Wednesday, April 12, 2017


I want to talk in this article about being wise, since I think we all agree it is better to be wise than otherwise. In thinking about wisdom, I realized there are different kinds of wisdom--different ways of being wise. If a person knows a lot about money, and how to use it, you might call them money-wise. If a person knows a lot about the ways of the streets in the city, they're called street-wise. If a person is experienced in the things of the world, we call them worldly-wise. And if a person knows a lot about clocks, we call them clockwise.

This sounds funny, because, of course, that's not what clockwise means. In this case, the suffix wise means in the form of or after the manner of. This kind of language is rather archaic, but in older writings you might come across words like "guestwise", after the manner of a guest, or "crosswise," in the form of a cross. Even the Bible we read in Matthew 1:18: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise." It means, of course, in this manner. So, in the same way, clockwise means in the form of or after the manner of a clock. More specifically, it refers to the way the hands of a clock go around the face--down from twelve to three to six, and then up to nine and back to twelve again. This is the way all clocks go and anything that travels in that kind of pattern is referred to as "clockwise."

As you can see, there is a great difference between being wise about clocks and actually being clockwise. If you look at your watch and you saw the hands were going the wrong direction around the face (a direction known as counter-clockwise), you might still know everything about your watch--how it worked, who made it, how much it cost you, and all that kind of thing--but the one thing you wouldn't know is the time, because the clock, no matter how wise you are about it, is no longer clockwise.

For a clock, there is no substitute for being clockwise. Some people think if you can make the hands go fast enough around the clock, it won't matter if they're going the wrong direction. Others, in reaction, try to make the hands go the wrong direction very slowly. Some people decide just to sit around and talk about how well the clock went "in the good old days" and how thoroughly clockwise it was, but never take the trouble to actually try to set it right now. But other people take the opposite tack and say "Who cares about the old clockwise routine? Why shouldn't the clock just go counterclockwise? Why should we let the past dictate our lives? Let's just make the clocks go counterclockwise now." And in any case, we don't end up with a clock that keeps the right time.

A clock exists to keep time; if it fails to do that, it has failed in the very purpose of its existence and nothing can make up for its failure. That is why nothing else really matters for a clock besides being clockwise--going around the face of the clock at a given direction and speed. It's important to know about how a watch works--you need to be wise about clocks, so that if it starts acting up, so you can fix it--but merely knowing about clocks, no matter how much you know, will never make anything clockwise.

And Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

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