Virtue of the Week: Knowledge

KnowledgeThe Death of Common Sense

By Lori Borgman

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault. Common sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults are in charge not children). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of an 8 year old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch, and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. Common sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student, but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant. Common sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault. Common sense finally gave up the will to live, after a women failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common sense was preceded in death, by his parents, truth and trust, his wife, discretion, his daughter, responsibility, and his son, reason. He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers: I know my rights, I want my rights, I want it now, and I’m a victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.


THE HIDDEN KNOWLEDGE (A Sioux Indian Folk Tale)

The Creator gathered all of creation and said, “I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the realization that they create their own reality.” The eagle said, “Give it to me, I will take it to the moon.” The Creator said, “No. One day they will go there and find it.” The salmon said, “I will hide it on the bottom of the ocean.” “No. They will go there too.” “The buffalo said, “I will bury it on the great plains.” The Creator said, “They will cut into the skin of the earth and find it even there.” Then Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said: “Put it inside them.” And the Creator said, “It is done.”


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Knowledge-We Have Just Enough To Be Dangerous.

It has been said that “The tools we shape in time shape us.” Mankind has been pursuing knowledge to shape new tools with no connection to wisdom for a long time and those tools are starting to come back and bite us in the posterior. We have learned just enough to be dangerous. Sure, there is the obvious upside to having more knowledge, but without wisdom, knowledge can lead to serious problems. The cure could be worse than the disease! Think for a moment how the unbridled pursuit of knowledge has escalated some of the problems that have plagued man since the dawn of time. War, racism, the gap between the rich and the poor, and the rape of natural resources and habitats, are just a few examples. I don’t think that people are greedier or are more wicked now than they used to be. But I do think that the pursuit of knowledge has given us better sticks (tools) to beat each other over the head with.

Our increase in knowledge has facilitated the development of technology and increased our power to act. We would like to believe that this power will always be used to benefit mankind, to cure disease, feed people, and in enhance the quality of our lives. That all sounds nice, but what about the flip side, how can our increased knowledge, technology, and “power to act” harm us?

Before the advent of our modern age of knowledge and technology, a lack of wisdom to go along with increased knowledge didn’t matter that much; we were generally isolated people in a big world, we lacked the means to do too much damage to ourselves, let alone our communities, country , or the planet. But now, in possession of unprecedented technological powers bestowed on us by increased knowledge (accompanied by a lack of wisdom, stemming from the degradation of our character and morality), our tools can inflict far more damage than they used too.

Here is a great example. When I was a kid, that crazy old coot down the road really couldn’t do much damage. Mom would tell us to stay away from him and as long as we kept our distance we were safe. Nowadays, that crazy old coot can reach out and engage the world via the internet, send mass emails, learn far too much about my family, and he might even be able to penetrate the safety of my home and firewall via a modem. His power to act out his “craziness” has been multiplied a thousand fold, and without wisdom, or character, or morality to control him, he can do a lot of damage.

Our increase in knowledge must be accompanied with a proportionate increase in our character and morality so that we use the increased “power to act” for good and not evil. If we can’t handle, or don’t know how to increase our character to accompany that power, then we need to limit the attainment of knowledge (use of technology) until our character is mature enough to handle the power of the technology.

Sounds funny and backwards doesn’t it……limiting the pursuit of knowledge and the use of technology? Well, let me tell you, it doesn’t sound so funny to any parent of a 13 year old boy or girl who just got a new cell phone and has racked up a $400 cell bill, or is texting 5000 texts a month, or has made some damaging comments on Facebook, or discovers that their new social network friend is a 58 year old man.