How could we have so much information and so little wisdom?
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?