In Deep Is The Hunger Howard Thurman delves into knowledge and wisdom, causing me, it seems, to really consider for the first time the distinction between the two.  [Okay, I may be a little slow to the class.]

Thurman notes this reality:

“It is a simple but terrible truth that, in most fundamental decisions we make, we must act on the basis of evidence that is not quite conclusive.  We must decide and act on our decision without having complete knowledge even of the facts that are involved.  What we do is postpone decisions as long as we can, getting before us as many relevant facts as possible.  Then there comes the moment of decision and we act.  Our hope is that the future will reveal the rightness of our decision but we are never quite sure.”

What Thurman is talking about there is knowledge, facts.  But he continues:

“Since, at our best, we must act again and again on the basis of inadequate evidence, it is quite unworthy of our responsibility as human beings to use less than our highest wisdom in making up our minds.”

There it is, the subtle shift from knowledge to wisdom.  He continues:

“There is no guarantee that the decision I make will not, in the end, form a mistake, a bad judgment, a movement in error.  But I shall bring to bear upon it the fruits of my cumulative wisdom in living, the light from as many lamps along the way as I can see, and the greatest spiritual resources available to me.”

I love that phrase – “the light from as many lamps along the way as I can see….” 

It occurs to me that the “fruits of my cumulative wisdom,” those lights from the “lamps along the way” come from many sources — our past experience, from other folks, from something we read, some song we have heard, from something in nature….  Sometimes those fruits, those lights just appear without us knowing the source (“the greatest spiritual resources”?).  It is when we mix what we know with those life experiences, that fruit and light from within, from without, and from who knows where, that we start to have some sense of the word “wisdom.”

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