Wisdom cannot be taught

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Wisdom cannot be taught

Monday, 29 March 2021 | Vinayshil Gautam

Wisdom cannot be taught

Knowing that a tomato is really a fruit is knowledge but realising that you can’t put it in a fruit salad is wisdom

In life, we are all faced with issues of decision-making. William Shakespeare captured it well through the character of Hamlet who wondered, “To be or not to be, is the question.” However, all issues of decision-making are not always centred around a fundamental dilemma. There are any number of situations which require decision-making on a daily basis. The truth is that except for involuntary actions like breathing or digestion, everything requires an application of the mind. How much of that is conscious and logical is a matter of knowledge, information and judgement. There are many situations where decision-making is almost a reflex action because there is no time to reflect upon a situation, gather all the necessary information and then come to a calculated decision. Even if that were to happen, there are risks. In an era where it is common to talk of risks of Covid-19, there are contradictory views. However, around us life goes on as usual for a large majority of people. The amount of construction which is going on is almost a standing advertisement that nothing has changed for those who cannot afford a change.

Construction sites have toddlers as usual and men and women are carrying building material as if nothing has changed. In daily life decision-making on the spur of the moment is the law. Long-range considerations are a matter of luxury, both of time and the ability to take a long-range view. Along with the decision process there is also a concurrent process of conflict that may arise out of opposing positions. A conflict may be on substantive reasons or simply a matter of perception or values. What is not often recognised is that differences may be mutually exclusive or indeed inclusive. The core of conflict remains a process of incompatibility. Put in a gross manner a conflict emerges when two pieces of matter try to concurrently occupy the same space. Mutual accommodation is the only solution. However, getting the parties to agree to a resolution through fair and equitable decision-making is the route to a solution. At times inconsequential matters can cause huge conflict and even beginning to seek a resolution is seen as a win-loss situation. Resolving conflict in many cases is a matter of preference rather than the hard reality. The moralist very often sees this as a banter between evil and good.

The dialectical materialist sees conflict rooted in needs and material existence. Yet, at another level needs themselves can be beyond discussion. The farmer needing water to grow his crop is a need beyond discussion. However there, the quantum and timing of availability of water can become a huge source of decision-making. This may take the form of a conflict. A resolution of these seemingly intractable issues lies in realising that the act of survival itself requires coexistence. Different points of view at times need not be mutually exclusive. The wise among the species realise that differences between people can be real and legitimate and need not necessarily verge on attempts at mutual elimination. The act of living makes it necessary to comes to terms with differences and work together. There are yet more aspects to the processes of decision-making and conflict. A bigger challenge arises in recognising a conflict when it is realised that the desired goal can only go to one person. Clearly there are many shades of conflict and conflict- resolution and coexistence, too. A tricky situation arises when both parties see the other person’s legitimate claim to the ideal solution but are at loggerheads on the process. Both parents may wish the child to grow up well and yet have differences on which school to send him/her to. There is no substitute for maturity and wisdom. Knowing that a tomato is a fruit is information but realising that you can’t put tomato in a fruit salad is wisdom. Wisdom comes from within. It cannot be taught.

(The writer is an internationally-acclaimed management consultant. The views expressed are personal.)

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