Through the millennia comes a recommendation:
"Make wisdom your provision for the journey from youth to old age, for it is a more certain support than all other possessions."
That's a quote from the ancient philosopher, Bias of Priene. But maybe he was just biased, you could be thinking, if you're cleverer than it's good to be. No, he was simply right.
And many people these days don't quite get the importance of wisdom because they misunderstand what it is. It isn't the memorization and mental retention of catchy aphorisms or epigrams. The wisest among us isn't the person who can come up with the most quotes, like that one above from Bias of Priene. Wisdom isn't the same thing as recitation. A bird can be taught to recite quotes. It isn't even a matter of theoretical knowledge at all, as if there's a certain number of insights about life, a discrete number of wisdom facts, and to have wisdom is just to have learned them all.
And, most of all, wisdom isn't the ability to think and say obscure sounding things that can be interpreted by others as profound. What then, is it?
Wisdom is a skill set involving perceptive discernment, healthy emotion, and appropriate action.
It took me a while to come up with that, which is probably the wisest thing I've ever said about wisdom.
That's why it's impossible to come across a wise man or woman who always acts like a fool. If a person is foolish, then, to that extent, he or she isn't wise. But again, it isn't an all or nothing matter. It's not like the proverbial light switch, either on or off. It's more like a spectrum. You can grow wiser. When we call someone wise, we don't mean to imply perfection, only a preponderance of insight and appropriateness in judgment, emotion, and action.
The fact that wisdom is a skill set is good news. Any skill can be cultivated. Some people seem to be born with an innate endowment toward such skilled behavior, but hard work and practice can bridge the gap. And it's important for us all to cultivate this skill set throughout our days, because a fully good and happy life is impossible without it.
Wisdom, then, is not to be found just in words, but in lived insight. The words that best convey those insights are merely markers pointing to the skills we all need to acquire through their help. The sayings of the wise are our breadcrumbs along the path of full living.