February 20, 2014 by John Crapper
1. having the power of discerning and judging properly as to which is true or right: possessing discernment, judgement, or discretion;
2. possessed of or characterized by scholarly knowledge or learning.
I recently attended a seminar on brain health and what steps we can take to keep our brains in top notch shape. During it I learned that our brain’s functioning changes as we age. Some of the change is good and some, of course, is bad. One of the good things that happens is that we supposedly get wiser as we age. This little tidbit got me thinking about the whole issue of wisdom and what it means to be wise.
The first thing I must say is that the definition provided by Webster is a little too polished and nuanced for posting on the Holy Shitters website. It needs to be stated just a little more succinctly I think. So let me give you the definition according to Poop John the First of the Church of the Holy Shitters for the word wise. A wise person is a person who possesses the ability to see through the bullshit and find the truth. They do this through the pursuit of knowledge and learning and by practicing good judgement. The Sacrament of Holy Shitting can help in achieving wisdom by working towards reaching the state of Soft and Fluffy.
When dealing with being wise the problems of personal bias and perception come into play. We judge according to our frame of reference derived from all our past experiences and education. The environment in which we exist plays a huge role in how we perceive the world and hence judge what is happening in it. Where we live plays an immense role. The religion we were raised in does also. Our family, friends, teachers, and co-workers all play a role in shaping our perception and judgement. So how can you be sure you’re currently wise and getting wiser with age? Isn’t it all dependent on the tint of those perception glasses you are wearing and the bank of knowledge you have incorporated through personal experience and education in both formal and informal ways you draw off while looking through those tinted glasses?
Thus I must bring up another interesting term worth considering when contemplating wisdom. That word is:
As defined in Webster’s:
1. A method of systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.
2. any method of controlled systematic indoctrination especially one based on repetition or confusion
When I was in college, I worked under Elizabeth Loftus, a well-known researcher studying the reliability of eyewitness testimony. The basic conclusion of her studies was that eyewitness testimony is not very reliable. The perceptions of the witness changed based on the tone and orientation of the questions asked. Even though the witness saw something with their own eyes and heard it with their own ears, when questioned in various leading ways their recollection of the events they witnessed changed based on the bias in the questions. It is a surprising finding and sheds light on the dangers each of us has in our pursuit of wisdom.
Let me give you one more personal example that illustrates this point. I work as an English as a Second Language Instructor teaching adult immigrants and refugees. One woman in particular who was in my class has excelled in her studies and is now on the verge of graduating from college. Even though she is immersed every day around native English speakers in the classroom she still makes obvious grammatical errors that just don’t seem to improve. Observing her I can tell that she doesn’t notice she is making an error. She just doesn’t realize it!
A critical aspect of perception is awareness. We must be aware of our surroundings and be open to the stimuli we receive. We must strive to minimize our personal bias and the bias we receive from outside sources and attempt to judge with impartiality. We should basically try to keep an “open mind”. That is not easy to do. I tend to believe it is impossible to accomplish fully.
We must also strive to fill our brains with knowledge from reliable sources. We must basically strive to screen out the bullshit we get bombarded with every day from sources that have an agenda. Fox News comes to mind as being a prime example of a misinformation source having an agenda. They, in my opinion, strive to change attitudes and alter beliefs through systematic indoctrination especially one based on repetition or confusion. Kind of sounds like brainwashing doesn’t it?
The final point I wish to make on being wise is how our perception of ourselves and our place in the universe and the scheme of existence has a bearing on our perception and judgement of all things. People who believe they are god-like and on their way to heaven or nirvana if they follow the plan of righteousness as dictated by their religion are judging the world through glasses which dictate an “only this way” perception. They are blinded to other ways and are blocked from keeping an open mind by the constraints of their religion. They become “set in their ways”.
Followers of the Church of the Holy Shitters believe that man is the lowest creature on the planet. When you start with this perception of yourself it tends to open your eyes to new ways of thinking. You realize you don’t have all the answers. You realize your place in the grand scheme of things. You realize that man cannot solve all our problems through our technology. You’re much more inclined to admit to yourself when you are a dumb shit. And realizing and admitting when you are a dumb shit is the first step in becoming truly wise!
Ibn Gabirol who, as a poet and philosopher, back in the 1021-1070 said,
In seeking wisdom,
the first step is silence;
the second, listening;
the third, remembering;
the fourth, practicing;
the fifth, teaching others.
The fool who thinks he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man; But the fool who thinks he is a wise man is rightly called a fool. – Dhammapada