Still seeking wisdom…

January 18, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote from Martin Luther King Jr- “Knowledge is a process of piling up facts. Wisdom lies in their simplification.” 

Many seek knowledge, some just for the sake of accumulating it; however, not everyone is abled to turn that knowledge into wisdom. One might say that they know, but do not yet understand.

I looked back and over the years I have written often about knowledge and wisdom, see –

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/05/07/those-arent-scars-thats-wisdom-building-up/ (2014)

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2017/04/27/whats-in-your-book-of-wisdom/ (2017)

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2019/02/12/seek-wisdom-within/ (2019)

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2020/09/19/you-have-to-work-at-it/ (2020)

I particularly like the quote used in the second post above – “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”  (Thomas Jefferson)

In this age of “fake news”, outright lies, and disinformation, discerning honesty can be particularly challenging. Perhaps a key step in what MLK called “simplification” is discarding or discounting the misinformation we are exposed to that are posing as facts – the “everybody knows” disinformation in the environment. Our prejudices are mostly built on those kinds of “facts”.

A root cause of prejudice is the inability or unwillingness to separate facts from opinions. There is no factual basis for the fears that often drive prejudice, just an acceptance of some opinions that we were exposed to at some earlier time. One does not come to the conclusion that “I should be afraid of this person because…”, so much as accept the opinion of some else telling us, “you should be afraid of that person because…” We are exposed to most of those opinions at a very early age, before we have developed the ability to truly reason for ourselves. For many, those opinions stick with us, unchallenged and accepted as knowledge. As we grow mentally, most are able to separate and discard those unproven “facts” and form our own opinions (wisdom) on those matters.

I suppose that, in order to be honest about the things that we accept as truths, we must first develop the ability to question everything that we think we know. The introspection needed to question our knowledge (and thus turn it into wisdom) starts by asking yourself if the basis for your decisions on something or your reactions to something (or someone) is based upon proven facts or just opinions. You might be surprised at the answer to that question, if you take the time to ask it of yourself during a normal day.

In all likelihood you won’t have the time to do that in “real time”, so reflection after the fact will be needed. That is still valuable in helping your better understand yourself and to better equip yourself for future encounters or decisions. In the post “Seek Wisdom Within” above, I suggested taking what I called a “life-selfie” as a way to self-assess.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. day for 2021, we might all benefit from a focus on the prejudices that we still carry around with us as “facts” and try to simplify our lives by discarding them in favor of the truth and wisdom of acceptance and inclusiveness. As I said in the post “You have to work at it”, asking for God’s help is a great way to sort things out.

Have a happy MLK day.


Seek wisdom within…

February 12, 2019

Today may end up being another of those days when one ends up with time for introspection. It’s either that or go shovel the snow and ice; and I’m not ready to shovel, yet.

Perusing through some quotes about wisdom, I happened upon these two –

 “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  ― Aristotle

There were also a number of quotes on wisdom that pointed to the same conclusion – namely, that realizing that you know nothing is the start of wisdom.

protestersI suspect that many of us when through a “change the world phase” in our lives, maybe more than one. It is only later in life that we realize that we were trying to make the world over into something of our own desires and not necessarily for the betterment of humankind. Of course, at the time we firmly believed that what we wanted was for the good of humankind. Hubris always seems to precede humility in life.

As one ages, there is more time spent on the topic of knowing yourself and hopefully on becoming comfortable with that self-knowledge. I’ve posted here a few times on the topic of knowing, accepting and loving yourself before you can love others – see I Like Me and Just be Yourself, both of which I wrote back in 2014.

Maybe you can turn this snow day into a know day. Spend some time just with yourself,bored with your thoughts and dreams and with your fears and fantasies. Get to know yourself and try to better understand how those inner feelings influence how you react to the people and things going on around you.

The more honest insight into yourself that you can achieve, the better equipped you will be to deal with the things that happen in life; and, the more that you selfie stickan come to love yourself, the more able you will be to love others. I posted “Take a Life Selfie” here back in 2017 and maybe it’s worth a re-read today, too. It’s certainly a day when you may have time for taking that life selfie and reflecting upon it.

Have a reflective day.

I hope you end up happy with what you see in your life selfie.

 


The smartphone is our bucket…

July 8, 2017

In a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack Freed shared this little quote – “Our knowledge is a little island in a great ocean of knowledge.”  (Isaac Bashevis Singer).  Jack went on to write – A little boy kept dipping a pail into the sea and running back to pour it into a hole.  “What are you doing?” someone asked.  “I’m emptying the ocean into this hole.” He replied.  Basically, that explains our quest for knowledge. 

Perhaps one appeal of the modern smartphone is that it acts like that little boy’s bucket and allows us to empty the ocean of knowledge into the hole in or heads. When webrain map constantly “Google” things we are emptying the ocean of knowledge into our heads, one bucket-load at a time, at least that’s a rationalization that I like to think justifies my constant use of my smartphone.

Some people joke that their phone is smarter than they are and for some that may be true; however, the phone is just a conduit (a bucket, if you will) for accessing the vast ocean of knowledge that is floating all around us in the ubiquitous “cloud”. The Google search app just happens to be one of the better ways to access that knowledge. Google is just the modern and fast way to do what we’ve always done – look for and read and process information.

In the “good ole days” we might go to the library and look something up in a dictionary or an encyclopedia. It was a time-consuming exercise and perhaps not always successful, since you had to know where to look. Just like a Google search using the wrong search terms, you could end up not finding what you were looking for in the books that the library had available.  Now we literally have all the books right at hand through the women with open mindInternet and Google; however, if the results that you needed were on page 10 of the Goggle search results you may never find them. At the library we were shown how to use the card catalogue and the Dewey Decimal System to look up various books (undoubtedly now available on a computer at the library). Today we have to learn how to formulate the right inquiry for a search engine, in order to find what we need.

There are lots of bad habits that we can get into with modern technology, including the use of it while driving, and the pitfalls of the use of social media have been well documented. The use of modern technology and the search apps that are available is probably one of the good uses. Others, such as GPS-enables maps and location-based local information are good time-savers. Of course there are the amusements, too – gamesknowledge in and music and video – which, if managed properly can be good things. All-in-all the smartphone is a great bucket to be carrying around with us, so long as we do not let it turn into a crutch that replaces thinking and good decision making or a master to which we become enslaved.

Got to go. I found a great event to go to today by Goggling “events in the local area”.


Keep your mind’s bank open for life…

June 7, 2017

Recently Pastor Jack Freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“What you put into your mind before you are 21 is like a bank account.  You will be drawing on that for the rest of your life.”  (Yo Yo Ma)

While it is true that the things we learn in our formative years, during which many of us were in schools at various levels, it is also true that we continue to learn throughout our lives…if, our mind’s bank remains open.

There is a popular book titled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. The author focuses on the mores and character of our lives than on our knowledge and wisdom in that book. The fact is that, if we keep an knowledge inopen mind (open to learning new things), we can continue to learn and add to our bank account of knowledge until our last day. One can, and must, keep a sense of wonder about the things and people around us to keep learning. How do things work? Why do things happen? Who is that person and what can I learn from them? We must keep inquiring, questioning and wondering all of our lives in order to keep the bank accounts open. “There are few things more pathetic than those who have lost their curiosity and sense of adventure, and who no longer care to learn.” ― Gordon B. Hinckley.

It is rather common for young people, especially those still in school, to not understand the future value of what they are forced to learn in school. The common lament is “Why should I learn this, I’ll never use it?” In fact, that person may never use the exact things insightthat they are being taught; however, many things that are taught in school are taught within the context of a process and understanding the process is as important as understanding any single fact or equation. Most of the so-called STEM subjects fall into that category. Some subjects are lumped into a broad category called “enabling knowledge”, which is meant to establish a context in which the world can be better understood. Those topics may include social studies and history. Finally, a few may be classified as “enrichment” topics, such as art classes; which are meant to broaden or enhance our perceptions of the world around us. In truth, epecially once we get out of school, George Whitman put it well when he said – “All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”

Some people seem to shut down the desire to learn more when they get out at whatever level of schooling they stopped, while others continue a life of wonderment and learning. A life well-lived might be better measured by what one has accumulated in the bankbrain map of one’s mind, rather than the money accumulated in regular banks. In the financial world there is the concept of compounding (interest earning interest) and in the bank of one’s mind there is the concept of wisdom. The interest that one earns on all of that accumulated knowledge is called wisdom. Instead of just drawing on what you learned as a student in school, heed this advice from Albert Einstein – “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

worriesSo, keep your mind open to learning, to acquiring new knowledge and new ideas and view them as deposits into your mind’s knowledge bank. It is a wise man indeed who never stops making deposits in his bank of knowledge. Henry Ford hit upon another reason to keep learning – “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Stay young my friends – keep learning.


Sharing the wisdom of all ages…

August 21, 2015

“If you only get involved with young people you don’t learn anything about the world.”  (Edmund White) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Edmund White was probably trying to encourage young people to spend some time with older people and not toold and young just hang around with people their own age. The young can hopefully tap into the wisdom that their elders have accumulated from a lifetime of experiences and perhaps avoid repeating the mistakes that led to some of that wisdom.  As Jack went on to point out, there is also much for older people to learn from the young.

The youth of every era represent the changes that are taking place in our society; so, spending time with them and understanding their perspective on things will help older people see and understand the changes that are taking place in society. Conversely, the youth might gain the perspective of where things came from and better understand how different things are for them than they were for their parents or grandparents. Many of them are growing up never having experienced the things and life styles that shaped their elders viewpoints. For them a life lacking modern technologies would be as weird and bewildering as some of their elders find their use tutoringof technology to be today. Imagining a world where the phone was attached to a cord is as strange to them as their elder’s bemusement over modern smartphone usage.

Hopefully, if you’re a younger person, you will make some time to spend with your grandparents or other older relatives just talking about life as it was and as it is today. You might enjoy some of the stories that they have to tell you, and you might even learn something. If you have no older relatives close to where you live, perhaps you could visit a senior living home in your area and see if there are some lonely seniors there who would enjoy a visit and a chance to talk with you.

If you are the elder person in this scenario, put aside your suspicions and concerns about modern technologies and the youthful life styles that you may not agree with and see if you can tap into and understand the energy and enthusiasm that is there in youth. You may have forgotten what it was like to be young or you may only selectively remember your own youthful exuberance and the mistakes that you made while you were growing up. Perhaps those weren’t mistakes after all, just learning experiences. Share your wisdom with the young while recapturing some little piece of that wonderful, innocent and naive that we call youth.  You can’t go back, but maybe some of those memories and feelings can come back to you.

In a broader sense, you could restate today’s quote to read “If you only get involved with people who arediversity just like you, you don’t learn anything about the world.” It is through diverse relationships – across ages and races and religions and ethnic groups – that we broaden our perspective of the world. The ability to understand other viewpoints and share the experiences and wisdom of diverse groups enables a richer understanding of the world around us. Integrating those differences into our own thinking allows us not only to be more tolerant of differing opinions, but gives us a much richer knowledge base upon which to base our own life decisions. Enrich your life today. Talk to someone not your own age, race, color, religion or ethnic background. You’ll be glad that you did.


Take a minute to think about it…

August 17, 2015

“Ours is a generation bloated with information and starved for wisdom.”  (Arianna Huffington) – as seen on  the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

While it is ubiquitous and easy to use, Google has also encouraged intellectual laziness. The Google answers returned are also not always even correct or the truth; however, as a society we’ve become such Google knowledge inzombies that we tend to believe whatever we see there, without taking the time to think about it. We consume the “information” that is returned, but do not necessarily make the effort to evaluate it and to add it to our store of knowledge and wisdom. It’s just as easy to go get it at Google again the next time that we need it.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the store of available information at Google is tremendous and it does make many things in life much easier than they used to be. It is our own mental laziness that detracts from the potential value of having all of that information at hand. It is a thought pattern that says, “Why learn it when you can just Google it?” The easiest answer is that learning leads to wisdom and it is that ability to learn and accumulate wisdom that separates us from the other animals.

thinking womanSo, the next time you Google something to get directions or get an answer to a question, take the time to evaluate the answer that you get and to find a place for those answers that seem valid in your storehouse of wisdom. Don’t just accept the first answer at the top of the returns, without checking a few further down the list; and always take the time to understand who posted that answer and consider why. That is especially true on the Wiki posts that you might get back, since anybody can post things there true or not.

Speaking of that, there is a little routine that a local sportscaster does from time to time called, “I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true.”  Too many people have come to believe that little statement and accept things that they see on the Internet as the truth. The Internet probably has nearly as many hoax posts and false posts as it has valuable information. Anything that you see on the Internet should be viewed with at least a critical eye, if not a skeptical one.

Remember, too, that companies and people pay Google for placement in their query returns. So, when you ask a question like “which is the best of something” or “where is the cheapest place to”, you will likely get back answers that someone has paid to put in front of you, rather than an honest answer to your question. Most of the times you’ll probably get ads back first. Ask for low cost hotels somewhere and you’ll be deluged with ads for travel sites, rather than any real hotel information. Maybe the “wisdom” there is realizing that Google won’t really answer your question. See, you learned something by taking a minute to think about it. You’ve added to yourman thinking wisdom.

Perhaps, instead of starting down at your smartphone to see what Google says is going on in the area around you, you should put it away and actually start seeing and doing the things that are going on around you. It’s called living and the thing that you gain by doing it is called wisdom. Google that.


It doesn’t have to be difficult…

September 13, 2014

“All things are difficult before they are easy.” – Thomas Fuller

Do you remember back to when you first learned to ride a bicycle without the training wheels? That was difficult for a while because you probably didn’t understand what your parents were trying to tell you about turning the way that you were leaning. Eventually you got it and then it became easy. Once you learned how, you never forgot how to ride a bike. Even if it’s been years since you were last on a bicycle, if got on one today you’d probably be immediately able to ride it.

afraidLife presents you with lots of new things that seem to be difficult, especially f you haven’t ever encountered them before. Most of them will eventually become easy for you, once you have some experiences trying to do them.

For some people, just meeting other people and carrying on a conversation with them is difficult, or it seems that way. People who are considered “shy” are usually just afraid of the situation because it is difficult for them. You can help make that easy by taking the initiative to talk to them. Sometimes all it takes is one person breaking the ice, in an otherwise embarrassing or scary situation, to get people started talking and interacting.

I have a role like that in our local Chamber of Commerce events – coffee clubs, ribbon cuttings and mixers. I’m a Chamber Ambassador. Ambassadors are a small group of Chamber members who commit to spend the time to go to Chamber events and act as hosts, especially for new members.  It is usually fairly easy to spot the newcomers at these events, because they are standing off to the side with that “deer-in-the-headlights” look on their face. Gatherings involving people who mostly know each other already can be intimidating. Everyone seems to know everyone else and no one knows you. That’s where I come in as an Ambassador. I take that new person around and introduce them to the others in the group and hopefully get them started talking. Most of the time that’s all it takes to break the ice and get them going in the group. It was difficult for them before and I try to help make it easy.

Sometimes things that initially appear difficult look that way because we just don’t understand them or have never done whatever it is before. That’s when some of our modern technologies can help. There is almost nothing that you can’t findknowledge funnel some information on in either Google or Wikipedia. In many cases you will find links to videos on YouTube or one of the other video sharing services. Those can be very helpful, especially if you are a very visual person. One can glean a lot from reading the instructions that come with every product, but see it in use ads immensely to our understanding. I used a floor leveling product earlier this summer and watched several videos about how to use it beforehand. That made all the difference for me. Probably the best piece of advice that I got from one of the video was “don’t overthink this thing.”

So, as you face something new and challenging; something that you see as difficult right now; seek out the available information and videos (if appropriate) and try to build your knowledge base before you tackle it. I think you’ll end up visualizing yourself being able to do it by following the instructions or advice that you get. Then it won’t seem quite so hard when you actually do it. The other thing that doing that level of planning will do for you is to cause you to be better prepared for the things that might go wrong. You will have thought about them ahead and can take steps to be better prepared. Go for it!


Work the room that you’re in…

September 6, 2014

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a different room.”  (Richard Rusczyk), as seen on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Richard was not trying to be cute or sarcastic in his little quote; rather he was saying that you need to keep finding people who are smarter than you, so that you can keep learning from them. OK, there is probably a little underlying cynicism in that quote that has to do with even thinking that you are the smartest person in the room to begin with. Remember where the smartest people in the room at Enron ended up – in a tiny prison cell where they might be the only person in the room.

crowdI get to go to a lot of mixers and networking event in my role as an Ambassador for the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce. The people you meet at those events always seem to have something interesting to talk about and I often learn something new. Once everyone overcomes the natural shyness that comes with walking into a room fill mostly with people that you don’t know it can become a very rewarding experience. Part of my “job” as an Ambassador is to seek out people who are new to the group and introduce them around. It is usually fairly easy to spot the people who are off to the side with that “deer in the headlights” look of bewilderment in their eyes. Once they’ve met a few people and get into the conversations they are usually OK.

We all learn something from our interactions with others. Usually it is initially about them, their background or family or where they live and went to school; but, eventually you wander off into topics that contain new knowledgeQ and A for you, perhaps starting with their opinion about something and then on to why they have that opinion – what basis in facts do they purport to have for having reached their conclusion. You may have the reaction of “I didn’t know that” or you may store the so-called facts away and think to yourself that you will check them out later, because you don’t believe that they are true. No matter; you’ve learned something or you will in your follow-up research about the “facts” that you’ve just been given.

There may be occasions when you are, in fact, the smartest person in the room, in some sense; however, there are literally no occasions that I can think of where you cannot learn something else from someone else in the room. If you do not understand that and at least try to learn by interacting with the others in the room, you may, in fact, be the dumbest person in the room. So, you don’t have to find a different room; you need to do a better job of interacting and learning in the room that you are in.

Look around you and see the possibilities of learning from those who are in the room with you.


Those aren’t scars; that’s wisdom building up…

May 7, 2014

I think I got today’s little saying from the blog Jack’s Winning Words; but, even if I didn’t, it sounds like something that Jack would use.

“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”
― Terry Pratchett

That’s so true. We build our wisdom from experiences and from taking the time to understand those experiences. Those who don’t take that second step are doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, instead of learning from them.

One can’t avoid having experiences; they just happen. As we are growing up and have experiences, especially those in which we make mistakes, we often hear the phrase – “You should have known better.” How helpful is that? Obviously we didn’t know better. A better phrase to offer to someone who has just made a mistake would be “what did you learn from that?”

Do you take some time at the end of the day to reflect on the good the bad and the ugly things of the day? Do youthnk about it
relish the good things that happened; turning them over in your mind and getting another smile out of them? What do you do with the bad and the ugly? Do you try to understand them and the way you reacted to them and perhaps think about a better way to have reacted, so that you’ll be prepared for those situations better next time? If you do, you are building your wisdom. If not, what do you expect to happen the next time? Will you still be flummoxed by the situation? Will you get angry again or be embarrassed again or just not know how to act – again? Why? Did you learn nothing from the experience?

If you’ve had an experience; turn that first into knowledge by thinking more about it and then into wisdom by figuring out how to use your new knowledge in the future, should that ever happen again. Remember too that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome each time. It’s better to be wise than to be thought to be insane.

Sometimes the things that we learn from involve pain, either real, physical pain or emotional pain, but eventually the wounds that our experiences open will scar over and heal (thus my title for today’s post) and we add what we have learned to our storehouse of wisdom. A surprising amount of our wisdom comes from what we learned out of our failures or the mistakes that we make in life; however, it is also important to add the things that we learn from successes, especially successes in relationships. What makes that significant other person in knowledge inyour life happy? What things that you do make them smile or laugh or give you a hug. If you know that, why wouldn’t you do those things more often?

I’m sure that many of us have some level of wisdom about what happens when we forget a birthday or anniversary or other important occasion for the one with whom we share life’s journey. Hopefully we also have good knowledge about what we should do on those occasions. We also have some level of recognition of our personal shortcomings, especially in terms of remembering things and occasions. So, in our new-found wisdom, we should take steps to make sure that no special occasion goes un-noticed and unrecognized. Write them down, put them in your calendar, and don’t forget again this year. None of us needs a new layer of wisdom scar tissue on those old wounds.

Learn from life and be wise my friends.