It has been my dubious privilege to witness how in the last few decades basic forms of entertainment, such as radio and single-channel TV, gradually gave way to a plethora of wireless multimedia devices, and full feature CGI films that are barely indistinguishable from their real life counterparts (including the juvenile plots).
Yet, while the technical knowledge of youngsters may be flabbergasting, and their ability to embrace new inventions staggering, their capacity to make decisions, weigh ethical choices, judge character, and predict the consequences of actions, are vastly inferior to those of previous generations. Yes, they may be able to type lightning-fast messages in Facebook, but not with actual words*. While they may have seen how humans think and act on cable television, these characters are the artificial construct of political correctness, mixed with the abysmal writing skills of people equally lacking in emotional depth, so by mimicking them the unfortunate viewers end up with an exceedingly poor ability to form meaningful connections with others, not to mention act like responsible adults.
Protest all you wish, but despite all the goods and services thrown their way, the face of the current generation in first-world countries is the face of a dog licking its own behind, certain that it had discovered a gateway to some magical kingdom.
Enter wisdom, that cryptic, antique word that may ring a bell to anyone who has ever played D&D (or beat up somebody who did), which is also known as common sense. If Intelligence is the capacity to learn, store, and use knowledge, wisdom is the ability to decide how to use that knowledge.
A knowledgeable person may prepare for the possibility of global warming in ten years; a wise one would first prepare for the snowstorms of this winter.
An intelligent man may know the law, but a wise one would know when it needs to be changed.
When reading an article in the newspapers, intelligence may understand and memorize its content, but wisdom would tell you when the journalist is likely to be promoting a hidden agenda.
Intelligence may tell you that it's good to warm-up before physical exercise; wisdom would suggest skipping that when being charged by a raging bull.
We may have all been taught to tolerate different cultures, but it is wisdom that tells us where to draw the line.
Because first-world countries are teeming with knowledge, but are wanting in wisdom, we see many college students that cannot understand the difference between the theory taught in classrooms, and the complexity of real-life situations. Socialism can sound just and viable on paper, but once it collides with the intricacies of human society, with its layers upon layers of power struggles, it invariably ends in tyranny, and yet, it is still taught as a viable solution, and young minds, having neither the experience, nor the wisdom to discern it properly, fall under its false promises of a brighter future.
It is this haughty pseudo-intellectualism, filled with selective knowledge, and zero wisdom, that creates all those individuals, who preach about the merits of islam, while remaining blind to what it truly is.
A person who cannot ascertain the validity of the information he is being fed, is equally likely to believe Saudi propaganda, as he is to trust a fellow countryman.
Wisdom, as a value, is a boon for society. Compare the ancient Athenians to the barbarians that surrounded them - even to the immense, and wealthy Persian empire, and see who had contributed more knowledge and value to the whole of humanity. In a society that values wisdom, the experience of mature, and elderly people, is priceless.
In contrast, a society built solely around the pursuit of immediate, shallow thrills, would invariably turn to the worship of youth, but the young, with all their attractiveness and confidence, do not add to the collective knowledge of society**.
Such societies are doomed to stagnate, slip into decadence, and eventually suffer an internal revolution (France), or are conquered by more violent outsiders (Rome).
Let us not become like them. Let us value, and learn from our elders, so that their knowledge and wisdom would live on in us. A man who bedded forty teenage girls, is nothing compared to the one who kept his marriage intact for forty years; licentious starlets who can't even remember to put underwear on are a pathetic role-model next to a woman who managed to raise four kids to be responsible adults.
If Philosophy is the love of wisdom, then a car mechanic can be as much of a philosopher as a faculty member who wears expensive suits and writes for the Washington Post.
Knowledge is power, and we should all strive to use it well.
* To quote Mark Zuckerberg's 'ingenius' opinion of the complications of e-mail: “Think of the friction of trying to think of the e-mail address and think of a subject line, write ‘Hey Mom,’ at the top and ‘Love, Mark’ at the bottom.”
** That is, with the exception of geniuses, who break boundaries at very young ages.
Next Virtue: Courage