It is amazing. It goes back to the very beginning. And it is, by no means, a finished story. Not if one follows recent trends and developments in psychology, education, sociology and management sciences. The future of the wisdom story may be even more promising than the past.
Fact, – almost every ancient civilization that we know of have left some written testimonies about what was important for them. There is a certain genre of literature that was present in almost all of them. Can you guess what it was?
Wisdom literature. That’s right. Ancient Egyptians valued it highly. (We have they wisdom texts that dates as far back as to 2500BC.) As did ancient Sumerians, and Babylonians, and, Phoenicians, and Israelites, and Chinese, and Hindu, and Greeks, and Romans. We still study their works. To great extent they still define how we think and live today.
By far the most influential book in the history, the Bible, begins with the story of first human beings searching for the wisdom. It didn’t go well, for they searched for it in a wrong place. The first part of the Bible, the Old Testament contains the entire section of wisdom literature, which is as applicable today as it was three millennia ago.
People in the West these days often have this sentimental belief that people in the East possess the true wisdom. To some degree it may be true, there are a lot of wise people in the East. And because they are wise they look to the West trying to understand what wisdom enabled the rise of the Western civilization. There are more and more PhD dissertations written in the East trying to find the answer to this question.
For all these civilizations wisdom wasn’t a theoretical exercise, it was a matter of being able to live a good life. Wisdom was considered to be a pinnacle of human life, the most worthy goal to strive for, the answer and guide to the fundamental questions of our lives, be it in matters of economic activity, family life, relationships or state affairs. Wisdom was the light that shines in darkness. Who wouldn’t want more of it?!
While in the West… for several centuries it was only theologians and philosophers who were interested in the topic of wisdom, as majority was possessed with the idea that the warhorse of scientific method ridden by the mighty hero of human reason will deliver the final victory, clear cut answer to all the question that humanity may have.
Now it has changed. The limits of reason and scientific method become clearer and clearer. They can tell us how things are, but they can’t tell us how things are supposed to be.
As from 1970ies the topic of wisdom is making its way back. In a big way. Psychologists, sociologists, educators, business leaders (both in the East and in the West) are looking with high expectation hoping that wisdom may be the long lost missing ingredient now finally found.
Our age is called the age of information. So true. It brings with it certain challenges. We not only have a lot of information, we have super-abundance of information. It is overflooding and threatens to drown us.
Information however is not yet knowledge. And even knowledge is not yet wisdom. We still need to know how to dispose wisely with the knowledge acquired. We know so much, indeed, but we have lost the wisdom of how to live good lives. But that is what really matters. We need wisdom back, the sooner the better.
Can wisdom indeed be the answer? At least we believe it can.