Wisdom of Elders

Wisdom has been a topic of Psybertron since the beginning. Several different initiatives trying to move the focus from narrow definitions of knowledge (of so-called objective facts, etc) to wider understanding of how the world really works, and what is …. for the best, for the world and humanity within it. Cosmic man. Of course the whole Pirsig / Quality thread is in the response to the question – so what is “good”, what is of value. And there are plenty of “story-telling” avenues from Al MacIntyre’s “narrative” of a given culture’s “bibles” through to modern social business emphasis in say “Anecdote” (linking recently to Seth Godin example here). More explicitly, Nick Maxwell’s “Knowledge to Wisdom” and Chicago University’s “Arete Initiative” in science and academe.

The less wise often get hung up on “defining” wisdom. Being based on “experience” is clearly part of it, but that just shifts the definitional problem to what counts as experience, and what counts empirically as “evidence”. Clearly also the process of decision-making is a part of it – though if you suggest “how” people communicate with each other is part of some logical /rational objective on-line debate, you are very quickly accused of being a tone-troll or worse.

More life lived = more experience, so one dimension is age. But it’s not just the authority of age – in a nutshell, if someone with more experience says “that’s not right”, it should count for something independent of any immediate logical rationale. But it’s more than that. The life lived is always lived within the context of some constituency, some institutions, whether that’s a “career” or simply the day-job on which the resources for satisficing life’s needs, or providing life’s freedoms, depend. Even as an “elder” within an organization your life has a dependency on maintaining the workings of that institution – your narrative has to cohere with that of the constituency around you – to use the jargon. There can become a point however (before or after “retirement” from the institutional “game”) where life’s valued resources (*) no longer depend on the institution. Independent Elders.

And by way of contrast – see the value of a mix of old and young heads – in a football team. Old heads are “worth their weight in gold” (*).

[ (*) Valued …. see, and what is good. Resources … whatever is valued … freedom, platform, reputation as well as tangible “rewards” and needs – see good old Maslow.]

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