Strengthening the Soul (8)

How could we have so much information and so little wisdom?Latte.jpg

I’ve wondered about this. After all, we sometimes make tragic mistakes in our lives, not because of a lack of information but a lack of wisdom.

I just read “Wisdom & God in the Age of Information” by Dean M. Riley. (Riley is Professor of Library Science at Houston Baptist University.) In the article Riley discusses the role of information in our lives.

How glorious it is to live in an “information age.” We are surrounded by it, driven by it, and have created whole new technological avenues to access it. We crave it daily, hourly, and minute by minute. Information infuses the way we live, it guides our choices, and it is an ever-present part of our lives–the search for it is a near constant activity, so much so that it drives internet search companies to gigantic financial success, just because they help people find what they are looking for. (p. 51)

Yet, one wonders if we know what to do with the information. Many of us have much information about any number of things. Don’t know about the Ryder Cup? Just Google it. Don’t know which car to purchase? Just Google the ones that interest you. Need to know about a certain medicine and its side effects? Google it. Yet, do we know what to do with this information? Are we simply collecting bits and pieces of information or can we say that we are also becoming wiser?

Riley asks “Why is it important to have a working understanding of information in the 21st century? Once we find information, what do we do with it? And how do we avoid drowning in the sea?”

Immanuel Kant, in his famous essay “What is Enlightenment“, wrote: “If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me.” (p. 55)

So consider what this means for a man or woman of the 21st century. We have access to a tremendous amount of information. Yet, what will we do with this information? How does this information impact the kind of people that we want to become? Or, to use the words of John Ortberg (The Me I Want to Be), “What kind of me do you want to be?” Riley says “We must retrain and renew our minds. Information can be a step toward gaining wisdom and helping us better understand our Creator and His creation, or it can be a barrier, a distraction.”

As a person who wants to nurture the soul, I have found the following questions useful. Perhaps you will as well.

1. Am I a person who is growing in wisdom? Or, am I a person who simply gathers bits and pieces of Googled information?

2. Do I seek wisdom? While good, solid information is useful and can help one make a good decision, wisdom is about understanding and becoming a certain kind of person.

3. Do I build practices into my life that help me move toward wisdom?


I would love to hear your reflection on these thoughts. In particular, I wonder what practices have been most helpful to you as you seek to grow in wisdom?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “Strengthening the Soul (8)

  1. “…..what practices have been most helpful to you as you seek to grow in wisdom?”

    1) Reading and rereading good books, highlighting the thoughts I most need to consider, and taking time to actually stop and consider them.

    2) Participating in worship with other Christians. Really listening to the words in the songs, scriptures, and the sermon. (A well-crafted sermon is a treasure – thanks for all the jewels you brought to us when you were living in Alabama all those years ago!)

    3) Observing life as it is being lived around me and going to God with the questions that come out of this. Stepping back from my own life and doing the same. (Don’t always get specific answers to the questions, but often come away with a different perspective.)

    • Connie, these are wonderful. Well thought out. Two observations: I love the way used the word “participating.” Not observe. Not advise. Not attempting the walk alone. Participating is what we are called to do in all of life if we are really going to experience what it means to be a community. When I was very young, a neighbor had two truck loads of sand delivered to his house. He asked the neighborhood kids to help spread the sand. Afterward, he was going to take us to the ice cream store. We used shovels, rakes, and every other kind of tool. We ALL participated and there was a sense in which we were doing this together.

      I think the same is true with Christ-followers who gather to worship. Participation really does matter.

      Love your last point regarding going to God with the questions that come out of observing life.

      Thanks so much.

  2. Much wisdom has been gained by learning from my own mistakes and also from the mistakes of others. I don’t have enough time to make them all myself. I’ve also found it helpful to listen to the advice of those who have gone before. Surprisingly enough those who come after me, my children and grandchildren, have taught me a lot. Knowing how and when and why to apply the things we have learned is key. The reason we often do not have wisdom, is because we do not ask God for it. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

    • Karin, I really like what you said regarding listening to those older and younger and learning. I have often heard a nugget from someone that in and of itself might not be that significant, but put together with a thought I’ve had or gained from reading then becomes something very significant.

  3. This post reminds me of a lesson learned in one of my MIS classes in college. Data is raw and unprocessed… it can only be created, read, updated, or deleted. Information was data processed into something useful that could be utilized for a person. It seems that you take this a step farther, where wisdom is information applied. Very good post.

    • Thomas, really like the way you describe the move from data to information to wisdom. Very, very good! (So glad you left this comment.)

  4. I like to listen to people talk about their work. Often they share their wisdom. I have a Connie here like our Connie in AL, same profession, very wise, good person to listen to. Also, people who have retired from their work and have had some time to reflect are very interesting to listen to.

    • Darryl, very good comment. There is something very important about listening and learning from people reflect on their work/vocation and the issues, experiences, and challenges there.