Delving into the Intangibles


   Wisdom vs. knowledge  
     
 

As far as coping with the modern world’s high volume of information and knowledge is concerned, we, the elderly, are no match for the young. My daughter and son beat me, of course. But, amazingly, it’s a piece of cake for my grandchildren to expand their knowledge faster and more accurately than their parents can. Today all you need is a smartphone and almost all knowledge is available in the form of “information.” So, are the elderly being left behind as ever more sophisticated PCs, smartphones, robots and AI come on the scene? The social disparity called “the digital divide” is opening up, at close range, around us. 

Through the progress of civilization even human knowledge has come to be sold at a low price. Knowledge is no longer something to be acquired but, instead, is reckoned to be the same as the possession of a handy tool that can pull out “information,” making it possible for anyone to pretend to know all the answers. This is why the rampant “copying and pasting” of original text has become an ethical problem in society. If you are a university student, your graduation thesis is meant to be the summation of what you have studied for four years; it ought to be written expressing your own original thoughts. Those who have read, studied and learned many things from books can gain the intangible power to impress people and win their approval.

Anyway, regardless of its form, such “information” is something tangible, instantly obtainable from a flat PC or smartphone. But it’s worth remembering that only “knowledge” genuinely acquired can age and mature into priceless “wisdom.”

Wisdom may be compared to a three-dimensional hexahedron box, with depth added. Thanks to this added depth, it becomes a treasure box that is uniquely your own, by and of the person who has lived up until now and will live, making use of it, from here on.

If wisdom is a wrapping cloth or a sheet of paper, it can be easily blown away or lose its contents. On the other hand, if it is a box, there is no such risk. It is even better if the box has many drawers, like "a person with many pockets of knowledge." In this wisdom box, various useful tools can be neatly sorted and stored so that, in an emergency, you are able to make the right judgment, without panicking. It’s as though “intangible” wisdom lies in wait beneath a subconscious field. No matter how many times you fail or have bitter experiences, don’t worry: wisdom is a byproduct of failure and disappointment through a process of “fermenting” bad experiences in the brain.

If the elderly can act wisely, without a struggle, this is the fruit of age and experience. It’s impossible for the young. Wisdom has the taste of soaked pickles. It cannot be appreciated from the outside, because it is not something that can pop out from a PC or a smartphone. 

The reason why the Bible, Buddhist sutras and the Talmud continue to be read and studied is that such literature is the distillation of the wisdom of mankind transmitted over more than 2,000 years.

 
                                                        K.Yamakawa