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Waiting on Wisdom

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” — Isaac Newton

I’ve been a “smart” kid since I was tested in the 7th grade as the government tested all American school kids in the year after Sputnik circled the Earth to find those in line for “accelerated education.” It’s been a long time since that orbiting basketball dropped on my head and I tire of being “smart.” I tire of ‘knowing,’ of being “up to date, ” “on the edge;” and tracking every transitory spasm of intellectual insanity that raves and drools from every chancred academic department with the word “Studies” in its title. Such brainiac blather is dross; it is compost in waiting in both its works and workers. Instead, I wait for wisdom. I wait for wisdom with that part of the human race which sees “there is the world dimensional for / those untwisted by the love of things irreconcilable…”

Every year it seems we know twice what we knew the year before, or so we are told. Every year the speed of new knowledge is accelerating, or so we are reliably informed from the always reliable sources. It is this sense of the speed of the new — that rushed satanic crescendo that makes most who know little of science revere science. These acolytes of collectivism, those who “rever”ence science as we once stood in the deepest caves and worshipped beasts drawn high above seen only in shadowed torchlight. We studied them then as the graven images that would deny death during the hunt. We knew so little then. We have learned little from our graven images since. Most still remain chained in the cave where they cannot tell the shadows from the substance.

Collectively the world “knows” much about how to make the world go round. But individuals know little about what is known except that it is known; i.e. “it is known that penicillin cures yellow fever.” This all of us know but few of us know why it does this and none know how it does right down to baseline. We know that 2+2=4 while knowing that we do not know why the universe moves in sync with mathematics only that we do know that it does. For now. And for reasons not known.

So we know that we know a lot more than we knew “before,” and we know that only a few of us know why we know what we know. Deep in our dark cave, we call these knowing ones ”experts” or “specialists” when they know much that is known about something there is to know. We also know that there is much that we don’t know, but we only know that in a general sense of the term.

What most do not know and fewer still can envisage is the immense cloud of our unknowingness. Our unknowingness consists of the state where we are today. Looked at all in all, we do not know almost everything there is to know. We do not even begin to know what we do not know, and we do not know at all things which we do not know that we do not know.

Here is a statement that is often mocked by the know-it-alls, but remains wise:

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones”Donald Rumsfeld

I would estimate that “the ones we don’t know we don’t know” comprises about 99.99% of all that can be known. Knowing that is the beginning of wisdom but wisdom itself does not advance our knowledge. Wisdom is a state attained, not an activity. You cannot become wise through study. You can be born wise by being born old. You can become wise through patience, experience, and reflection. You can have wisdom thrust upon you through the weight of circumstance. In none of these can wisdom be achieved through works done and awards won. Wisdom is not achieved but assimilated.

One should always be wary of those who proclaim by word or deed that they have become so smart they have become wise. This is the sort of pedantic ideological blindness that leads to “settled science;“  it is the intellectual insanity that leads down into the dark cave where men cannot tell the substance from the shadow. In that darkness, you think you are smart enough to “know” the way out, but taking that smart man’s way leads to the pit on the edge of which you sit as another smart man sent by the wise guys pulls the trigger that sends the bullet through your brain.

Time to wise up.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rob De Witt November 13, 2019, 10:06 AM

    This is brilliant, and I salute you.

    I hesitate to even mention such crap in this company, but 25 years ago Time magazine headlined a cover story about the Woodstock revival with the phrase “Everybody’s hip And That’s Not Cool.” Whatever its source, that phrase has remained graven in my memory.

    Time magazine, of all things. Even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and again….

  • GenX Crit November 13, 2019, 6:14 PM

    Remembering that we are all dust and will be dust again:
    It does not matter how things work – anything in the realm of existence – it doesn’t matter how anything works.
    What matters is Why things work.
    We look to the universe and into the subatomic for how.
    But we should look for Why.
    Love is Why.

  • Christina November 14, 2019, 5:35 AM

    The first time I heard Donald Rumsfeld say that, I wrote it down and have copies of it everywhere. I thought, and still think, it is genius. I could not believe it when I heard so many mocking him for saying that.

  • rabbit tobacco November 14, 2019, 1:10 PM

    The Germans were smart, but not wise.
    Wisdom can be inherited, just like spirituality.
    Your dna is basically your ancestors.
    Emerson:At different times in our life,
    our various ancestors come up to the windows
    of our eyes.