On Wisdom

The difference between knowledge and wisdom is experience.

A young man once asked me if he could shadow me for a summer, so that he could learn from me.  I asked him to tell me about his life.

“It’s good,”  he replied.

“Tell me about a hardship that you have overcome.”

“None that I can think of.  My life has been easy.”

“Are your parents together?”

“Well, no,” he explained.  “They separated when I was fifteen.”

“That must have been hard.”

He shrugged.  “That was about them.  It wasn’t about me.”

He was a nice young man, and I believed him to be very sincere.  “What will you do with your summer, if I say no.?”

“I was thinking I’d try to get a job at a resort up north.”

“That’s what I would recommend!”

His disappointment was visible.  “But I want to help people;  I want to do what you do.”

“Let’s look at this hypothetically.  If someone came to you suffering from deep depression, how would you help them?”

“I would meditate on it and look for answers.”

“I see.  And if none came?”

He had no response.

“Let me explain something,”  I was starting to feel a little bit like David Carradine talking to Grasshopper.  “Much of my ability to help another comes from life experience.  In the case of depression, who do you think would be in a better position, someone who has lived through it and come out the other side, or someone who has meditated on the possibility?”

He didn’t need to answer.

“The best thing you can do for yourself right now is gather experience.  Learn all that you can, too, but when your intellectual knowledge, meets your experienced knowing, then you will be ready.”

“How long will that take.”

I had to suppress a smile.  I was impatient once too.  “That depends on you.  From where I stand, you have a ways to go.”

“Why’s that?”  He looked offended.

“You haven’t even recognized the pain of your parents’ divorce.  How can you help another deal with their wounds, when you haven’t looked at your own?”

“There is time for everything,”  I said more gently.  “Now is a time for gathering.  Go North.  You’ll learn much more there than I can ever teach you now.”

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