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51. Wisdom

Wisdom is holistic, objective and subjective, information, knowledge, understanding and their applications developed through deep, personal experience.  As a culture, we get the value of information and knowledge, but we don’t do a very good job developing, using and valuing wisdom.

When we experience something freely, deeply and personally, we experience far more than just the dry facts of information, the intellectual logic and what we can conclude from it.  We experience not only the objective elements we can measure; we also experience the subjective elements.  We receive information directly through our senses, minds and bodies and process it with the totality of our being.  We experience sensations in our bodies, and we experience emotions associated with the experience.  We have a rich array of feelings.  We get to draw on the intelligence of not only our minds, but also our bodies, our guts and hearts, inputs and understandings we may not exactly grasp with our brains.

Direct experience provides a rich and full range of sensations, feelings, thoughts and reactions, far beyond the intellectual exercises of processing abstract data and computing logic.  Direct experience is full, rich and analog, while intellectual experience is often dry, digital and limited.  Personal experiences are real.  Intellectual experiences are artificial models.  We apply the full range of abilities of our beings to personal experiences, but we typically apply only our intellectual abilities to indirect experiences.  Wisdom is knowledge developed through the full range of our experiences, not just our intellects.  Knowledge is good.  Wisdom is better, because it is more than just thinking.  Wisdom is grokking it.

We do not do as good a job developing wisdom as we do knowledge, because we limit our experiences.  Most of us have a relatively constrained portfolio of experiences.  We go to similar schools, do a limited set of things, and work in specialized occupations, doing a limited range of things.  We intellectualize.  We consume.  We get few new experiences, because we take few vacations, and devote those we do take to inadequate recovery and restoration, and because we don’t seek and create new experiences. 

We consume spoon-fed news and passive entertainments.  We buy our stuff from others rather than create it ourselves.  And we stitch it all together with autopilot habits, driving around similar roads, staying in similar hotels, eating in similar restaurants, having typical meals, consuming similar entertainments, and maybe doing the same kinds of exercise.  We do a lot, but we have a limited range of personal experiences.  We accumulate lots of information and knowledge, but relatively little wisdom.

Ask a child or youth how school is.  A typical response is “school sucks.”  Why?  “It’s boring,” and they often stretch that word way out, like “booOooring,” with eyes rolling.  Why is it boring?  “We never do anything.  We just sit there.”  But aren’t you learning a lot?  “I guess, but I don’t know why they make us learn that stuff.”  Why aren’t you doing well in school?  “My teacher doesn’t like me.  (S)he’s mean.”  Why do you think (s)he doesn’t like you or is mean?  “(S)he gets mad at me for not paying attention and not doing what (s)he wants.”  Why don’t you pay attention or do what (s)he wants?  “It’s boring, and I don’t understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.  I just can’t sit still and do nothing that long.”

We value information and knowledge, so we try to jam that into kids in school.  We don’t particularly value wisdom, so we don’t provide experiences with which to develop it.  We don’t show the relevance of what we ask us to do, and we don’t grok the full realness of what we only intellectualize. 

 

Children naturally hunger for and enjoy experience.  Kids absorb wisdom at extraordinary rates when exposed to experience.  Instead, we deprive kids of experience and try to get us to repeat information and think logically.  Our higher rational functions typically don’t really even start kicking in until around puberty, or mature until around age of 25.  We cheat us of experience, discipline us to do what we say, and force feed us abstract information and knowledge, even though we’re not ready for it.  In that process, our education systems develop populations with limited wisdom.

In previous generations, children had many ways for experiences to develop wisdom outside of school.  We worked in various ways on farms and in communities, which provided a wide variety of experiences.  We were part of making things, so we experienced how knowledge is applied to make real world things.  We were part of growing living things and making food, so we could experience how things grow and how nature and food work.  We were part of church and other communities, so we could experience how communities work.  We were more often in natural environments, so we could experience natural living beings and ecosystems.  We ranged through our worlds, so we could have experience in them.  We relied on imagination for play, so we experienced creative processes.

Now, kids are typically in school, sitting still and trying to ape information back and do what we’re told; in a house, consuming artificial, electronic entertainments or sitting around bored; or in afterschool activities mom shuttles us to in cars, getting some experiences, if we’re rich enough.  Kids now typically are in artificial rather than natural environments, don’t work, don’t grow things, don’t know where food comes from or what it is, aren’t part of building things, aren’t part of church or community out of school, aren’t allowed to wander, and consume entertainment rather than create it through imagination.  Where is the opportunity to experience real things, deeply and personally, and develop wisdom?  We hold people, society and civilization back by denying us real experiences and opportunities for wisdom.

With wisdom, we understand impacts of experiences on the outside world, but also on internal worlds.  We know how an experience is impacted by motivation, energy and feelings.  We personally experience how different energies, emotions, attitudes, views and behaviors, and their opposites, affect experience, things like:  anger, fear, hate, love, happiness, despair, meanness, respectfulness, apathy, helpfulness, pride, grief, hope, suffering, trust, effort, humiliation, bullying, regret, optimism, reverence, empowerment, aggression, despondency, encouragement, desire, misery, peacefulness, courage, shame, neutrality, willingness, grief, discouragement, forgiveness, aggression, craving and scorn.

Wisdom allows holistic thinking and problem solving, based on holistic lessons and experiences that encompass objective, external facts, information and knowledge, as well as subjective feelings, energies, motivations, emotions, behaviors, beliefs, and worldviews.  It’s kind of cool we have knowledge and abilities that can blow up the world and destroy ourselves and all life in it, but it’s ever so important that we also develop the wisdom not to do something so short-sighted, selfish and stupid.  Information and knowledge are built through the intellect.  Wisdom is a product of rich and full, personal life experience.

It is very important to value and develop holistic wisdom and to prioritize the creation of wealthy personal portfolios of diverse experiences that broaden and deepen that wisdom.  Wisdom is common sense developed through experiences and shared experiences.  We need a lot more of that.

 

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