Wisdom is a quality revered by most but possessed and understood by few. There is a quality to wisdom that makes it seemingly impossible to capture in concrete terms. In my experience, most can provide a laundry list of good and exceptional qualities that characterize it but to capture wisdom in a sentence seems to elude even the most articulate. Even Merriam-Webster Online failed to define it, two out of its three times, without the word wise in its definition. The one that didn’t use it was the following four-part definition: 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>
I would agree that this definition seems pretty all encompassing but these dry definitions fail to capture what is most human about the concept of wisdom . Here are some of my thoughts. The reason for this quandary of articulation lies within the loss that comes from modernity. As we zip through time and space, with concerns about the economy, deadlines, and relationships ever increasing in complexity, we are forced to leave behind bits and pieces of that which made us human and discriminately compartmentalize the world around us. Have you ever thought to yourself that the world is getting dumber? or meaner? or less predictable? Generally speaking, it is and that just happens to be the momentum of the world today. The causes are innumerable but I’d say a good deal of it has to do with our proliferation of technology, struggle to find balance and the unprecedented number of people on this planet today. However, those are just the tangible causes.
What is afflicting humanity on all scales is a move away from simplicity and reason, and a move toward ‘efficiency’ and strategy. I would argue that strategy is a far cry from wisdom. I would also argue that ‘efficiency’, in its most common use, is an illusion trapped within the worldview constructed by our societal worldview. Efficiency, in the western world, is about economics. It has to do with conserving time and monetary resources in order to maximize profits. Ultimately, the value in creating efficiency has everything to do with saving a resource, which by all accounts is both, fabricated and valued based on human opinion. This has not always been the case but as historically significant decisions have been made along the way, money is no longer truly a tangible currency equal to the resources it is exchanged for.
Strategy, on the other hand is quite interesting because I think many people admire good strategists and revere them for being able to navigate seemingly treacherous situations and outcomes through calculation. This is understandable. Ever since the dawn of our species, we have looked to others and even the supernatural to help make sense of our…