When complemented about his scientific achievements, Issac Newton humbly told his admirers that he was just like a child picking up pebbles in the ocean of knowledge. While humility is the hallmark of a great man, a hollow man is often characterised by boastful manners.
A truly learned man is always conscious of the vast area of human endeavour of which he is ignorant. He knows what he does not know. A shallow person with a smattering of knowledge about a handful of subjects is completely oblivious of his ignorance of most subjects. He shows off whatever little he knows to attract attention. It does not matter so long as he is in the company of ignorant people. But he thoroughly exposes his ignorance in the presence of knowledgeable people.
Desire to show off one's superiority is observed mostly among people who are acutely conscious of their inferiority or worthlessness. They try hard to conceal their lack of substance by putting up a brave front while knowledgeable candidates facing an interview board are precise and to the point in their replies to questions, shallow candidates beat about the bush to conceal their ignorance.
They consider they smart enough to browbeat the veteran and experienced members on the interview board. In ideological disputes in a political party, the most seasoned politicians will keep their counsel whereas the novice will move heaven and hell to prove their point. The veteran leader intervenes decisively and settles the issue with his weighty opinion. Achievement oriented people take as their role models the greatest achievers in the world.
Thus an accomplished batsman like Sachin Tendulkar would like to equal the record batting average of over 99 in test cricket of Don Bradman of Australia. As he has not reached anywhere near this average so far, his achievements have not gone to his head.
Not only individuals, communities and nations too loose their balance and indulge in tall talk. With half of India's population still ignorant of the 3 r's at the turn of the Twentieth Century, many Indians boast of their great civilization and dream of once again putting on the mantle of the World-Guru.
The erstwhile rulers of the Soviet Union bragged about destroying capitalism and bringing about universal communism at a time when their economy was nearing collapse. U.S.S.R. has since disintegrated and Russia is fighting for her survival.
Wonder and mystery of world and phenomena of life induce awe in the minds of profound thinkers. It is impossible to unravel all the mysteries of nature. Man has only begun to understand a few aspects of this mystery. The enormity of the task of under¬standing nature strikes him dumb.
All his formulations of law of nature or of society are tentative attempts without any finality. Only semi-educated people can claim to have discovered the whole truth about nature or society. No ideology alone can solve the problems of mankind. If somebody claims so, he will be considered an ignoramus in the world of today. Wisemen will venture a few tentative generalisations. Only shallow people will be loud in their protestations, it is truly observed that an empty vessel makes much noise.
An eminent example of disproportionate noise compared to factual knowledge is provided by the big ruckus raised in connection with article 370 of Indian Constitution relating to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Most people who cry hoarse over deletion of article 370 have never read this provision of the constitution. Their emotional outbursts are triggered by their momentary impulses. Knowledge of constitutional provision made by the founding fathers of Indian Constitution would surely have a salutory effect on them.
Brevity is the soul of wit', said William Shakespeare. A Wiseman weighs his words carefully before making use of them. He never wastes a word. He is able to express the profoundest of thoughts in fewest possible words. Francis Bacon is famous for his pithy and epigrammatic sentences. He is the most quotable of all English essayists. Similarly Alexander Pope excels as a poet in capturing great ideas in memorable phrases like "Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread" or "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Bacon and Pope occupy high position in English literature whereas many of their more verbose, pompous and longwinded contemporaries are completely forgotten.