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Why Wisdom Is Better Than Knowledge: Just Ask the Weatherman

Wisdom will change a man’s life in almost every way.  Want a different life as a man?  Get wisdom.  

But we have an obstacle.  We are obsessed with knowledge instead.  

Consider the paradox: We have more facts, but less meaning. We have more knowledge, but we less know-how. We have more information but fewer answers.

The world has become to us quite notorious for it’s contingency, for being impossible to predict about how things will work out because there are just too many things to keep track of. Just ask the weatherman who can only talk about rain tomorrow in terms of chance.

Edward Lorenz Figures Out You Can’t Figure Everything Out. 

In the 1950s meteorologist Edward Lorenz was investigating complex math formulae for predicting the weather. He was well qualified to do so with two MIT degrees in meteorology _and_ degrees in Mathematics from Dartmouth and Harvard Universities. What he found out would become the seed for a third age of modern scientific thought. But here’s the thing: His paper generated praise for describing what we can’t predict about the weather. 

Lorenz had been suspicious of status-quo scientific belief: Scientists believed that almost everything was “figure-outable” given enough time, smarts, and advances in technology. We were all cresting the wave that life can be made better through science, technology, and microwave dinners. 

And then Lorenz took a small shortcut that made a big difference.. 

He entered 0.506 instead 0.506127 of into the equation running on a Royal McBee LGP-30 computer… and the very (Greek-based) ideas of “figure-out-ability” crumbled like an over-baked fat-free cookie. He had sometimes found it helpful to re-run a weather formula starting at a new point in time, hoping to explore forecasting the weather a little further out. The shortcut was minor, and in only one place among many.

But Lorenz saw the first light: A small initial disturbance could create a huge final difference in the weather. 

So, started testing that idea, cranking out further runs of the formula on the LGP-30, each time nudging a single item to a slight difference and in every case the weather predictions became different. And as he extended the prediction out in time, the weather forecast became more unpredictable: We could end with a sunny day in the 70s or an F5 tornado. 

Lorenz worked logically and mathematically to show how logic and math were severely limited. As the weather flows along, a minor change at any point can produce radically different weather and that these tiny changes may be so tiny that they cannot be measured. 

Welcome to Chaos Theory: You don’t know what is going to happen, even though there is a logical reason behind what happens.

Lorenz concludes his first paper:

“One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of weather forever The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls.”

Lorenz’s colleagues later convinced him to use a more poetic “flap of a butterfly’s wings…” and the term became a popular metaphor for the uncertainty of life, and how seemingly insignificantly minor events can still alter the course of a life forever. 

Forecasting the weather is important, it can even save lives.

But If we can say even the weather is not predictable, what can we say about the whole arc of your life? 

Wisdom’s Answer

The wisdom cultivated by the Biblical sages of Israel has an answer.

Instead of seeking to master the facts and predict the future, wisdom values the contingent moment: You can, at the moment, do the right thing at the right time in the right place. But only in the moment, not before, and certainly not after.

We are suffering a from an insidious sickness, Plato’s Virus. Plato’s virus is the hidden chronic illness of thought that shows up in ideas like:

Anything not subjected to the scientific method is considered at best unreliable and anything once proven by the scientific method with large amounts of evidence should be accepted without further question.

What a mistake.  

The flow of Greek thought comes down to us and says that Reason is God. Reason can do everything we need to become masters the universe and live a good life. 

But in a world where wisdom is king, reason is the servant.

Greek knowledge only answers the question of what, wisdom answers the who, where, when, and how.

Greek knowledge is an abstraction about the truth, dead, and running as far from temporary physical things in the world, to remain objective, while Hebrew wisdom is alive, giving truth concrete action in relation to a good created world.

Greek knowledge parades its cold, hard facts like a dissected cadaver, in suspended decay, and labeled bit by bit…“here is the spleen, the liver, the intestines, the pectoral muscles, the cranial nerve, “ 

Hebrew wisdom captures life, in motion, relationship, and for what purpose. Wisdom tells man how to live in a relationship to himself, the world, God, and others. 

It advises for the contingent moment you cannot predict. 

But wisdom, by definition, shows the limits of wisdom.

The sages of Israel could apply sustained, concentrated thinking with dramatic answers and yet at times still come away empty, and this they attributed to the great open variable, the Lord himself. So a man could “plan his way but the Lord would direct his steps”

The press toward wisdom never led to a Greek logos, a defining principle of life but rather a Hebrew God whose ways are past finding out. The best one could hope for in unreasonable situations was for God to deposit the wisdom necessary to cope. Even that quest was wrapped in paradox, for all the admonitions were to seek, search, observe, and look for wisdom, and God would gracefully drop that insight into a man’s heart as if appearing out of thin air. The best a man could do was to “Fear the Lord” as the beginning of wisdom, and after seeking that wisdom, it could only end in the limits of wisdom, causing him to “Fear” (worship and obey) the Lord. 

Within this circular quest, wisdom produced not a cold, dead knowledge of the world with which he could methodically and scientifically rule, but a wonderfully alive, even playful, purposeful existence that led to worship. For within wisdom he was able to see and even produce a delightful and beautiful order for his life, and when he reached his limits he was cast into the awe and ecstacy of worship. 

Knowledge does not lead necessarily to proper action, while wisdom by definition must. 

Four Initial Steps for Practicing a Wisdom Oriented Approach to Life

Practice Presence

Wisdom lives within relationships. You must be able to hear and sense the self in relationship to things, to the world, to the self, and to the God. Begin by practicing presence to those things. Do you know God? Could you recognize him speaking? Do you know your own heart? Can you recognize a fool when he approaches?

Watch For Feedback

Wisdom repeatedly teaches the reality of reaping and sowing. This world, your wife, your own body will tell you over and over again how you are doing. You are reaping what you are sowing. If you don’t like what you’re reaping, change what you are sowing. 

Develop Awe and Wonder

The Sages of Israel far from mastering a group of facts, ended at a life of wonder and worship. It’s as impossible to control everything in your life. You cannot control the weather. Sometimes it is better to sit back and marvel than to strive against the wind. 

Get A Mentor 

The transmission of wisdom is a skilled practice of cultivating, expressing, and training in wisdom. You cannot make every improvement in your life on your own. Find a mentor who is wise. 

If you need help with this, reach out.  I have a  spot open for coaching right now.  

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