How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall: A Skill-Based Life

by Chris Swanson


This paper is adapted from a talk given by Chris Swanson on February 21, 2014, at the Gutenberg conference “Mastery Not Factory: How We Learn What Matters.” A recording of the original talk is available in the Audio section of the website.

***

An absent-minded maestro was racing up New York’s Seventh Avenue to a rehearsal when a stranger stopped him. “Pardon me,” he said, “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Yes,” answered the maestro breathlessly. “Practice! Practice! Practice!”

I like this story because it fits so well with what I am going to talk about—namely, that wisdom is a skill.

Let me start, however, by setting out for you a few of my assumptions.

Firstly, I am going to assume that the goal of education has been historically and still is wisdom, not career advancement. I realize that this may be a rather shocking and controversial assumption. Only recently, in the last one hundred years or so, has the focus changed. Education in America has been increasingly redefined as “efficient knowledge transfer for the sake of a career.” In the past, however, the goal of education was to “nurture wisdom” and thus foster character development. And what is needed for nurturing wisdom, I will argue, is the development of skill. While knowledge is important, knowledge alone does not make one wise.

To defend this assumption would take us too far afield from my topic. Nevertheless, for those who find such an un-American sentiment hard to accept, I can offer at least this small olive branch. I am not trying to pit wisdom against career advancement and successful economic life. I am not suggesting that to be wise you must avoid seeking a career. In fact, to provide for yourself and your family economically is wise. I am assuming, however, that an undue emphasis has been placed upon career and job placement in our thinking about education.

Secondly, I also assume that “wisdom” means “understanding and living in accordance with the truth.” This is not the only way to define wisdom by any means. Many other ways of defining it amount to much the same thing, however. If you look up “wisdom” in a dictionary, you will find things like “good judgment” or “a disposition to act in a manner which achieves the best possible outcome.” However, I believe that what makes good judgment “good” and what makes an outcome “best” is its lining up with what is true about the world, about ourselves, and about God. Maybe some examples would help.

Suppose a young child sees a cute dog across the street and decides to make a dash for the dog without looking for cars. This is not a wise decision. Why? Because the child is either not aware of the reality of fast cars on the road or is ignoring that reality or both. Perhaps the child’s parents have given instruction, but it has not sunk in. The child is acting foolishly because he has not taken into consideration significant truths about the world.

Here is another example. We would think it unwise for a person to mistreat others for financial gain. Why? Because the person has not understood the relative importance of loving one’s neighbor over and above financial gain. While it is true that financial gain can be beneficial, this person has neglected the truth about what life is all about, what God created us for, and perhaps also the satisfaction to be obtained from such an act.

In First Corinthians, Paul contrasts the “wisdom of the world” with “the wisdom of God.” The wisdom of the world is only apparent wisdom since it seeks to act in accordance with what the Greeks perceived to be the truth—for example, that “debaters” and “scribes” are the wise men. But Paul is saying that the Greeks did not know the truth about Christ; their understanding of the truth was flawed. Thus what they took to be wisdom was not wisdom. Knowing the truth about Christ and following Him, says Paul, is wisdom. Although this is the abbreviated Spark Notes version of these verses, my point is that I think my idea of wisdom is in accord with how the Bible speaks about it.

And thirdly, I will assume throughout that we are speaking from a human perspective. Ultimately, God is the one who turns our hearts to Him, who sanctifies us and gives us wisdom. Our adoption of His will and His commandments as our own is His work. It is a gift, and we cannot gain it without His grace. Nevertheless, we all recognize a human aspect to gaining wisdom, and it is this aspect I will address.

Skills

I propose that wise living is a skill similar to other skills and must be gained through a sort of apprenticeship rather than through the “efficient transfer of information” paradigm. I am convinced that what most people see as good education today is efficient transfer of information. Students must know x, y, and z to be well educated. Thus the task of the modern educator is to find the most efficient way to put that knowledge in the students’ minds. But if wisdom is a skill as I am arguing, and if fostering wisdom and character is the goal of education, then modern education is heading in the wrong direction.

In order to make my case, I need to talk about skills in general, their nature and how they are imparted. Perhaps the best way to start is by giving some examples.

Consider the skill of handwriting. In first grade, writing letters was a difficult task. I recall that my lines never seemed to go in just the right place. My letters never looked as good as the teacher’s. When I was starting out I did not even know where to put the pencil down to start a letter, and I had to learn where to start for every letter. As I practiced and compared my letters to the accepted letters, I improved. I got faster. I became more skilled. But at some point I quit improving. I never have had the patience to apply myself. I was more interested in getting the words down quickly than legibly. In short, I did not desire to improve. That handwriting is a skill became particularly apparent to me during my early years of teaching at Gutenberg. One student, Sarah Wierenga, turned in a paper to me, handwritten. I was awestruck. The complexity and beauty of the handwriting were truly amazing. It was a work of art. I had never encountered such a fine script first-hand. What was more astonishing was that she occasionally decided to change her handwriting and adopt a variation. That kind of blew me away. Obviously, Sarah had mastered the skill of handwriting.

Another skill—playing soccer—illustrates a number of aspects of developing skills. I have played soccer since I was quite young, and as with any other sport, it takes a lot of practice to be able to play well. In the last five years, however, I have thought more about how to develop skill at soccer and the best approaches to achieve success. I have come to a few conclusions, which in the past I knew in an academic way—like the pat answers we all give. But now I have come to a much deeper appreciation of how one develops skill, and I have identified the following three essentials: mastery of fundamentals; training; and self-evaluation.

Before discussing these three aspects of skill development, however, I must mention a prior factor essential to developing skill: desire to improve. The importance of desire, or will, cannot be underestimated. No one can be forced to become skilled. Whether the skill is handwriting, soccer, or some other more important skill, like wisdom, each learner must decide to take on the training. Teachers or coaches can give incentives, both carrots and sticks. They can model the skill. They can provide powerful arguments for the benefits of developing the skill. But they cannot force someone to take on the task of developing a skill, because they cannot control a person’s will.

Soccer as an Example of Skill Development

Mastery of fundamentals, training, and self-evaluation may seem like obvious aspects of learning soccer, and they are, but they are also common to developing all skills, not just soccer. By looking at the simple example of soccer in some detail I hope we can better understand these common features of all skills.

1. Mastery of Fundamentals
In all skills fundamentals must become mastered and ingrained. In soccer, these fundamentals are the acts of stopping and controlling a ball and passing. Being able to do these things without thinking is one of the keys to playing well. The best players are not great because they are concentrating on ball control more than others. In fact, they seem to be concentrating less. Their muscles know what to do from long training. Like learning letters, ball-control actions need to develop to the point where attention can be focused on something else. When I am practicing ball control, I am self-conscious about it, trying to improve. But in a game, I can focus my attention elsewhere because the skill has become ingrained. The fact that the skill is ingrained in me and does not require my focus is a feature of all skills.

2. Training
Practicing a lot is not sufficient, one must practice in the right ways. Simply making a thousand passes does not necessarily make me a good passer if my technique is poor; poor technique results in poor passing. In my early years, I developed some bad habits in my game. To retrain myself, I have had to self-consciously practice the better technique. To the extent that I have not thoroughly trained myself out of the bad habits, they come back. I tell myself over and over, “Don’t do that,” but I do it. If I have learned to do something poorly, that poor practice will become ingrained, just as a good technique becomes ingrained. I always unconsciously act in accordance with how I have been trained. The same is true with handwriting. If I don’t carefully train my hand to write neatly, I will write poorly.

In most cases this sort of training occurs in an apprentice-style relationship. An individual will rarely just “happen” upon good techniques and good methods of practice. It is much better to find a good coach who has learned the best methods and best training. Under the tutelage of a good coach, players learn only good techniques. That way they do not need retraining later. The other key feature of coaching is the constant correction. A coach can watch and see problems in my technique and correct them before they become ingrained. The more complex the skill, the longer the apprenticeship must last.

Let me make a brief side comment here about tradition. The expert, or coach, has become expert through tradition. A good coach is someone who has already mastered the skill in question. The coach was presumably an apprentice to a previous coach, and that coach apprenticed with another predecessor, and so on. But where did the skill originate? My guess is that it built up over time, honed and improved with each generation of practitioners. Those methods which worked were passed on, and those that did not were discarded. The body of knowledge embedded in the masters of the skill is tradition. Craftsmen such as tailors or farmers receive their skills from a prior generation through tradition. In the event that a tradition is lost due to a change in culture or technology, it is not easily regained. Technology and efficiency have led to a tragic loss of traditional skills.

3. Self-Evaluation
Finding others to coach me, however, is not enough. If I want to improve, I must become my own coach to correct mistakes. During training, every time I stop the ball or make a pass, I am judging my performance. I am making adjustments to what I am doing, trying to get a good result. I cannot rely solely on someone else to tell me what to do because ultimately I have to take responsibility to make the skill my own. No one can do it for me. Those who desire to excel tend to achieve success because they are constantly self-evaluating.

Thus gaining skill in soccer requires(1) developing and practicing good habits, (2) getting input from a good coach, and (3) constant self-evaluation. And although I have been talking about soccer, these same aspects of skill development are true for other skills.

Intellectual Skills

Most of what I have been discussing so far as has been the physical motor skills necessary for playing soccer. But because soccer is complex, an intellectual aspect is important to the game as well. Let me explain. If you have ever watched kindergarteners or first graders playing soccer, you will have seen them move around as a great clump of bodies: herd ball. They are all just trying to kick the ball toward their opponents’ goal. To them, that seems to be the obvious thing to do no matter what their coach may be telling them to the contrary. For that age, “herd ball” works okay since it still accomplishes some of the goals of kindergarten soccer: let the kids have some fun and get exercise and, of course, achieve what all parents secretly desire the most—to get them thoroughly exhausted so they sleep well.

As the kids age, more tactical issues come into play, mostly because the kids now have the necessary fundamentals to actually control the ball and pass successfully. Nevertheless, young or inexperienced players are still tempted to make poor decisions on the field. They will either try to make some spectacular pass to a player far downfield, or try to dribble the ball through a couple of defenders toward the goal. These seem like obvious approaches. A spectacular pass will get a teammate close to a scoring position. Dribbling around defenders gets closer to the goal and leaves the other team in a weaker defensive position. However, it turns out that against a team with smart and talented defenders, these techniques nearly always end up turning over the ball. So it ends up being much better to choose to look around and make a quick pass to an open player. The short quick pass approach seems counterintuitive. Such a pass may or may not move the team downfield; in some cases it may even move the ball backwards. Such a pass is rather dull and unspectacular and does not show what a good player I am. Nevertheless, following the strategy of making easy passes to an open teammate is, in the long run, a much better way of scoring goals.

This skill of making good decisions on the field is a skill just like the motor skills of ball control. A player must be able to take into account a broad range of information and judge what is the best move. A player with a poor understanding of successful strategy, tactics, and the current layout of the players on the field will not make good judgments. Like ball control skills, the intellectual side of the game can be learned through practice and training. It must become ingrained in the thinking of the player through long exposure. Head knowledge is insufficient since no one has time to pause and recollect diagrams the coach drew before the game. Proper training by a knowledgeable coach is required as well. Even the professional players improve substantially under the leadership of a great coach. Finally, the players need to self-correct their mistakes. Consider the player who always tries to dribble around defenders. If the player does not recognize, or worse, is unwilling to recognize the deficiency of this move, he will not improve.

So then, soccer is a skill with both motor and mental components. And mastery of fundamentals, training, and self-evaluation are important to both.

Since we are speaking of the intellectual aspects of skills, let me give two more examples of purely intellectual skills. This will help us to see more clearly the way in which wisdom is a skill.

First Example: Speaking
By “speaking,” I am not referring here to public oratory or some other specialized, professional speech but rather to the act of talking that we all learn as toddlers. I have watched all three of my children learn to talk. I myself learned to talk as a child. However, the process of learning language is, at least to me, a bit mysterious. I don’t recall giving my children much instruction, but they still learned how to talk. We did not have our toddlers attend “Baby Language Acquisition 101” at the local daycare. There was no formal training at all. Learning to speak was an informal, organic part of growing up. Kids just start speaking. How do they acquire language? I would suggest that learning language is a skill acquired in much the same way as other skills are acquired—through practice (mastery of fundamentals, coaching (training), and self-correction (self-evaluation).

Babies and children certainly get lots of practice. They want to communicate and are constantly figuring out how to do that. As they continue to practice, they improve. As they improve, their words are internalized. They are no longer sounds used by others that need to be mastered; they become tools through which they communicate and think. Speech is so much a part of children, so ingrained, that they are unconscious of their use of it. They have achieved mastery.

Children also have live-in coaches who are able to properly train the child. And usually the training is just the right kind for skill acquisition. It is corrective, but there are no memory cards or quizzes. Parents are modeling the proper use of words and the proper pronunciation. If a child makes a mistake, typically a parent will say back the correct word. Eventually it sinks in. I think I believed that long skinny noodles were called “pasketti” for many years until my siblings got on my case.

But parents are not the only ones correcting. The child self-corrects. Most babies say “mik” instead of “milk.” I have yet to hear an adult call it that. Learning to speak is a subtle, long process. Without that self-evaluation, children would never improve. Speaking, then, is a skill acquired in the same manner as other skills.

Second Example: Careful Interpretive Reading
At Gutenberg, students take three years of a course we call Microexegesis. In that course, we read through various challenging texts paragraph by paragraph, attempting to understand the meaning of the author. The faculty do not give lectures or explain techniques of how to interpret the texts that we read, mostly because it is not clear what we would say or if it would help. We certainly have ideas about interpretation (See the book Language of God by Jack Crabtree, David Crabtree, and Ron Julian.). But the skill of microexegesis is best learned by letting the students stumble through, raising questions and problems that need to be addressed. Despite our rather unstructured pedagogy, every year students slowly improve their reading and interpretive skills. By the time they have graduated, each of the students has clearly made a great deal of progress.

I have on occasion decided that what the students need is some structured guidance. So I will get on my soap box and talk about defining words from context or some such thing. Other times I have thought that they need an example of how I might go about fitting the clues together to make sense of a difficult passage. I think these things sometimes help. But honestly, I am never sure if they help because interpretation is a skill, and skills cannot be memorized. No body of facts needs to be learned. Instead, the skill needs to be fostered and nurtured. The student must do the work of making the skill ingrained, making it an intellectual tool which can be called forth effortlessly.

How We “Know” Skills

An important feature about skills has thus far been implied but not made explicit. It is not about how skills are gained but about the way in which we “know” skills. Skills cannot be articulated; they are known tacitly. Allow me to elaborate.

By “articulated knowledge” I mean knowledge that I can explain and describe to another person or that I can write down in a book. I am making an attempt to articulate my ideas about skills right now. “Tacit” or “ingrained” knowledge is knowledge that I cannot explain or describe, but it directs our actions and thoughts. A nice example of the difference between the two is the knowledge you have about directions to your house. Most of us have both articulated knowledge and tacit knowledge of how to get to our house. You have articulated knowledge if you can give directions to a friend: go down such and such street and turn right, etc., etc. However, when you go home, you do not replay those directions in your head. You just know where to turn. You use lots of little hints: a bush here, a store there, a sense that you have driven the right distance. Lots of times kids will have tacit knowledge of directions home but not articulated knowledge. They have never been asked to articulate their tacit knowledge. They know how to get home but would be hard-pressed to explain to someone else how they do it.

A soccer player who has listened to the coach and watched him draw diagrams on the board may have obtained articulable knowledge. If asked to repeat back to the coach certain principles or plays, he will be able to do so. However, often that knowledge does not make its way onto the field. In the stress of the moment and in the heat of play, the lessons all go out the window. The player relies on “instinct” rather than on the coach’s lessons. It is only through a lengthy process of practice and inward adoption that the lessons become part of his tacitly known instinct. When the instinct agrees with the coach’s lessons, then the player really knows and understands what he is supposed to understand.

Skills are all tacitly known. I cannot give you information that will enable you to handwrite or control a soccer ball. I cannot describe to you how to choose the right words to use when you speak. I just “know” these things. They are tacit knowledge.

This is a key feature to understanding why skills are not communicable by means of the “efficient transfer of knowledge” paradigm. Transfer of knowledge is only possible with articulable knowledge. How could a teacher possibly tell a student something that the teacher cannot articulate? It is simply not possible. Thus skills have to be developed in a different way.

But, you may say, skills can be dissected and broken down into constituent parts. They can be described. We can make a manual on handwriting. Yes, these things are possible. But the knowledge that results from these explanations is knowledge about the skill, not the skill itself. If you told a child that the capital letter ‘A’ looks thus and so by showing him a picture while describing it in detail, could the child produce a perfect ‘A’? No, the child must train his hand. Recall my discussion about Gutenberg’s microexegesis classes and careful interpretation. The skill of reading and interpreting is tacit knowledge. No lecture can possibly take the place of actually doing microexegesis because it is not articulable. A lecture can be part of the training from a coach, but the content of such a lecture is not the skill itself.

Wisdom

I have now laid out what I see to be the features common to all skills, so it is time to turn the discussion to wisdom. If, as I have suggested, wisdom is understanding and living in accordance with the truth, how is that a skill?

Understanding the Truth

Consider first wisdom as understanding the truth. An understanding of the truth about God, about ourselves, and about the world around us is not something we can pick up in a textbook. How many children have been raised in Christian homes and gone to Sunday school or catechism, only later to reject the faith. How many people may be able to give academically satisfactory answers to various moral, personal, or theological questions but do not make those ideas a part of their deepest beliefs and instincts.

I heard a perfect example of this distinction on a radio show that was talking about a federally funded “marriage counseling” program for couples with lower socioeconomic status. The goals of the program were to give these couples some information and guidelines that would help them to interact better with each other and as a family. The feeling was that if marriages could be improved, society in general would greatly benefit—a worthy goal indeed. This program had apparently been going on for many years, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the program’s own goals and methods of assessment, however, couples who had participated in the program had shown no improvement over those who had not. And in some cases, participants were worse off rather than better. Why is that? Now I do not know any of the details or the methods or the people involved or even how they assessed their program, so I am speaking as a total outsider, but I would guess that the program was ineffective because it only passed on articulable knowledge. What a marriage needs is not lessons and maxims to which we may or may not give intellectual assent but rather ingrained tacit knowledge—that is, wisdom. And this type of knowledge is a skill to be gained and not information to be disseminated.

The understanding necessary for wisdom is the tacit knowledge that becomes ingrained in us, the sort of understanding that we do not have to think about or ponder in our day-to-day lives. It is the sort of understanding that we have a hard time imagining not having. I am sure all of us have had the experience of hearing about some belief or behavior that we simply can’t imagine having or doing. It is not that we are somehow superior or could not have developed such a belief, but instead, we have developed a different understanding that informs all of our thinking and action. The point is that whether we are wise or not wise is based on an understanding deeply ingrained in our psyche.

As an aside here, I am not suggesting that articulated knowledge to which we assent or dissent is not important. Far from it. It is vitally important for us to develop this sort of knowledge. It makes up the universe of ideas that inform our beliefs. It is through an examination of our articulated knowledge that we can critique our ingrained and tacit beliefs. Most of our ingrained beliefs and responses came from ideas that were articulated in one form or another by someone else. Bringing them to the forefront of our minds helps to weigh and judge them.

The next step in our process is to consider how wisdom is acquired. I think it must be gained much like any skill, mastering that understanding through practice under the tutelage of a coach, or coaches, with a healthy dose of self-evaluation until it becomes ingrained in us.

In the case of wisdom, the type of “practice” needed is not like soccer or handwriting practice where a student focuses on a skill for a set amount of time. The practice of wisdom is more like the way a baby learns language. It is part of the routine of our life, something we spend our entire lives practicing and honing but especially during our youth.

As an example of the type of practice I am talking about, let us look at how children might learn honesty and obedience. Children are constantly looking at the world around them to understand it and their place in it. They come to form beliefs about things like honesty and obedience, and they act on these beliefs. They are looking at the results of their actions to see if those results line up with their beliefs. Children who decide that dishonesty is a good policy because it easily achieves their desired goal may be testing to see if their belief about the world is correct. The same occurs when they disobey parents. If they are punished for the dishonesty or disobedience by a good coach (parent or teacher), then they will factor that into their understanding of the world. If children are not punished, their understanding of the world is impacted in the opposite way. This activity is a sort of “practice of living” under the eye of a coach.

Another example relates to a young adult trying to come to an understanding of the truth about sinful human nature. Consider a young man who has been instructed and nurtured to seek goodness and kindness. As he matures, he begins to become self-conscious of the fact that he is not always kind and good. His actions are not in keeping with his understanding of what he believes about himself. He begins the process of self-evaluation. These realizations are then brought to bear on his beliefs about what people in general are like. His beliefs are most likely going to come from the culture around him. Some voices will say that it is instinctual to be selfish on occasion, and that is okay. Some voices may say that humans are naturally good, and so his experience is an aberration. Some voices will say that he can become sinless if he has gained victory through God. Some voices will say that his selfishness is an integral part of him, and it is his task in life to recognize and fight it. There will be differing perspectives, some explicit and others implied. He may choose one doctrine over another. Or he may simply imbibe the culturally popular outlook. But how that plays out in his life will depend on whether that doctrine or outlook becomes ingrained. He will continue to have experiences and receive teaching about his nature. If he is fortunate, he will have good coaches and teachers to guide him toward what is true instead of what is false. If he begins to take on beliefs which are wide of the mark, then those beliefs will be hard to reverse, much like poor technique on the soccer field.

Perhaps most important of all, the young adult needs to constantly self-evaluate. If he comes to a conclusion and dogmatizes it, he has little chance of making improvements in his understanding. To self-evaluate, he needs to develop other important skills to allow his evaluation to be accurate and just. He needs to be able to weigh the information he receives from his teachers and from his culture. He needs to begin to build a coherent view of himself that explains not only his own experience but also the experiences of others, whether those others are from his present or from the past. He needs to develop critical thinking skills to compare differing claims to each other and to experience. In short, he needs to develop the tools of learning.

To the extent that the young adult understands in his heart what is true about himself, he will gain wisdom. As he lives and grows, God, the best of all coaches, continues to show him his shortcomings and failings, and he will become even more wise.

I hope you can see how this example can be applied to other aspects of understanding the truth about the world around us. We learn to understand how God looks at us and what He values. We gain an understanding of compassion and mercy. We understand better what drives other people in their choices and what satisfies us. This is the wisdom that the Bible refers to. But the same process is true about more mundane wisdom, wisdom about the truth of nature and society. We can gain an understanding of plants and animals as well as the media or bureaucracy. We can take classes and read books on these things, but a more personal understanding must come from interaction with these things over time. The more we understand them, the more that understanding becomes ingrained in our thinking; the more that understanding is a part of our everyday responses to life, the wiser we become. This sort of understanding is not something that can be taught in a book. It is a skill.

Living in Accordance with the Truth

I want to cycle back now to my definition of wisdom: understanding and living in accordance with the truth. I have so far focused on “understanding” rather than “living,” so let me address this second aspect.

I have made the distinction between understanding and action because it is not at all clear that living in accordance with the truth is a direct consequence of understanding. The connection between understanding and action can be tenuous. In my own experience, I do things that I understand to be wrong. I think this experience is ubiquitous. The relationship between belief and action is very complicated, and I am certainly out of my depth on this issue. I will not address it in any detail, but I can make a couple of observations.

First, how one lives is the ultimate indication of whether one is wise or not. We would not say that a person who had good articulable understanding of something but who did not act on that understanding was wise. This is why action cannot be left out of how we think about wisdom. Second, despite the fact that one can act contrary to one’s understanding, there is clearly a strong correspondence between action and what I have been calling tacit ingrained knowledge—so much so that everything I have said about learning the skill of coming to understand the truth applies equally well to acting in accordance the truth.

This connection between action and tacit knowledge is clear with other learned skills—soccer, for example. Learning ball control becomes so ingrained that I do not have to think about what I am doing; in fact, playing without using that skill would be strange. Sure, I make mistakes all the time. My skills are not what I would like, but I can’t just turn off the skills that I do have. I suppose if I really wanted to, I could concentrate on being uncoordinated, but I would have to make an effort at it. The point is that with soccer, and in fact any skill, the ingrained understanding and the activity which results are two sides of the same coin.

Conclusion

I hope my examples have been helpful in explaining how I am thinking of wisdom as a skill. The key points they were designed to highlight are as follows:

  • Skills require that the one learning the skill desire to improve and be willing to admit errors.
  • Skills require mastery of fundamentals that are developed through a lot of practice or experiences. The more practice, the better the skill.
  • Skills require training and are best learned under the eye of an expert coach or tutor. Such a person gently corrects and guides because skills are not the result of “efficient knowledge dissemination.”
  • Skills require constant self-evaluation and self-correction.
  • Skills are tacit knowledge. They become ingrained in such a way that they guide our thoughts and actions without our being aware of it. They become part of our tool-set in facing the tasks and challenges of life.

Finally, I have described the skill of wisdom as understanding and living according to the truth. Wisdom of God is constituted in an understanding of who He is and who we are as His creatures. Mundane wisdom is the understanding of the truths about the mundane world. In both cases, wisdom must be fostered and developed.

Clearly, everyone’s path to wisdom will be different. For some, the process is more difficult and painful. Some have had horrific coaches that have taught them terrible habits. Some may have been injured either intellectually or emotionally, thus putting another stumbling block in their path. Some have more or less talent in the development of wisdom, just as some are more or less athletically or intellectually talented. Most often these obstacles are not from our own choices, they are foisted upon us. Coming to grips with them may even play a role in our developing wisdom. I mention these obstacles because I do not wish to downplay the difficulty of the task. In the end, we must trust that God is merciful and loving and will grant us the wisdom we desire. But working to develop the skill of wisdom is a worthy task, one to which we are called and one we can improve on our whole lives. It is certainly a worthy goal of education.

 

Copyright February 2014 by Gutenberg College, Inc.

Chris Swanson