I once had a card I kept for a long time. On it was written the compelling phrase “Wisdom is knowing what to do next.” Having had plenty of direction changes in my life, it seemed wise indeed to know what to do next. However, I now identify more strongly with the wisdom of Socrates, the full-service gas station attendant and Dan’s enigmatic mentor in “The Way Of The Peaceful Warrior” (one of my all-time favorite books, see the review here). Socrates, in challenging Dan’s know-it-all attitude, asks him “Do you know how to wash a windshield?” to which Dan’s answer is a quick “Of course I do!” Socrates then tosses him the squeegee. “Wisdom is doing it.”
This take on the relationship of knowledge and wisdom speaks to me in my life’s experience. To say that knowledge is necessary yet not sufficient to achieve intended outcomes, and that wisdom is expressed in the doing of those things; this is a truth for me. Knowing makes no difference at all, if the knowing is not somehow applied. Whether this doing looks like training, getting into nature, doing my mobility work, eating properly, cleaning the kitchen, researching and reading online, or sitting in meditation – the thing that makes the difference ultimately is the doing. Knowing helps us do more effectively or efficiently; but a state-of-the-art GPS won’t get you anywhere if you don’t get in, fire it up, and go.
Dealing as I am now with a fairly serious disc injury in my low back, developed over years of wear-and-tear and not a small amount of neglect, I ask myself “How would my back be different today if I’d actually applied my best knowledge about how to maintain functional core strength, mobility, and spinal postural integrity?” How would my life be different? And given the maxim that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, how much time, effort, resources and pain have been wasted due to my neglect of doing what was needed – my neglect of the wisdom of doing?
What about you? Do you see any areas of your life where you know more than you do? Share your insights in a comment!