiges of life in us.

What happened was that one of our teachers decided to bring in his family from England; and one of his children was a girl. She was a girl of extreme beauty.

I know it is not true, but sometimes it is the most difficult thing to not believe that God is unfair. There were hundreds of boys in that school, but this girl fell in love head over heels with… Hercules! No boy was allowed to have a girlfriend but somehow, every evening after school, the girl’s dad would allow Hercules to walk the girl around school in full sight of everyone. Sometimes one did not know what was more bearable – to have them safely in your sights as they walked hand-in-hand or to see them disappear around a corner and not know whether a secret kiss or a whisper was passed from one to the other!

The rest of us were, in a word, dead. We were the walking dead. It was more than we could take. But the situation was beyond our reach and there was nothing we could do about it. We concentrated on our studies as best we could and it was with a sigh of relief that I personally saw Hercules wearing a graduation gown and knew that that was the last I would ever be seeing of him.

The thought never crossed my mind that he might be coming back to check on his English sweetheart. God at last remembered us and did not allow that to happen, otherwise a considerable number of us might have become nervous wrecks!

I cannot remember for sure but if I ever had Hercules in mind during any prayer that I made (assuming I did pray) there was no doubt as to the kind of prayer that I would have had for him. It would have to do with asking whoever was in charge to send a bolt of lightning to strike the fellow dead.

After I left that school I joined a gym to try and get Hercules’ chest and shoulders, but it never worked. I would lift irons but no muscle developed. Only my sinews got tougher. So I resigned.

With time I forgot my race of life against Hercules and moved on…