“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
~ T.S. Eliot, in his poem Choruses from the Rock (1934)
Eliot uses these quotes in the context of his 1934 pageant play The Rock. Wisdom, knowledge, and information collectively share complex interrelationships through a sequential trajectory.
Puzzles and the Present
Think back to your puzzle-making ventures during childhood. Information is the individual puzzle pieces of different shapes and sizes. Through visual scrutiny and trial-and-error, you arranged individual puzzle pieces to fit tighter as a completed unit. Knowledge is the completed puzzle, or completed unit, of how individual puzzle pieces of information fit together like lock-and-key. It also embodies their intricate interrelationships and interactions. Once completed, perhaps you decided where to display the completed puzzle to complement a particular room in your house. Wisdom is the ability to interpret the completed puzzle, understand what do with the completed puzzle, and how one completed puzzle affects another completed puzzle. Knowledge is dependent on information while information can exist independent of knowledge. An individual cannot have knowledge without information but can have information alone.
Wisdom, knowledge, and information are applicable to any topic and its accompanying subject material. For example, there is much scientific information about Earth’s natural systems and processes, which are channeled into specific, academic disciplines such as biology, pedology, ecology, physics, geology, chemistry, hydrology, botany, oceanography, meteorology, etc. Knowledge can be lost in the realms of both disinformation and misinformation, distinct categories of information. In other words, knowledge can be lost amid false information, such as climate change denial, which can occur regardless of whether the information is disclosed intentionally or unintentionally.
Eliot’s quotes ring true for our current economic realities and state of the natural environment. As a society we have knowledge, composed of individual pieces of information, of how Earth’s natural systems and processes sustain themselves over millennia, yet our economies operate independent of them in isolated bubbles. Likewise, we have knowledge of what causes and exacerbates environmental pollution and degradation as well as how to remediate them, yet they persist. Our knowledge is a part of our intellect, but is not adequately conveyed and demonstrated through our actions. Ultimately, our wisdom has been lost amid competing forces of self-interest, politics and finances. Armed with the information and knowledge of Earth’s natural systems and processes and environmental pollution and degradation, our wisdom should guide us towards a sustainable future that benefits all people and biodiversity.
Our lack of wisdom is perhaps most pronounced in regards to climate change. Despite the consensus of scientific objectivity on humankind’s cause and exacerbation of climate change, public policies and decision-making (especially those appearing to emerge at the national level) appear content to maintain, and in some cases revert to, a dependence on fossil fuels. Such action directly counteracts and hinders international efforts to phase out fossil fuels and the push for renewable energy sources. Political affiliations, corporate and personal self-interest, money, a shortsighted future outlook, and concerted efforts to maintain the energy status quo collectively jeopardize the wisdom surrounding climate change. With this compromised wisdom, we become like a hunter who shot himself or herself in the foot. The non-wounded hunter has more difficulty tracking his or her prey as society now has more difficulty focusing on and dealing with the ramifications of climate change.
Throughout their formal academic career than spans from preschool to post-graduate, students learn and acquire vast amounts of information that becomes knowledge upon degree conferral, but do they learn and acquire wisdom to use in their future personal and professional lives?
~by Angelo Teachout
photo credit of Featured Image: howardignatius <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25659032@N07/32385239642″>Sea Foam Sunset</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit T.S. Eliot: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TS_Eliot.jpg (License)
photo credit of Puzzle Pieces: photo credit: davidmulder61 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/113026679@N03/31248947824″>3/365: Puzzle.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit of Silhouette Thinking: https://pixabay.com/en/black-man-thinking-silhouette-297648/ (License)