Fool’s Gold and Fool’s Mate

The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.” ~ General Omar Bradley

Education – whether formally given or self-taught – is necessary, but not sufficient to the expression of balanced wisdom. I have known highly-educated medical doctors, for instance, whose fervent devotion to the principles of Western allopathic medicine was as fanatical as religious extremist’s zealous and inflexible views on spirituality. Likewise, I have met scientists who become so consumed with the minutiae of their speciality that they have clearly lost the forest for the trees in their ongoing discovery of the natural world.

Education is a double-edged sword. It can facilitate the expression of wisdom, but it can also frustrate its articulation. Education provides the mind with intermediary points of connection between inner or “invisible,” thought and feeling and outer or “visible,” words and actions. Education brings a sense of order to the mind yet an overly rigid structure can restrict or even block the flow of wisdom, original and creative thought. It is the willingness to release the white-knuckled grip on a particular mental construct that opens the floodgates to wisdom.

Wisdom moves from the inside out. It is not manufactured externally, neither is it directly a product of the mind. Wisdom is known as a clear pathway is given for its expression into the field of theoretical consideration or practical circumstance. Education – and I am careful to note again that I mean more than formal, traditional classroom education – sets in the mind the railroad switches as it were through which the brilliance that is within you makes its way from the originating depot to its destination. As such, the quality and content of education received is vitally important to achieving brilliance with wisdom.

Intelligence is not always accompanied by wisdom. It is possible to be classified as being intelligent while suffering from a deficiency of social graces, ethical boundaries, personality or feeling. Wisdom contains all of these, for it illuminates on a basis that is fitting, no matter what the circumstance, place or framework in which it operates.

Wisdom has suffered at the hand of the drive for specialization in academia and industry that was catalyzed by philosophers likes Descartes and further accelerated by the scientific and educational institutions over the centuries that followed the Renaissance. Despite the many advances in intelligence, in the accumulation and organization of the growing body of knowledge of the natural world, I, like General Bradley, am concerned that we find a way to balance this apparent progress with wisdom and conscience.

Knowledge is a bottomless pit in which mankind can lose himself if he is not careful. Similarly, the brilliance associated with intelligence can be more blinding than elucidating if it is not sufficiently counterweighted by wisdom.

Brilliance without wisdom is fool’s gold. Power without conscience is a fool’s mate in the game of life.

Take care that you worship at the altar of neither.

11 thoughts on “Fool’s Gold and Fool’s Mate

  1. Joshua

    Thinking outside the box, in stillness is certainly a responsibility that rests with us individually. I look forward to, in meditation, letting go in stillness to the reality that has always been present within.

    The solution is with us, we just need to listen carefully, and be ruthless in our follow-through.

    A beautiful day to release any consticting patterns of belief.
    Thanks Gregg!


  2. Coco

    I think your description of how wisdom and education work together is the best I’ve ever read. I think the education you speak of is one of total involvement. Since children are always learning it is crucial to create the opportunities for them to receive the education that will unlock this flow of wisdom.
    I think learning about wisdom comes from seeing the adults around them examplifly this in their every day actions, not only what we say but do. How we react when life happens!
    Excellent post.


  3. Kai

    Being an educator I have to meet this challenge every day to inspire the heart as well as the mind. I don’t ever feel like it is a lost cause, but sometimes the depth of disconnection between the two saddens me. Thanks for the cues that it doesn’t have to be so, that there is always a vibrant symbiosis involved inthe process of learning and discovering and maturing.


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