Summary: Those who succeed, i.e. succeed in living life wisely, are those who have learned to listen well under all manner of instruction – pleasant instruction and that not so pleasing.
When I became the principal of a small high school, I thought about the question of what links the different academic classes together? What common discipline is being taught in English, Science, History, and Mathematics? Besides covering very different fields of knowledge, they also require different ways of thinking. One cannot address the significance of a military battle, for example, as one tests the significance of a mathematical theorem. Testing a scientific hypothesis requires different mental processes than gauging the quality of a poem. But what they all do have in common is that to do well in any of them, one must develop the ability to listen and observe well. If one doesn’t hear what is being said, then he will fail whatever the subject may be. Conversely, if he does learn to listen and perceive, he will succeed.
The same holds true outside the classroom. Those who succeed, i.e. succeed in living life wisely, are those who have learned to listen well under all manner of instruction – pleasant instruction and that not so pleasing. We will hopefully practice good listening to what these proverbs have to teach us.
30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.
How is your health? Young people don’t think about this too much, but it is a major topic item for us who are moving up in years. There are any number of body parts for us to worry about. The heart and the bones rank right up there at the top. They control much of our eating habits. We take pills and supplements to protect them or strengthen them. We exercise for them. This proverb gives two practices that make a significant difference for them.
The first is a cheerful look. The Hebrew says “the light of the eyes gladden the heart.” We speak of the “gleam in the eyes.” It is the look that expresses happiness, approval, love, fun. It is the look of approval that the young student hopes for in the teacher as she looks over his essay, or that the child hopes for in his parents’ eyes as they read the card he made.
It is loving look a couple in love or long married couple give to one another both alone and in a crowded room that assures each other of secure love. It is the mischievous gleam in a friend’s eye who shares a secret with you, her special friend. It is that brightening of the eyes of your friend or loved one, because you just came into sight. Or perhaps it is the look of forgiveness and reconciliation after a period of tension. How wonderful it is to see the light in people’s eyes whether they are for you or you just happen to be around. Cheerful looks – bright eyes – have good effects on the heart.
For the bones, good news are very helpful. The Hebrew phrase is “makes bones fat.” We may not want to be fat, but we do want strong, healthy bones, which is what the phrase means. What is the “good news”? Like the look, it can be many things. Perhaps it is the long-awaited letter from a loved one; perhaps the good news of being accepted to college, or getting the job offer, or having one’s proposal for an idea accepted. It may be the good news that the cancer is gone or that one’s favorite team won the championship. Whatever it is, good news has a powerful way of removing stress and making us feel better.
The simple, yet profound principle is that joy is a powerful, if not the most powerful, ingredient to a healthful life. Joyful people tend to live longer and healthier while being productive than gloomy people do. People can be productive without joy. Fear, anger, greed, pride, hatred, jealousy, competitiveness – all these things can motivate people to produce. But there is something about joy that the other motivators lack, which can be detected at the times in a person’s life when he becomes reflective.
The joyless person will say something like, “I wish I had taken the time to…” To what? Perhaps to enjoy the pleasure of a cheerful look. Perhaps to enjoy the good news of a new baby or the hometown team victory. No matter what the joyless person achieves, he always feels a sense of loss. He is missing something; he may not even be sure what it is, but something is not quite right.
Now someone may object that the same is true of joyful people. They may be joyful, but because they prize happiness so much they miss out on achieving great things. They are not willing to suffer; not willing to lay aside small pleasures for hard-won accomplishments. Or they stay joyful because they refuse to hear the bad news. They refuse to hear about suffering in the world. They will only listen to good news, only look at the bright eyes.