“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” -T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
We hear a lot about this being the information age. Technology is making information available at warp speed across the globe. We are creating data bases for all kinds of things. A Google search gives me information concerning every conceivable area of interest. All good. Let’s remember, the information may be accurate or inaccurate, complete or incomplete. At this point, it is simply raw information.
What is knowledge and how does information become knowledge? Here’s one definition of knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
OK. Now, how do I gain knowledge, as opposed to a falsehood? On this post I am attempting to transfer knowledge I’ve gained to you. How do you know it’s true? Am I to be believed? So, you can see turning information into knowledge is tricky.
So far in this process we have raw information – not truth in any absolute sense – just raw information. It gets picked up, absorbed by the mind of a human being who takes the raw information and transforms it through some unknown alchemical process into knowledge – something the human being knows.
Garbage in, garbage out! In our world where we are inundated with information from so many sources, our first task is to question the accuracy or validity of the information. If our raw information is flawed, our knowledge is flawed.
Let’s assume we have good information and our mysterious, alchemical brain process has combined it with other good information and we have transformed it into knowledge, untainted by our own biases? That’s all a stretch, but for now we will assume it is possible.
Now we have knowledge.
What is wisdom and how does knowledge become wisdom? Wikipedia: “A basic definition of wisdom is the judicious application of knowledge. . . . Nicholas Maxwell, a contemporary philosopher in the United Kingdom, advocates that academia ought to alter its focus from the acquisition of knowledge to seeking and promoting wisdom, which he defines as the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others. He teaches that new knowledge and technological know-how increase our power to act which, without wisdom, may cause human suffering and death as well as human benefit.” [my emphasis added.]
So, it seems without wisdom, all the information and knowledge everywhere and everywhen isn’t of much value to us – may actually be harmful to us? I believe this is the core issue in our world today. A whole bunch of information and knowledge and very little wisdom. We can act before we have stopped to consider whether it’s in our best interest to act.
Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC) got it. He had a lot of skepticism towards his own self-made knowledge. He felt his skepticism left him free to receive true wisdom as a spontaneous insight or inspiration. Sounds a lot like intuition? So, he didn’t value his knowledge as much as his inspirations or his intuition.
Albert Einstein believed: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
David Bohm felt: “The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained.” “Perceive” – also sounds a lot like intuition?
First, I must discover what’s true for me. Of all the information out there and all the knowledge – what’s true? We may each find different truths. I have spent a lifetime gathering information and knowledge – the pieces to the puzzle of life. I don’t have all the pieces yet and I may never have them all. It seems my life is an ever changing picture – the pieces that fit last year may not fit into this year’s view.
Next I listen to my intuition – the small voice inside – of all the choices available to me what choices are in my highest good and the highest good of all? Then I act.
Intuition is an important component of wisdom. It is the ability to know something directly without any knowledge or analytical reasoning. Intuition joins the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind. Another mysterious aspect of who we are. What is it? Where does it come from? How does it work? No one knows. Do you see? Lots of mystery and magic between information and wisdom.
Finally, wisdom is gained through the act of choice making. It really doesn’t matter so much whether we make the right or wrong choice. We’ll do both as life unfolds. What matters is we are aware of the outcome of our choices and we adjust our future choices in light of this new information gained from our experience. All the while, intuition is there – ready to help us know, without knowledge. To help wisdom blossom.