This is an introductory page about wisdom and truth and the mystery of life.

What is Wisdom?

Wisdom outweighs any wealth.  – Sophocles

Wisdom is deep understanding of life and how to live it.

Wisdom requires a pure INTENTION and emphasises both openness and a healthy scepticism.  A wise person values freedom of thought and avoids being dogmatic.

Wisdom depends on KNOWLEDGE of the world and of the human mind. This needs to be both academic knowledge and personal knowledge, drawing on accumulated human knowledge and thought as well as our own.

Wisdom also draws on both our personal EXPERIENCE and the experience of others.

Wisdom requires the application of our REASON to knowledge and experience. A wise person seeks the essence of such knowledge and experience, considering the big picture and the long-term view, seeking to find order, predictability and universal principles.

Wisdom uses both head and heart. Our thoughts and FEELINGS about life are both in play.

Wisdom includes ethics and good JUDGEMENT, considering what is of value in life.  Without reason and judgement knowledge could be misapplied leading to more harm than good.

Wisdom is assisted by deep, calm, meditative CONTEMPLATION of ideas. Thoughts and feelings can both settle to a harmonious state where heart and mind work together and wisdom emerges.

A deep, insightful, intellectual and emotional understanding of life can lead to a resolve to bring our attitudes and actions into line with our understanding.  Practical wisdom has a view of life and A WAY TO ACT in life.

REFLECTION on our actions can be part of a constant refinement of understanding leading to increasingly effective and beneficial actions.

Real wisdom is not the knowledge of everything, but the knowledge of which things in life are necessary, which are less necessary, and which are completely unnecessary to know. Among the most necessary knowledge is the knowledge of how to live well.  At present, people study useless sciences, but forget to study this, the most important knowledge. – Leo Tolstoy, A Calender Of Wisdom, 1908

The philosopher should be a man willing to listen to every suggestion, but determined to judge for himself.  He should not be biased by appearances, have no favourite hypothesis, be of no school, and in doctrine have no master.  He should not be a respecter of persons, but of things.  Truth should be his primary object.  If to these qualities be added industry, he may indeed hope to walk within the veil of the temple of Nature.
 Michael Faraday (1791-1867)   

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but to so love wisdom as to live according to its dictates a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.  – Henry David Thoreau

What is Truth?

Rather than attempting to assert what is ultimate truth,
we can seek to establish, for our everyday existence,
a view of truth that is conducive to a good and a happy life.  

If an idea or a belief appears, in practice, to be: –


for all,


through all time,

then, that idea or belief can be considered to be truth.

If an idea or a belief works for us, in our lives in this world,
then that would suggest it is in harmony with REALITY and so qualifies as TRUTH.
Essentially this approach is: –

What If We Think This Way?

How does life unfold for us?  And for others?
Not just now – over time too.
Is our thinking conducive to a good and a happy life?
We are always free to form our own view of truth.

With our thoughts we make the world. – Buddha

The Mystery of Life

Man need only divert his attention from searching for the solution to external questions and pose the one, true inner question of how he should lead his life, and all the external questions will be resolved in the best possible way.  – Leo Tolstoy

What do we know?

We don’t know where we came from.  Where were we before our birth?  Who were we?  Did we even have any existence?

We don’t know where we will go.  After our death where will we be?  What will we be?  Will we even continue to have an existence?

What are we anyway?  What is a human being?  What is consciousness?

What is life? What were the origins of life?

How did the universe come into being?

Humans have always pondered such questions and speculated as to the answers.  Some of the speculation has hardened into theories and belief systems.  Some people have claimed to know the answers or claim the answers were revealed to them.  Much debate, argument and even violence has surrounded the various competing theories, none of which has ever been able to win the hearts and minds of the human race as a whole.

In contrast, when discussion focuses on the here and now, and puts aside speculation about what we don’t know, or what is beyond ordinary human experience, then we find a broad consensus about life.  Peace, love, freedom, wisdom and happiness are all seen as desirable and worthy both as goals and as the way to the goals.  A great deal of understanding about how to live good lives has been accumulated.

Speculating about the mystery of life is something our curiosity is naturally drawn to from time to time but, while acknowledging and respecting that life is a mystery, we can decide our primary focus will be on living wisely and happily rather than getting caught up in endless metaphysical debate.

We can adopt he view that staying with what we know provides firmer ground for developing our full humanity.  We are here now as living beings with great potential for living life well, in harmony within ourselves, with our fellow beings and with all of nature. We can embrace life within the mystery.

The world is incomprehensible. We won’t ever understand it; we won’t ever unravel its secrets. Thus we must treat the world as it is: a sheer mystery.
–– Carlos Castenada

Life is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be lived.
– Soren Kierkegaard

Timeless and Universal Wisdom

Timeless and universal wisdom would be that which appears to have been true for human beings in all times and in all places and will continue to be.

No one can claim to be an authority on what is timeless and universal wisdom.  There is no one undisputed book or authority on the subject.

We can however consider what has been said by those respected as wise persons throughout human history – what has been widely accepted and rarely disputed amongst wise people?  We can seek to establish a higher level common sense built on clear fundamental understandings

The most profound insight in the history of humankind is that we should seek to live in accord with reality. Indeed, living in harmony with reality may be accepted as a formal definition of wisdom. If we live at odds with reality (foolishly), then we will be doomed. But if we live in proper relationship with reality (wisely), we shall be saved. Humans everywhere, and at all times, have had at least a tacit understanding of this fundamental principle. What we are less in agreement about is how we should think about reality and what we should do to bring ourselves into harmony with it.  ― Loyal Rue

Key Understandings for a Good and Happy Life

What is the starting point for our thinking?

Our thinking might start from assumptions, or beliefs, or from ideas we have been taught or that we have decided are true.  If those starting points are not in accord with reality then all the thinking that follows will be unsound and not be a reliable basis for how we live our lives.

So that means that “philosophising” about life is a practical necessity!

Have the courage to use your own reason
That is the motto of enlightenment. 
Immanuel Kant

So, what might be the key understandings for a good life?

On this website the author proposes a set of Key Understandings for everyday people seeking a meaningful life.

These Key Understandings present, in everyday English, a realistic, practical philosophy and practical positive psychology stated as seven key ideas or principles of timeless and universal wisdom.

The ideas presented do not depend on any belief system or formal philosophy for their validity.  Each can be rationally examined and tested through human experience.

Also on this website are many quotes from writers and thinkers, both past and present, that relate to each Key Understanding.

Each Key Understanding, being simply stated, so it can be kept in mind in an uncomplicated way and applied as a guideline as we live our life.  Yet each has many implications to be explored. Here that exploration is only started. It can be continued with individual contemplation or group discussion.  Readers are invited to reflect on these ideas and come to their own conclusions.

Along the way we have to ponder this big question: What is a good life?

That man is successful who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much, who has gained the respect of the intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.   Robert Louis Stevenson

 This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people … re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss what insults your very soul, and your very flesh will become a great poem.   Walt Whitman


Listed below are the Key Understandings. 
They are the core material of this website.

Click here to go to the first of the Key Understandings.


Key Understandings For a Good and Happy Life

  1. Life is about being truly happy.
  2. Our true nature is goodness and happiness.
  3. Everything is interconnected.
  4. All actions have consequences.
  5. Everything constantly changes.
  6. Our desires are endless.
  7. We need to be fully aware.

Copyright © 2008-2017 John Frederick Gray