Wisdom

Wisdom is a fuzzy term generally contrasted with ‘mere knowledge’ with the implication that one can apply knowledge unwisely. The old are said to be wise. Being old, I feel I should come up with a operational definition in case I’m called into account.

My theory:

1. Wisdom is pattern recognition across relatively long spans of time…decades rather than years.

2. If the old are wise, then it is simply because they have lived long enough to see longer cycle patterns. There’s no other way to do it.

I remember the first time a decade long plan actually worked out…before that, I didn’t really believe, deep down, that you could monitor something across decades.  

Pyrrhic victories teach wisdom. Being right but losing the fight teaches wisdom. So does being sure and finding out over a long expanse of time that you were flat out raggedy ass wrong….so becoming wise requires a fair amount of self-directed honesty.

3. Evolutionarily, since people and only a very few other species (elephants, killer whales) live beyond menopause, it is likely that we get to be old people precisely because we might become wise!

The contribution to the gene pool by individuals past reproductive age in big brained social species is almost certainly because they offer something to the tribe that isn’t obvious in a short term or immediate perspective.

4. There is a large tactical component to wisdom. Recognizing and pointing to long-term patterns is of value to the listener depending on the tact and precision of the story-teller. Observing how good advice goes wrong or gets ignore and learning to compensate for that is the heart of wisdom, he said sagely.

5. There is a contextual component to wisdom. The past must be enough like the present and projected future to make generalization possible. It’s easier to be wise about human nature than about progress in material culture.

Related, note, please, that simply pointing out that things are “not what they used to be” does not qualify as wisdom.

 

 

 

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