Wisdom & Intelligence

Jamaica taught me one thing. The people of Jamaica ... those I met in Negril in any case on the beach trying to sell me things ... are into wisdom and not intelligence.

When I met Peter way back when, we dueled verbally a lot. He went on to get a law degree, and then a philosophy degree. I got a linguistics degree and then one in philosophy with a spin on argument theory and language acquisition. Cute eh? Escalation in the verbal dueling skills. :) And now we both write. Peter told me right off that I was indeed more intelligent than him in a linear way... but he added something. He added that he had higher intelligence of a different sort. Now that is a nice move in an argument... one has to be able to either debunk the notion of different types of intelligence, or one has to learn what that other sort is, and essentially out do the other person in it to claim higher intelligence. I wasn't able to do this then, and Peter benefitted from my respect on this point.

Over the years, I've kept my eyes open for this alternate type of intelligence. What could he have meant. Peter had the unique talent of being able to understand things that I couldn't even grasp. He could tell me about people things and the ways of interactions and other neat things. He could run circles around peoples' heads. For some reason it always worked. Alternate intelligence.. Hmmm I thought.

Jamaicans work on this alternate intelligence too. And unlike Peter they aren't also relying on my type of intelligence too. I think I have both nowadays too or I wouldn't have understood this at all. I'll call the alternate intelligence wisdom.

Wisdom is the reissuing of discovered solutions at appropriate times. Such solutions and timings can be passed from person to person via accurate story telling, brainwashing or training. Accuracy is necessary because the discovered solution is passed along as a whole solution even if some parts of it are redundant, irrelevant, or even slightly harmful to the solution desired. These extra bits of the solution become as important as the functioning parts since, and this is the crucial difference between the intelligence types, between wisdom and intelligence, the users of wisdom do not know which are which. The whole ritual, the whole solution as discovered, must be passed along in whole if at all since the parts have not been separately tested. Note the scientistic lingo creeping in here.

Why is scientistic lingo creeping in? Science is that cool modern invention which exists primarily to gather the parts of the solutions which actually solve the problems, leaving the redundant, irrelevant, or even wrong bits out. Science in some way provides a better method(s) of acquiring knowledge, and hence of transmitting it, still with accuracy.

The crucial difference as I mentioned above is only that of being able to examine the parts of the whole to see which are important and which are not. That's it. Wisdom transmits too much information. It retains its historical context -- that of its discovery, and latter that of its use. Units of wisdom are embedded in culture and ritual by necessity -- a necessity I haven't justified here, but only presumed so far. It comes as across mostly as magic to those of us using intelligence. Units of intelligence on the other hand, knowledge if you will, are simply true bits of information about the nature of the world (as best we have so far gotten to anyway). But they are peeled of excess ritual and context. When they were discovered and in what way is not relevant. The nature of the knower is not important. An educated person with knowledge knows the same thing that an uneducated person knows. Context is not important. This makes intelligence and knowledge powerful in a modern way. And of course it creates our society of truth functional people scientistically unenriched: truth above interpretation, knowing above having faith, historians and engineers unite in studying only the past and the present, and never in studying how to build the future.

Some of the things that are lost when switching from the older and yet less knowledge accumulating wisdom societies to the modern scientistic intelligence based societies are nevertheless valuable.

Perhaps some parts of medicine are more useful when we know which part of the magic dance ritual actually enacts a cure and which is historically tacked on only. But perhaps part of the so-called by me redundant part of the wise solution is needed for other things: for instance, the creation and enriching of the culture and context surrounding the healing of the sick person.

At a wedding last week, I watched a very talented minister explain to a roomful of future inlaws that they too would be responsible for the future happiness of their marrying children. He taught not just the bride and groom what their new relationships would be with each other. He also explained to all in the room, the church, what to expect, how to assist positively. Now although I don't agree with his opinion of a positive result, I do strongly appreciate his understanding for the need to have brought these issues into the open. He taught 100 people about being a community and about treating each other with wisdom and understanding. Intelligence has told us that these days, most marriages end in divorce. Wisdom can still tell us how to bypass the statistic.

Jamaicans know wisdom, the old way of knowing the world. They have not as a culture embraced intelligence as well. As much as they hold on to the old ways, so these bright energetic hard working people will use most of their hard work on the irrelevant, redundant, and even sometimes slightly destructive parts of the whole solutions. With the shining light of examining the parts one by one, with the light of the by me often slighted scientistic manners of the modern world, the wise and the knowledgably intelligent can meet in an embrace of enlightened interest.

Intelligence cleaned of all ritual lacks story glue, interpretation, and finally community, a seemingly needed part of humanness. Wisdom left out from the light of the better methods of knowledge gathering remains estranged from the fruits of modern comfort and success. With one, a lack of faith, and with the other, a gathering of superstition. With both embraced and entwined in strength, we have story and fact, wisdom and intelligence, context and understanding, we have the past and the future. We are no longer only scientists or only witch doctors. We are human.

Carolyn's Diary
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