KEEPING THE FAITH: Wise Up

Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer

Published: Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 12:08 PM.

When a mother giraffe gives birth, she will do so while standing up. So her calf’s first act is to fall six feet to the ground, crash landing on his face. Then, as if such an arrival wasn’t harsh enough, the youngling’s mother will continually knock him down when he attempts to stand. Only when completely exhausted will she allow him to stagger to his feet.

This isn’t cruelty. It is the youngster’s first and most necessary lesson, a tough lesson for an even tougher world: If you are going to stay alive in a world of apex predators, you better learn to stand on your own feet. You better wise up as quickly as possible. 

Yes, this is a dangerous, predatory world. If we are going to survive, we need to learn our lessons well. And since none of our mothers hatched us in the Serengeti, immediately kicked us in the head, or thumped us like a drum in the hospital nursery, we can’t rely upon nature’s classroom. We have to find a different way. That way is wisdom.

Wisdom is more than intelligence. One can have incredible brain power and be essentially clueless to how the world works. It’s not knowledge. Being “in the know” is not the same as knowing how to live rightly. And wisdom is not just experience. Some people have all the experience in the world — they have fallen on their faces over and over — and they never get any smarter.

Wisdom, at its most basic, is the skillful application of knowledge. It is skillful use of experience. Some native peoples of North America put it this way: One has become wise when he or she can 1) Understand what needs to be done, 2) He or she can do it successfully, and 3) He or she can do it without being told when to do it.

If this is indeed wisdom, then maybe no greater commodity is more needed in today’s world. In all aspects of society — business, family, government, economics, education, and religion — there is a dearth of those who seem to have any understanding and discernment whatsoever. Twenty years ago Philip Howard wrote a book entitled, “The Death of Common Sense.” If it was dead two decades ago, then by now, it has seized up with rigor mortis.

But beyond dropping all the idiots of the world on their heads and kicking them around for a while (a nice image I like to daydream about, but an image spoiled once I realize that I’m as big a moron as the people I criticize), what can we do on a planet with so little wisdom? Well, as simplistic as it sounds, we can pray.



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