Val is a self-made out-of-box thinker and individualist de-hypnotized from social brainwashing advances.
It's not what you look at that matters, but what you see.
-- Henry David Thoreau
Too Smart for Wisdom
If your literary appetites insist on some more precise definitions of both, philosophy and wisdom, feel free to look them up in a good dictionary, because there will be nothing like an academic glamour in the paragraphs that follow.
As usual, my views about man and life stay anchored to simplicity, since I never believed that the human truth could only be expressed by fancy academic cosmetics.
Which immediately brings to mind the familiar anecdote involving a learned philosopher who visited a wise man to hear about the tenets of his teachings about life.
As the story goes, the wise dude offered him some tea, and after placing a cup in from of him, he kept pouring and pouring, until the tea overflowed. Astonished, the philosopher asked why he was doing that, so the wise man said:
"This cup is like your mind, and it's already full; so anything new will merely be an excess and a waste of my words."
Such is usually the case of most philosophers, notably those of an armchair variety. They form a "theory of everything" which they guard with a closed mind and intellectual arrogance -- oftentimes leaning towards dogmatic and inflexible stubbornness.
Categorizing about the funds of knowledge is quite a common trait of armchair philosophers -- as they want to know from which already existing authorities, or "school of thought" popular on culture market you are drawing your opinions.
Next, they usually display views that carry a strong emotional charge, in form of criticism, disagreement, and protest.
Basically, they are ever ready for a long an emotional debate in which it is never important "what" is right, but "who" is right. Especially those politically minded smart asses are well familiar for "knowing it all" -- as they stick to their positions as if their life depends on proving themselves correct.
More often than not, such debates are not after some satisfying conclusions, rather existing as their own purpose, for venting out some accumulated private issues that are just being channeled into politicizing.
In a certain way, we might even put professional politicians into that group -- as they are incessantly exchanging phrases and political cliches for some hours without really saying anything.
Just listen to them kicking the shit back and forth in parliament or their equivalents in other countries. For some hours they can go on and on, ping-ponging with some totally useless arguments that don't lead to any action at all.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson
Philosophy Doesn't Inspire Happiness, while just Having a Lot to Say About It
We could say that wisdom is insisting upon making us more spiritual, happy, loving, and peaceful humans, whereas philosophy is trying to make objective our sense of reality -- whatever "reality" may mean to that gamut of different intellectual tastes.
Wisdom is about life as experience, about consciousness and its potentiality to expand, whereas philosophy is trying to stay married to parameters of scientific principles where the subjective has not much of a value.
Thus, if you happen to be familiar with that long line of philosophers throughout history, you may be reminded how many of those, otherwise brilliant intellects, belonged to some truly unhappy, often lonesome, some cynical -- but all downright miserable and unloving individuals.
Many never married, some were even misogynistic; others, or even the same ones, were a definition of sheer pessimism.
Indeed, it may really make one wonder, how could anyone with such a pronounced intellectual capacity turn out so incapable of figuring out some way to generate happiness for themselves and inspire it for others.
With their often quite sterile views, no matter how luxuriously presented, it was like they were seeing man as a creature cooked up in petri dish of a god's lab, turning out a bad product worth of an elaborate criticism. There was no warmth, no love in it -- except for the undeniable fact that they could go extremely eloquent about love, altruism, and the whole package of virtues.
Actually, with classical branches of philosophy being: logic, metaphysics, politics, religion, aesthetics, and ethics (hope I'm not missing any), what warmth could we expect from it.
Philosophizing seems to be a sort of intellectual self-gratification, as it is only reshuffling philosophical concepts ad nauseam, without really contributing to a better life of man.
Something that reminds of the United Nations' incessant outsmarting going on over some old issues that should have been resolved long time ago with a dash of sheer pragmatism -- or shall we say, with a "wise" frame of mind.
Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching.
Futility of Generalizing
Whether we are talking about those bona fide philosophers or just armchair variety of them, they all show this tendency to generalize, possibly raising such useless questions like:
"What is happening with the mankind?"...or: "What is the role of black man in predominantly white society?"...or trying to philosophize about our health while saying: "We are what we eat."
Well, how many people see such questions and contentions as legitimate? Let's see them separately.
As for the first question: "What's happening with the mankind? -- no one can give a rational answer to that, because the mankind is composed of many mentalities, many social statuses, many capacities for happiness and for misery... and so on, it would really depend who we are talking about.
This world, with everything going on, gives a pretty mixed impression of a paradise on earth -- and a hell's inferno, making any generalization senseless.
Likewise, we can't generalize about black folks; and it's quite futile when the question is about "their role in a predominantly white society" -- not specifying whether we are talking about one Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Neil de Grasse Tyson, Mohamed Ali -- or about those folks in Harlem and ghettos.
And, for our "being what we eat" -- we could also say: "We are what we think", as the growing evidence is pointing to such a conclusion, especially after studies of some ordinary, not exactly "balanced" eating habits -- and an enviable stress management -- of those people in so called Blue Zones, with many happy and healthy centenarians around.
Thus, generalizing about people would be like saying that all Jews are geniuses because Einstein was one; and all Italians are romantic; and all French are culinary experts.
I'd rather regret the things I have done than regret the things I haven't done.
-- Lucille Ball
Academic Mind Shamed by Simplicity
Unlike philosophy, which is theoretical, wisdom is pragmatic.
Many years ago, as one book was following another in an almost marathon fashion, my intuition kicked in with warning that collecting all that information about life and human nature could not replace a sound plan for applying whatever was appliable of all that material.
It might as well have happened as I read about that great thinking man Aldous Huxley's story in which he made a humble confession involving his morning walk in a third world country, as he was getting a unique eye-opening experience.
On the dusty path where he leisurely strolled there was this young woman coming his way carrying a bunch of flowers and humming some happy tune. What he found stunning about her was an absolute glow of joy emanating from her. In words of modern slang, her vibes were so infectious that he felt a wave of joy himself as she was passing by.
She was obviously just someone from a nearby village, certainly not a "learned person who knew the secret of ecstasy."
That fact shook this scholar well, as in that moment he realized how little had he known about genuine happiness -- with all his status of a famous thinker -- as he could not duplicate the joy of that ordinary young woman.
That story added enormously, along my other relating thoughts, to my resolve to go pragmatic about everything that I had read.
Ever since, I have been like a tiny bee collecting pollen from different flowers to make my own recipe for honey, never stuffing myself silly from any single one of them -- all in a resolve to make some practical use of it in my personal evolvement and praxis of living.
If philosophy meant anything to me, it was only if it could qualify to be hyphened into psycho-philosophy. Here and there, albeit not often enough for me to brag, people have called me "wise". I liked that, as I never saw myself as "smart", while in the course of my growth I have made many silly mistakes that a smart dude would never have done.
And in my sense of wisdom, I see all of those mistakes as fitting so nicely in the entirety of my simple humanness.
Here I have tried to make a simple distinction between philosophy and wisdom which simply shines with its elegant purposefulness.
I certainly hope that at least some of you may have been a little inspired to separate in your own mind all that collected knowledge from your tendency to also apply it in life.
For that's what makes the difference between philosophy and wisdom.
© 2022 Val Karas