9 Virtues Blog

Finding Wisdom Beyond the Smorgasbord of Information

by N. Karl Haden, Ph.D.


“He thus avoided distraction of mind, for he wanted to have his mind free and at leisure for as many hours as possible to seek or read or hear truths concerning wisdom.”

St. Augustine, Confessions, writing of his friend Nebridius

We live in a world in which our minds are constantly distracted. Every spare moment—standing in a line at the grocery store, waiting for a friend for lunch, driving to work, or exercising in the gym—is filled through the medium of technology. Twenty-four/seven, we're tethered to and bombarded by information. Our minds crave knowledge, and a smorgasbord is constantly served up for our immediate consumption. Understanding that we're rewarded by this consumption, that we feel pleasure in it, is important to realizing why we cannot turn off the technology. But the pursuit of information to complete the loop of instant gratification isn't the pursuit of wisdom. Even knowledge itself isn't wisdom. Wisdom comes from an understanding of what knowledge means in application—to oneself, to others, to how we live. Becoming wise is a deliberate process, a choice we make that requires us to pause and reflect. If we don't have time to reflect, to understand what we know, then we don't have time for deep and meaningful learning. The big questions in life (Why am I here? How should I live my life? What is the right action to take?) require a lifetime of reflective moments.

Practicing wisdom today:  You don't need to sequester yourself on a mountaintop to practice the reflection that brings wisdom. Identify a space in your day that you usually fill using technology (for example, listening to the radio as you drive to work). Cut the tether and pay attention to the thoughts that cross your mind.