Pearls of Wisdom

#9 Empty Vessels Make the Most Noise

Below is the image of a empty oyster shell; sadly no pearls of wisdom; it is empty!

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Image : Home Guides

Empty vessels make the most noise is a very old saying, actually is goes back to Plato, the Greek Philosopher, 428/427 BCE to 348/347 BCE who said, An empty vessel makes the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest babblers ( and is repeated by Shakespeare in Henry V; who writes, The empty vessel makes the greatest sound (Act IV, Scene 4).

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Image : Ancient World Magazine

One could tell if an earthenware vessel was empty or full by tapping the side, the full vessel absorbed the tap and the empty vessel echoed the tap; therefore empty vessels made the most noise. This truth is used as a metaphor for people and if you observe people you will find that it rings true over and over again. People who are wise, who have knowledge that they rightly apply, who have skills and life experience, who have a depth of character and a compassion for their fellow humans, rarely have to grandstand. They do not need to make a lot of noise about what they know, rather others will seek them out and ask them to share of their wisdom, which if asked they will do humbly and gently.

On the other hand, empty vessels, people who lack wisdom, people who are reactionary, people who are desperate to prove their worth, make a lot of noise and like to draw attention to themselves. I am sure you can think of some examples in your own life and in the broader sphere of the media which support this. I need to make it clear that I believe all persons to be valuable, but from experience as a school teacher I know that it is those who listen who learn and those who talk all the time….. well, not so much.

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Image: Brainy Quote

There are some other examples in nature which support the notion of shallow and noisy. The babbling brook makes all the noise as is shallowly tumbles over the rocks in the stream while we also say that still waters run deep. In Max Ehrmann’s 1927 poem, Desiderata, he warns us to avoid loud and aggressive persons as they are vexations to the spirit.

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Image: Quote Master

The truth is anyone can make a lot of noise but when to speak and when to hold one’s silence is the stuff of wisdom. My favourite book shares its wisdom in Proverbs: Chap 17: V28, Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding (KJV). Paraphrased by Abraham Lincoln this goes; Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

As The Tremeloes sang in 1967, Silence is Golden, but my eyes still see. It is important to be quietly observant, to be prepared to listen, to learn, to protect the interests of others, to fill our vessels (ourselves) with wise counsel and then to hold our counsel wisely.

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