On Wisdom

In the “Odd Couple”, Oscar Madison said to Felix Unger, “I thought it just comes” referring to gravy. For most of us, the gravy in our lives comes only when we make it. There are however, a few rare exceptions. One of those occurs when we enter ‘geezerville’ and create ‘coronary collateral circulation’ without much effort. At the risk of sounding too clinical, I do know that we develop this physiological advantage just by getting older when our arteries no longer function as efficiently as they once did. Because arteries lose some elasticity (arteriosclerosis) and fat deposits cling to their walls in greater abundance (atherosclerosis), our ability to supply cardiac muscle with blood is diminished, hence, the automatic generation of new smaller arteries and veins (arterioles and venules). This process is the result of what is known as ‘wisdom of the body.’

Most seniors will tell you that aging isn’t for the meek and timid, and often, our Mother Nature imposes her cruel sense of humor upon us. We can’t hear… we can’t see… we can’t pee…but somehow, we become self ascribed sages. We can’t do the ‘wild thing’ either with out some assistance from our friends at Pfizer. (As an aside, Pfizer doesn’t want you to know that 25 year old sexy blondes wearing black underwear and supplying copious amounts of vodka might render them moot). I drift. Like ‘coronary collateral circulation’, we develop a cognitive sort of wisdom and do so without much effort. It too is an ancillary by product of just living a long time. It happens….less with some than others.

The Point:

Wisdom is not to be confused with knowledge. In our early adult and professional lives, it is all about being smart and garnering as much knowledge and information as possible relative to what we deem important. Wisdom enters when we ask, “now that I know this, so what?” As a graduate student, my master’s thesis advisor asked me that very question at the conclusion of my project. I understood just where he was going, but didn’t fully appreciate its significance until much later in life. Knowledge transitions into wisdom when predictability is enhanced and there is some practical application associated with what you know. My friend Robert is a very knowledgeable guy. So much so, I endearingly refer to him as “The Prince of Bullshit”…a title he wears proudly. I continually remind him of that great and famous line, “knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”

Recently, I read my horoscope which I am prone to do on occasion for some unexplainable reason. It said, “If you think you’re happy, you’re happy. If you think you’re rich, you’re rich. But, if you think you’re wise, you need a dose of humility.” So, let’s not become enamored with this gift of wisdom Mother Nature has provided in our advanced age, but rather use it in a productive and meaningful way. We spend our lives trying to get others to do that which we want them to do or be…our parents, kids, friends, students, athletes, bosses, colleagues,clients, employees, etc. Just by eliminating the word ‘should,’ we eliminate the notion of having all the right answers all the time. This keeps us humble, but does not impede our acquired skill in predicting outcomes with some success. All who read this ‘should’ try it!

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