RAOKA: Thoughts on Wisdom

July 7, 2010

When I found out that this month’s RAOKA topic was wisdom, I felt moved to write because, well, I really love to learn.  First to get things straight…in my humble opinion it is possible to learn, but not necessarily be wise.  A great deal of learning in an academic setting involves memorizing facts in order to do well on a test (including those standardized ones), only to be forgotten moments and days later.  Yes this might be learning but I’m not sure it’s wisdom.

When I think of wisdom, I think not just about learning…but a real passion for learning.  I think about someone who learns and consistently applies what he or she learns to his or her life.  When I think wisdom, I think deep learning and understanding.

Some of my greatest moments in college are the moments I felt enlightened after walking out of an amazing lecture from one of my professors.  You know, the light-bulb moment.  I love that feeling.  I still remember a lecture in my Communications class where our professor used the movie The Poseidon Adventure to study small group interaction.  What is amazing is that it has been nearly 20 years since that class and I still remember most of the details (OMG, has it been that long?  Man, I’m getting old.).  I also remember my humanities professor taught us about Smetna’s The Moldau and it absolutely changed my perspective and appreciation for that amazing piece of symphonic music.

But the beautiful thing is that wisdom and learning need not take place at school.  We can do it any day at any time from any place.  Sure, we can learn from books, but some of our deepest, most important lessons come from talking to others:  our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, co-workers and friends.  Listening to their stories, we learn about their successes and their failures.

Some of my favorite places to learn these days include the Internet (where I can check out Twitter, blogs and Wikipedia on a constant basis), National Public Radio, Toastmasters, television (yes, television can be good for you too), and my kitchen.  I like to think of my kitchen as my edible chemistry lab…some of my experiments work and some don’t work so well.

Perhaps most importantly of all, wisdom means that we need to share what we learn with others.  This might mean our kids, younger co-workers, members of the “next generation,” and even our blog readers.  I feel very strongly about giving back to others in the form of teaching and good conversation which might include some words of wisdom.

Yes, I love to learn and I’m curious by nature.  It’s something I’m passionate about.  Even though it has been years since I’ve graduated, I continue to learn so many new things.  It makes me realize and appreciate why graduation is also referred to as “commencement” because it really is just the beginning.

How about you…what is your favorite light-bulb moment?

Thank you to Lori at JaneBeNimble for the invite to participate in the monthly RAOKA (Random Acts of Kick Arse) series.  For more information please visit her blog here.

Creative Commons photo of Starbuck’s wisdom coffee cup courtesy of Denise Cross.

1 Lori July 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Hi Timeless Tim!
When you mentioned the light-bulb moment I was nodding my head in agreement. I love it when something happens or someone says something and I get the realization that I finally understand the implications or true meaning. Love it! (That said, I still don’t think I’ll ever really understand how electricity works – ha.)

Of course, I’m completely fascinated by listening to people’s stories. There are gems in all treasure chest’s of friends and neighbors if we just listen. 😉

I loved your kitchen comment. I love cooking much more that I’m not working in a lab anymore. Now I get to experiment with food instead of DNA/RNA and cell lines! Woot!

Finally, my friend Tim, thanks so much for joining in this month’s RAOKA theme. Your thoughts are gorgeous and we’re honored to read them. You RAOKA!

2 Keith July 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Hello Tim,

Ok, first things first. I love the pic of the Starbucks cup. I wish they still had those “The way I see it” cups!

Second: You simply are not old.

Now, as far as your post is concerned, I think it is fantastic! You bring up so many good points. One is that academic type education is just one form of learning and that learning continues …forever!

Another thing I picked up from your post came from this statement “…I love to learn and I’m curious by nature. It’s something I’m passionate about.” I think that with this statement, you may have hit upon a fundamental prerequisite for attaining wisdom. A natural curiosity and a passion for learning.

Great Post Tim

3 Topi July 8, 2010 at 5:39 am

I really like what you’ve said about wisdom involving sharing what we’ve learned with others. I guess that if you keep a thought or idea or reflection inside then it’s kind of difficult to call that wisdom, but if you put it out there and share it with others as a reflection or application to life, then it becomes wisdom. Something for me to think more about! Thanks

4 Tim July 8, 2010 at 7:31 am

Hi Lori: You’ve reminded me that my mention of light-bulb moments ties in with my previous post about Thomas Edison. I wonder if Edison hadn’t invented the incandescent light bulb…perhaps we’d call that moment something else. Anyhow, just a thought;) I think you touched on something important in your comment: stories. While these stories can be entertaining, they can also be very informative and a source of wisdom…you are right about these being a treasure chest. Anyhow, thank you for being such a great RAOKA host and I look forward to more stories shared on JBN!

Hi Keith: I agree with you about the Starbuck’s cups…I really loved those cups and how they enlightened us like the coffee inside the cups. Thank you for also saying I’m not old. When I thought about my college experience, I realized that was nearly 20 years ago and, well, that kind of made me feel old thinking of how much time has passed. Truth be told, I do not feel old..so that is a good thing and something I’m thankful for. You are so right about passion and curiosity being prerequisites for learning. Thank you for good words and for sharing your thoughts!

Hi Topi: Yeah, I think its great when I talk to one of my older family members and they share something with me…perhaps it isn’t intended to be a lesson but it often keeps things in perspective for me during current circumstances. One example is when I hear anything about the depression in the United States in the 1930’s. As Lori said, it’s these stories that are like treasure and nuggets of wisdom. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

5 The Exception July 8, 2010 at 9:03 am

Hi Tim,

I had not even considered education when I drafted my post – thanks for the reminder. I immediately thought of professors I had in both undergrad and graduate school – I am not sure I learned all that they were there to teach and some of the lessons were those that had nothing to do with the subject matter. One professor, I will never forget, filled his lecture halls each semester and it wasn’t because everyone was interested in Soviet politics as much as it was because the man taught with such passion and love of the subject. He loved his job. I knew that I wanted to have such passion for my profession – the kind of passion that bubbles out and asks others to listen and learn. In graduate school I think the wisdom came more form the students in the classes over the topics themselves.

Wisdom is such a nuanced subject. Thank you for your thoughts and for opening my eyes to another aspect of wisdom!

6 Jay Schryer July 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Hi Tim,

I love how you’ve made the distinction between accumulating facts and attaining wisdom. There’s a world of difference between those two experiences. Almost any fool can accumulate facts; it takes a deep thinker, someone who is dedicated to understanding the facts, to attain wisdom. You are very wise, my friend.

7 Tim July 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Hi Exception: Your comment about teachers really jogged my memory. I think students of all ages are pretty observant of teachers and whether they really care about what they’re teaching. I think both kinds of teachers have profound impacts on their students, but I agree with you wholeheartedly about the passionate ones and I’m glad you had a really good one for Soviet politics. Good to learn that students in your grad school classes provided wisdom, as well. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

Hi Jay: Thanks for the good words and for sharing your thoughts here. I have a feeling some people are really good at memorizing and getting good grades. I had a buddy in high school who was an artist and didn’t get good grades, but I’d put him up there with some of the smartest people I’ve known. I hope all is going well with you.

8 Eric | Eden Journal July 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I absolutely love the light bulb moments. I had one in college also, in a philosophy class. It was near Christmas, and the topic was this: If you love one person in your life more than everyone else, then would it make sense to spend your entire gift budget on that one person and exclude everyone else. It was a mind opening moment for me, because I initially balked at the idea, but later gave it some thought as a viable alternative, albeit one not readily accepted by our society.

9 Lance July 9, 2010 at 11:25 am

Hi Tim,
Sharing our wisdom. Such a great point! If we leave it bottled up within us, is it really “wisdom” at all?

And as I think about all of this – learning in school, real-world experiences, learning because I really want to – wisdom has really been a journey. And I like to think that as I’ve continued on this journey – I’ve become more aligned with what this means for me.

And – I LOVE the Starbucks cup!!

10 Tim July 9, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Hi Eric: That was an awesome story…and I can really picture being in that philosophy class. I love classes that really force you to think deeply but where there are no right or wrong answers to the big questions. I know teachers love to see their students having light bulb moments, but its pretty awesome to experience this too. Thank you for sharing!

Hi Lance: Great thoughts…wisdom – gaining it and passing it along is really a journey. And it really is worth reminding ourselves about as much as we can. Thanks for stopping by and yeah, that Starbucks cup really fit what I just finished writing about. Have a great weekend!

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