The massacre in Mumbai, India is over (see here). Now the authorities are trying to determine who is responsible. The trampling death of an employee in a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream on Long Island forced the store to immediately close for several hours right after its opening. Authorities are now trying to determine which shoppers were responsible (see here). What do these two incidents have in common? Both the terrorists who attacked Mumbai and the people in the stampeding crowd at the Long Island Wal-Mart demonstrated a lack of wisdom.
Consider the definition of wisdom.
n 1: accumulated knowledge or erudition or enlightenment
2: the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common
sense and insight [syn: wiseness] [ant: folly]
3: ability to apply knowledge or experience or understanding or
common sense and insight [syn: sapience]
4: the quality of being prudent and sensible [syn: wiseness,
Neither the terrorists nor the people in the stampeding crowd are ignorant or stupid. Nonetheless, both lacked crucial knowledge. They lacked the ability to make good use of their knowledge and experience. Instead, they were destructive.
Most have heard this old adage: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” It comes from one of the works of Alexander Pope.
A small amount of knowledge can cause people to think they are more expert than they really are.
First used by Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) in An Essay on Criticism, 1709:
“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”
The best way to learn wisdom is from stories told with good humor. So it is I enjoyed reading the stories of Mark Twain. Consider this short story.
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. (from here)
Somehow as the boy became a man, he began to acquire the wisdom of his father. Seemingly, this should be the easiest of all eras to become wise. We live in the Information Age. In a matter of minutes, anyone with a computer and a connection to the Internet can gather huge amounts of data on any subject. The problem is digesting this data, separating what is useful from the chaff. It takes time, effort, and courage to learn wisdom. Where do we start?
I think it begins by learning what our forebears considered important. What was their greatest joy? What knowledge did they consider most valuable? Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing (see here). His invention made the mass production of books feasible. What was the first book he published? His first edition was called the Gutenberg Bible. What is even more amazing is that copies still exist (see here, here and here for examples).
The Bible represents the accumulation of hundreds of years of wisdom from over 40 authors (see here). These authors give us the history of their times. They tell stories about challenges faced by real people. They provide advice from the wise and from God. Most important, the Bible gives us a reason for living.
Unfortunately, the Bible is not an easy read. It does not offer simple answers. So even amongst those we consider educated, knowledge of the Bible is surprising sparse. Consider this example from a popular writer of fantasy.
That is the line we all straddle, between comfort and adventure. There are those who find satisfaction, even fulfillment, in the former, and there are those who are forever seeking.
It is my guess, and can only be my guess, that the fears of the former are rooted in fear of the greatest mystery of all, death. It is no accident that those who construct the thickest walls are most often rooted firmly, immovably, in their faith. The here and now is as it is, and the better way will be found in the afterlife. That proposition is central to the core beliefs that guide the faithful, with, for many, the added caveat that the afterlife will only fulfull its promise if the here and now remains in strict accord with the guiding principles of the chosen deity.
The author of the above is R. A. Salvatore. The two paragraphs above are from The Orc King. What the two paragraphs betray is a misunderstanding of the meaning of faith. Faith is about belief. Faith also provides comfort, but it provides this comfort within the context of seeking and adventure.
Faith is about finding the courage to act upon what you know to be true. That is not as easy as it sounds. Think of the things we each did growing up. We learned to swim, stand before a group and give a presentation, drive a car, go to work the first day on our first job….. Each new endeavor requires of us a small act of personal courage, to have faith in what we know to be true. Religious faith requires even more courage. The believer must act upon truths we cannot prove. That faith sometimes even requires the faithful allow themselves to be subjected to ridicule and persecution.
When God calls upon us to serve as his hands and feet, He asks us to walk with Him in a journey outside our comfort zone. The Bible is the guide for the Christian faithful. The Bible explains God’s purpose for us. It gives examples of the trials of those who have gone before us. And the Bible provides words of reassurance. Most of all, the Bible itself is a sign of God’s concern for us. The Bible is a miracle for our age. Without His guiding hand, the Bible‘s creation and survival is inexplicable.
The Terrorist Attack on Mumbai
With respect to all the above reports, there is more stoicism than anger. It is a distant event, but it could happen here. So we pay attention.
There are certain things that find widespread bipartisan agreement, and the death of a store employee-as a couple hundred animals, seeking to save a few bucks, trample the life out of him-ought to be one of them. (quote from here).
Curiously, while the deaths in India sparked more posts, the death of one employee sparked more outrage than the much more numerous and deliberate murders in India.