Since long before we started kindergarten, we have been praised and rewarded for what we learn and what we know. The pattern of living for a grade is so deeply engrained in us that people who build electronic games create them to praise us. Fact, data, information, charts, graphs, and detailed descriptions all prove our point, support our opinion, or guide our behavior. We all want to be smart.
Now we walk around with phones that can tell us how far away something is, or where the best place to have pizza might be, or what the weather is doing in a faraway city. We call them “smart phones,” and, more and more, we rely on them to provide information. Our grandparents read the paper. Our parents watched television. We ask our phones.
I was playing with my phone recently and began asking Siri questions about God. She wasn’t a lot of help, but her answers clearly had been programmed to be funny without being offensive. Siri is smart … if she can avoid the kinds of arguments that have led to wars over the centuries.
The problem is, Siri may be a “smart” phone, but she is not very wise. My phone may have more information and computing power than the computers that first put a human on the moon, but I have several 90-year-old friends who are much wiser than Siri ever will be.You see, it seems the more ubiquitous information seems to be, the more rare wisdom is. Fewer and fewer people seem able to articulate insights that make information transformational. Siri can tell me the molecular makeup of two people, but she is worthless when it comes to helping them resolve their differences and stay in love.
Lately I’ve been struggle with my own life’s priorities. There are so many things I love to do, and I have the terrible habit of trying to do them all. All the information I have says that I need to focus my time, energy, and attention on one or two things and let the rest go. The trouble is I don’t need any more information. I need wisdom.
Perhaps if I could deprogram my kindergarten mind I might be able to listen to the wisdom of the Spirit of the Elder inside me. What I really want, though, is to trade in Siri, my smart phone, for some time with the friends in my life who are wise.
by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal