Knowledge & wisdom

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Knowledge is information: facts, figures, dates and names.
It is the ability to arrange, assess, define, duplicate, label, list, memorise, name, order, recall, recognise, relate, repeat and reproduce.
Sometimes knowledge can be understanding gained by actual experience.

The information age?

People associate knowledge as being the accumulation of information.
Modern technology has quite literally put all manner of information at our fingertips.
We can find out almost anything about any subject, can't we?
Let's test the validity of this notion.

Information does not mean wisdom

You probably know what a piano is... right?
Can you build one?
Do you understand the acoustics?
Can you read piano music?
Are you capable of actually playing a piano?
How many piano concertos have you personally written?
Could you play the piano as part of a band or with a singer?

So, what exactly do you know?
Maybe far, far less than you think you do.

Chat-room genius?

People sometimes join on-line chat-rooms to discuss tai chi or some other subject.
Are these people experts?
Some may be. Others are probably not.
The problem with chat-rooms is that the internet provides a forum for self-expression.
A well-read tai chi enthusiast may possess no functional physical skills.
They may just be a good talker.

Well presented mouthpiece

News presenters and TV personalities are very well presented.
They have great skin, lovely hair, make-up, expensive clothing.
The presenter is adept at seeming earnest, personable, intelligent and knowledgeable.
When you consider the latter point, you may realise the problem...
Excellent presentation is no indication of actual knowledge - we are interested in what the person actually knows - not what they can quote (or what they are reading from a script).
Is the presenter an expert?


A common practice in modern society is to quote superficial pieces of information as though this reflected some deeper, more profound level of knowledge.
Usually, there is no knowledge.
It is just information.


Knowing is not enough.
The human race has a recorded history spanning hundreds of years, yet we are still at war with one another.
There is hunger, poverty, greed and cruelty throughout the world.


For all our knowledge, we are yet to live in harmony with others.
We are yet to have respect.
A clever-seeming person may seek to flout their knowledge, but a wise person remains quiet.
They prefer to watch, to learn, to observe natural laws.

It is like someone who falls into the sea and takes support from the water itself to swim and reach the shore.

(Matthieu Ricard)


Wisdom is not the same as knowledge.
It reaches beyond the information to see inner qualities and relationships that are not immediately apparent.
It is synonymous with awareness and care, with insight and consideration.
Knowledge alone is dangerous.
It must be tempered with good sense, morality and prudence.

Are you truly open to the unknown?

Modern culture is littered with examples of limited thinking.
It is actively encouraged by our current education system.
Can you cope with uncertainty, doubt and insecurity? Can you step off (knowingly) into the abyss?


People accept or dismiss information on the basis of their own ability to comprehend it.
This approach is unsound.
Do we dismiss Einstein, Hawkins or Da Vinci because we do not understand their theories and insights?
Does our ignorance invalidate their work?


Krishnamurti told an amusing story which causes us to question authority:

The devil and his friend are walking along the street, when they see a man stoop down and pick something up. The man looks very pleased.
The friend asks the devil, "What has he found?"
The devil replies, "He has found a piece of the truth."
"Then this is bad business for you?" asked the friend.
"Not at all," said the devil, "Now I will tell him what it means."

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023