Opinion: The sum of wisdom

There is tremendous bliss in not knowing what we don’t know! The relaxed certainty of a young, intelligent person – confident that their freshly-minted college degree has bestowed upon them the accumulated knowledge of humanity, science, and nature – is a sight to behold. They routinely eye-roll as direction is given on one matter or another – asserting “we” (code for people younger than me, I’d guess) don’t do it this way. Perhaps. But, until 22-year-olds start making the world’s decisions, they might be well advised to get some perspective from the three living generations ahead of them who have thus far kept the planet spinning.

To be fair, it may be one of the most difficult transitions from youth to adulthood. Step cautiously until one’s perspective is burnished by both study and experience. Isn’t wisdom an amalgam of the two? Happily for most of us, the illusion of omnipotence is fleeting. But it is followed by equally concerning lack of confidence spawned by coming to realize that not only are we not all-knowing but that we really know precious little. Whether a failed business deal, broken heart or like disappointment, we come to understand that our education is never complete and that decision-making is nuanced.

As would-be adults progress from absolute knowledge to absolute fear, the instinct is to simply stand still. These young people go from unfounded swagger to an equally unfounded uncertainty. Encourage them to advance proposals and work with them to accumulate experience to compliment the book-learning they have already compiled. Ask for recommendations on major projects and spend time explaining why or why not the suggestions are salient. Humiliation doesn’t have to be on the docket but neither does coddling. Intelligence and experience are surely not the same – but in their sum, one finds wisdom.