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There seems to have been a massive shift in an aspect of humans that provides the ability to steer and navigate through life. Throughout human history, we lived together and one would interact and learn from previous generations, through life experiences, the wisdom of life. This was not merely information, but a depth of knowledge and understanding that would produce a solid foundation on which younger generations could construct their living. Have we replaced wisdom with information?
Wisdom provides the ultimate guidance for living and, since it is not just information, we might consider it a much deeper aspect of human experience. Perhaps, even spiritual. Humans learn knowledge and skills through stages. First, is to learn about the subject by learning terminology or observing the performance of a skill. Next, one may use the basic knowledge or skill in simple forms. As they learn more about the subject, they begin to use the knowledge or skill in more complex ways. Eventually, they learn to apply the knowledge or skill on their own, adapting as required. At an even higher level of learning is mastery. Here one is able to somewhat bend or break the rules in ways that may be deemed artistic. They flow and are free from thinking and focusing on the techniques to being able to create and to make judgements. The knowledge and skills become who they are at a very deep level.
That would not seem to be the end of it. On the path to understanding, we employ various forms of what we sometimes call common sense. We seem to sort of pick up common sense as we travel through life. It stands on top of our inherent knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, what is good for us and what is bad.
As I look around at the world and society today, I see what I have just discussed has become so tattered and torn that I can scarcely find a thread of common sense, let alone any wisdom. What went wrong?
We have never had so much information at our fingertips and yet known so little about who we are. Look closely at this statement and you will see how it applies to what I have written above. Our society operates only at the basic levels of understanding. Today, information is used interchangeably with knowledge and seems to be considered to be synonymous with understanding. People still get educated, however, they may not end up making the field they are educated in, their life’s work. They may not be able to find a job or they may change jobs several times throughout their life.
For most of human history, who one was could often be established by one’s name. A name might even be changed to suite who a person became in life. One might be known as John the shoe maker. Names often had very deep meanings.
Without a flood of information at one’s fingertips, a person would have to learn from an elder, or wiser person—someone with more experience to pass along, often in the form of stories that would not only pass along wisdom, but would entertain. We sometimes call this mentoring or apprenticing. As books became available, valuable and important information could be published as a permanent record.
Enter mass communications. Suddenly, information is everywhere. More than we can absorb. There is no time to soak in the information to begin the journey to making it knowledge. The message travels through only a glimpse and the mind has no time to determine what it is being fed. The path to wisdom is broken. In addition, since it is so simple to publish or transmit information, anyone can do it and that information may not be accurate.
The question is, can a plethora of surface information at massive levels lead to the outcome of knowledge and even understanding? Can one, bombarded by daily doses of thousands of messages of information become wise with wisdom? Remember, wisdom allows one to make sound judgements. Look around and see if you can observe people making sound judgements.
It seems to me that the lack of wisdom is also tied into education and the need to systematize and mechanize human existence. The education system is designed to indoctrinate people into the current world view and to prepare them for a particular job or field of work. It is less about making human beings that can reason and more about maintaining the status quo. I ask, is it wise to maintain a path of growing consumption? Can we keep producing more and more? Does it make sense to judge the health of our society by the growth of its economy? This is a whole area of discussion that I have written about for years. Hopefully, you can get an idea of the sorts of questions one could be asking.
Our use of technology and its limiting of what full communications consists of, is stripping humankind of wisdom. When we communicate using any other means than face to face, we are missing about eighty percent of the message. I suspect that wisdom is best exchanged through face-to-face communications. As our machines become smarter and more like humans, humans become dumber and more like machines. We don’t seem to understand what is happening.
What exactly is wisdom? I’ll provide a little research. I did the following research after I had written the above.
Google, the reputed source of all knowledge today, yielded a definition of, ‘the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise.’
: knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life
: the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand
: knowledge of what is proper or reasonable : good sense or judgment
Full Definition of WISDOM
a : accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge
b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight
c : good sense : judgment
d : generally accepted belief <challenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians — Robert Darnton>
: a wise attitude, belief, or course of action
: the teachings of the ancient wise men
Wisdom has, in the Western tradition, been listed as one of four cardinal virtues. As a virtue it is a habit or disposition to perform the action with the highest degree of adequacy under any given circumstance. This implies a possession or seeking of knowledge of the given circumstances. This involves an understanding of people, things, events and situations, and the willingness and the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with an understanding of what is the right course of actions. It often requires control of one’s emotional reactions (the “passions“) so that universal principles, values, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. In short, wisdom is a disposition to find the truth coupled with an optimum judgement as to right actions. Synonyms include: prudence, sagacity, discernment, or insight.
Google lists The Free Dictionary as the second hit after Wikipedia. So…
From The Free Dictionary:
1. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.
2. Common sense; good judgment: “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things” (Henry David Thoreau).
a. The sum of learning through the ages; knowledge: “In those homely sayings was couched the collective wisdom of generations” (Maya Angelou).
b. Wise teachings of the ancient sages.
4. A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.
5. Wisdom Bible Wisdom of Solomon.
Ah, the Bible. Finally, a source we can take a deeper look at. Notice the above notes Solomon as having wisdom. Solomon was the son of King David and wrote most of the book or Proverbs, the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. In 1 Kings 3, Solomon asks for wisdom:
5 In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
6 And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
7 And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.
My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.
To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
King James Version (KJV)
9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.
10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.
Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.
For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Jeremiah 10:12, Jeremiah 51:15
He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.
Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
1 Corinthians 1:20
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1 Corinthians 1:24
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:30
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
1 Corinthians 3:19
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
King James Version (KJV)
2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
King James Version (KJV)
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
King James Version (KJV)
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
King James Version (KJV)
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Through the above select passages, the Bible seems to add to what I have already written by stating wisdom comes from the spirit of God, that the righteous speak wisdom. Wisdom made the heavens and the Earth. Only a fool despises wisdom from which deep understanding and judgement comes. Man seems to have his own wisdom, the wisdom of this world, that seeks riches and other earthly things. This is called folly and is vanity and vexation of spirit. This earthly wisdom is sensual and devilish. We are told that, if we lack the wisdom of God, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy without partiality or hypocrisy, we should ask for it. With the wisdom of God we have the understanding of the beast of Revelations.
If Solomon was considered the wisest man to live, Jesus claimed to be greater. He is even called the wisdom of God.