Proverbial Thursday – Global Wisdom


I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader.

Mostly anonymous, these global words of advice come to us from past generations and from across cultures.

They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb, or Saying, and a Quote that I find thought-provoking.

I hope you think so too.


This week’s Proverb:

Do not throw the arrow which will return against you

– Kurdish Proverb

The Kurds are one of the ethnic grouping of indigenous people of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia. [Wikipedia]

Do you see the Kurdish proverb as a warning that is often ignored?

I think it can be applied to life in many different ways. What is your interpretation?


The weekly quote comes from the Buddhist world is a little less direct in its meaning:

“Few among men are they who cross over to the further shore. The others merely run up and down the bank on the side.”

– Dhammapada

“Dhammapada,” is a compound term composed of dhamma and pada…. dhamma can refer to the Buddha’s “doctrine” or an “eternal truth” or “righteousness” or all “phenomena”;, pada means “foot” and thus: “path.”
According to tradition, the Dhammapada’s verses were spoken by Buddha on various occasions. “By distilling the complex models, theories, rhetorical style and sheer volume of the Buddha’s teachings into concise, crystalline verses, the Dhammapada makes the Buddhist way of life available to anyone.” [Wikipedia]

I invite you to share your thoughts in a comment. Tell me what you make of the Buddhist quote, or the Kurdish proverb.

Proverbial Thursday gives you Something to Ponder About



12 thoughts on “Proverbial Thursday – Global Wisdom”

  1. I find the first quote very much relatable, and to me it means don’t treat others how you don’t want to be treated. That is, treat others how you want to be a treated. The arrow reminds me of a tamer object, the boomerang, which is an interesting instrument, almost like it is working with nature with its specific shape to ‘magically’ come back to the person who threw it. In a sense with the arrow, it is karma: what goes around, comes around. You’d think after shooting an arrow straight with a bow it will never come flying back….but sometimes, you just never really know and the unexpected will happen.

    As for the second, Buddha related quote: those who have the courage to stand up and go for it, will end up going the distance. Running up and down the shore, I sense repetition, a sense of waiting as you look out to see to see what’s approaching and coming towards you. But that can also mean being patient and enjoying the scenery around us, enjoying what we got. But there’s only so much we can learn from standing still in one spot. Not all of us will be capable, though. Sometimes whether or not we move ahead depends on our capabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The proverb is an adage that comes in many forms, isn’t it, Mabel? ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto oneself’ etc. I think there is however, an added dimension to this proverb, and you touched on this aspect with the words, “You’d think after shooting an arrow straight with a bow it will never come flying back….but sometimes, you just never really know and the unexpected will happen.” I feel this is the essence of the quote. Anticipate the unexpected in the sense that one tries not to intentionally harm or wound others, because if you do, you never know just when or where the “hurt” you have caused will manifest. As you said, Mabel, it is a karmic reference.
      Everyone is an individual and brings with them their own differing background experiences that coalesce to form individual values, opinions, likes and dislikes. What offends one person will be nothing, like water running off a duck’s back, to the next.
      As such, we can never completely anticipate how anyone will perceive interpret, digest and react to, our words, (the arrow). And yet, if we choose our words carefully, explain and clarify them well enough, consider the person’s situation and circumstances ( the adage mentioned above), foremost in our minds as we formulate the thoughts and words, empathy, for one another, will shine through and an arrow should remain in its quiver, ie the potential quarrel or karmic consequence should be averted.
      An arrow is a good metaphor really. I can think of many instances where a hurtful or jealous word/look/action has had untold repercussions on another person, their family, friendship circle, work environment or demeanour as they travel home. It makes me reflect on those,’ if only I hadn’t….’ moments, …. moments where a seemingly flippant or off the cuff act has had enormous ramifications no one could have foreseen. Indeed the arrow is a dangerous weapon.
      For the Kurds, holding in those wicked actions, thoughts or words, mean they can control the arrow and avert inflicting any collateral damage, perhaps ultimately, on themselves.
      Is the basis of this quote, selfish, or suggestive of an act of self-preservation, Mabel? What do you think? If this is true, is fearing bad karma as a basis for actions, an act of self-preservation?


      1. “An arrow is a good metaphor really.” I like how you say it. We all have the potential within us to be someone others will not like (even though we may think our behavious is perfectly reasonable). I suppose when we are provoked, like how you pull back a bow to fire an arrow, that side of us can come out any moment.

        But I also like how you tied it to the idea of self-preservation. In the olden days, a bow and arrow was used for hunting, for food and really to survive. In a very abstract sense, we are defending our honour and ability to live – and it is in these moments we may forget about karma altogether. I really, really, like your interpretation of this quote so far.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you, Mabel. Preserving our own self simply has to sit higher on the hierarchy of basic needs, than protecting others’ from potentially hurtful words, or even consideration of karmic consequences. For without our own survival, everything else is hypothetical and simply rhetoric. Most of us are ingrained with the overwhelming desire for survival, particularly when we face a serious threat to our lives. When that threat diminishes we start to think about higher more abstract matters, like our honour and consideration of others’ needs. Such a good proverb this one from the Kurds!

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Secondly, Mabel, in reference to your comment on the Dhammapada quote, I like that you interpreted running up and down the shore, as two fold. Both a kind of repetitive action and also a ” remember to stop and smell the roses” meaning. I think that is an absolutely plausible interpretation of this quote.
      I thought of it in a different sense. I focused on the initial words “few men” – and so, in doing that, I started to see it referring to a great achievement, even a proactive, ‘get up and do’ kind of philosophy. Large sectors of the general public do not seem to have a ‘can do’ attitude, and they represent those running up and down on the shore, almost as if they are caught in the hamster wheel of life. They might be active and fulfill their obligations and responsibilities well, but they are not ‘Pro-active.’ They might contribute, but are they still treading water, (similar to your eluding to ‘repetitions’) till they die? The others that cross to the opposing shore dare to be different, they take a leap of faith, they might achieve great things, or they might even fail miserably, but at least these “few men” have tried, and didn’t remain standing still. Nevertheless, I really like your take on the staying put angle! It is equally worthwhile to put down roots, and enjoy one’s life without straying to the other shore. We do not all have to be, nor can we all hope to be, high achievers, superstars or leaders. Those of us DO NOT need to see if the grass is really greener on the other side. So, you are so right that it comes down to our capabilities. Self-awareness of one’s limitations and talents can help us decide which camp we might fall into.
      Everyone has value in this world, and it is best if those who are eager to swim or jump to the other side, do so when the time is right for them.
      Hmmm, I think this quote is so old and interesting, it almost classifies as a proverb!
      That is because I think there is another final layer to this quote. I am thinking that it might pertain to team/class spirit or a community’s cohesiveness. If so, then the quote might be telling us that the community must accept that a few members might cross to the further shore.
      I believe this might allude to the opposition, (be that politically, socially, religiously).
      Given that this is a quote from Buddha, it is likely that the other shore might be the opposite of the “righteous” path. How wise is the quote to realize that everyone has free will and we can not force everyone to follow our own philosophy, no matter how hard we try. In this, I am thinking it could even apply today, to the regime in North Korea. Have I taken the interpretation of the quote one step too far, Mabel?


      1. “Everyone has value in this world” I think this is very true, and you know, you could also apply to this to North Korea. Who knows what is happening over there, and really, what’s going on in someone else’s lives. Other’s lives may seem ludicrious to us, but on the other hand, they may be perfectly okay with how they are going about their lives.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Are North Koreans perfectly happy? An interesting point. Perhaps they are, because to quote another proverb – “ignorance is bliss.” They cannot hear the news of the world, so most likely see things very much in black and white terms. Things are clearer and simpler for them, even if they do not have individual freedom, or don’t appear to have any, for we only hear from those who have escaped the North Korean regime. Nevertheless, each of these north Korean citizens still have value, no matter what their government policy is or is not; no matter whether I agree with it or not; they have value just as much as the person sitting in the United states, or Mexico, or Syria or elsewhere. Often times, a country or group of people are de-humanised by resounding criticism of their ethnic group, or their ways, especially by political or public forces. And yet it is these same critical people with their negative opinions of others, or others who take the opportunity to criticize and stereotype larger groups of people, that may, in fact, alter somewhat to a more altruistic/enlightened viewpoint, after they are introduced to a very real individual face from such a group. An individual from a once denigrated society, who has lived through the experience already.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great blog post! definitely something that interests me. Im new to blogging, would you mind following me and checking out my own too? Great Read! x Bex


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