I never cease to marvel over the vast and ever-growing storehouse of knowledge the Internet offers to us. Years ago, when doing research for a book or an article, I’d usually jump in the car and drive to the nearest library. I have nothing against libraries – they’re fun places to visit – but thanks to the Internet I haven’t needed to go to a library for information in several years.
Just about anything we could think can be found on the Internet: biographies, famous quotations, recipes, summaries of books and films, health information, do-it-yourself tips (not that I’d have any interest in those), sports statistics, weather forecasts, phone numbers, map and directions. You name it, it’s there.
My wife and I recently marked our 40th anniversary, so out of curiosity I looked up the year 1974 on the Internet to see what was going on then – it was too long ago to remember! I found out Richard Nixon was in the midst of the Watergate scandal; 24-hour a day radio news coverage was just starting; “Happy Days” was beginning its 11-year TV run; Peter Benchley’s book, Jaws, was published; Barbra Streisand was singing “The Way We Were”; and somebody named Woody Hayes was coaching the Ohio State football team.
|We'd all like to be wise as the proverbial owl.|
But where and how does the owl get its wisdom?
You can find anything you need to learn online. That is, almost anything. One thing you can’t learn from the Internet is wisdom.
True, you can learn the definition of wisdom. The one I like best is: “the ability or result of an ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.” Another defines wisdom as “the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.”
We can even find out what other people have said about wisdom. I never thought of the late great rock guitarist and vocalist Jimi Hendrix as a fount of wisdom, but he observed, “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” Must have come from one of his more elucidating LSD moments.
Author Aldous Huxley asserted, “Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you.” There’s considerable wisdom in that recognition. Sounds like the voice of experience.
Philosopher Socrates once stated, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s occurred to me that the older you get and the more you think you know, the more you discover you don’t know yet.
Revered Chinese philosopher Confucius pointed to the reality of wisdom’s attainment when he said, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
President Calvin Coolidge gave a similar view when he commented, “Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity.”
The Internet truly is a bottomless well for information and knowledge, and we can learn a lot about wisdom, but you’ll never gain wisdom solely through mental exercise. It is, as Huxley commented, what you do with what you get. And there’s no substitute for time and experience.
But there’s one more source of wisdom we too often disregard entirely. The Scriptures tell us where to find it: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
James 1:5 says wisdom can be ours just for the asking: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” But there’s a caveat to such a request, as the next verse points out. “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).
Later in the book it states, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). That sounds like something worth having.