I once heard wisdom described as the “sense of the fitness of things.” Wisdom is more than knowledge, it is a sensitivity of perception and consideration that facilitates excellence in thought, word and action. Wisdom in thought combines knowledge with accurate intuition. Wisdom in speech is saying the right thing at the right time or as the French say, “le mot juste.” Wisdom in action is being in the right place at the right time.
Wisdom is an uncommon sense that is available to all but possessed by few. We are not born wise, rather, we develop the capacity for wisdom through a properly managed upbringing, a well-rounded education and a breadth of life experience. While the accumulation of facts and information is necessary, it is not sufficient for the steady expression of wisdom.
Barry Schwartz, in his persuasive TED talk given in 2009, shares an interesting perspective on wisdom that I thought you would enjoy this weekend.
If we create too many rules, if we over-regulate the affairs of man, then creativity, improvisation and organic growth will likely atrophy. There is, of course, a balance to be struck. Rules are necessary, but too many rules or unnecessary rules can be stifling.
As Schwartz notes, practical wisdom can be developed given the proper time, sufficient permission and mentorship. These three elements seem to be in dwindling supply these days, not for lack of possibility, but from inattention. If we become a society that is dependent on rules to guide our every function, we will certainly miss many opportunities for growth and advancement.
Government is required in the areas where men are incapable of self-governance. Self-governance is made possible by a well developed capacity for practical wisdom. Let us work carefully together to generate a cultural medium in which wisdom can once again flourish.