As I go into the world I ask what do I know? I have spent over two decades as a teacher. Yet when I look back and reflect, that question 'What do I know?' stands out. I also joke that in my twenties I knew everything. Now my days are filled with whole areas I do not know about and I begin to understand my level of ignorance.
Even more questions arise. Is knowledge different than wisdom? Can wisdom be learned? Can I ever know enough? Should I know more?
In searching for an understanding and sense of guidance is found in The Analects of Confucius Book II.
To know what we know, and know what we do not know, is wisdom.
Learning without thought is naught; thought without learning is dangerous.
A gentleman is broad and fair; the small man takes sides and is narrow.
To keep old knowledge warm and get new makes the teacher.
1. To know what we know, and know what we do not know, is wisdom.
As I think of the connection between wisdom and knowledge this statement is a defining link. The direction given by Confucius is not the acquisition of more knowledge. To be wise, is to be aware of your knowledge. To identify what you know and what you do not. How many times have I found myself speaking to a topic I do not know? If a child asks us why the tide comes and goes, do we know? Or do we give an answer we do not fully understand.
2. Learning without thought is naught; thought without learning is dangerous.
Do we learn and ask the questions to go deeper. Where does this knowledge fit into my wisdom? Does this learning connect to me? Will this learning moment challenge and change who I am? At other times we jump thinking through a process or situation and yet we do not reflect on how that has worked. Danger comes from not learning from our previous thought patterns. How do you reflect on your learning?
3. A gentleman is broad and fair, the small man takes sides and is narrow.
There is wisdom is being broad and open to knowledge. It is fair to explore and honor the knowledge and wisdom of others; open, suspending judgement. To pick a side or point of view limits the openness of a person. Narrow thinking is not a path to wisdom and does not allow us to learn and know more than our own limits. Can you look to other knowledge and learning and fairly see the strength of it?
4. To keep old knowledge warm and get new makes the teacher.
In warmth there is comfort, and there is substance. Does your understanding of old knowledge allow you the warmth of this comfort? Do you actively get new knowledge and link it to the understanding of the old. Without the movement from old to new, it is easy to confused the rigidness and complacency of staying in the old with a false sense of warmth. A teacher transitions from the old to the new, making neither one greater or less than the other.
So as Confucius guides us on the path of wisdom to that of a teacher he provides us a roadmap. Know what you know, tie your learning with thinking and reflect, be open and fair to ideas, and to teach, seek the link of old to new.
How will you seek your path to wisdom?