“Practical Wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill.” Aristotle
I would also define wisdom as insight into universal concepts and a monistic understanding of the universe. Wisdom resides with those who have seen the butterfly flap its wings and create a storm on the other side of our globe. One action causes a reaction upon the entirety.
A wise person knows when and how to make an exception to every society rule. They know how to improvise, and when to change their roles to fit the situation. Real life problems are always ambiguous and unclear. Daily we are faced with a changing society and circumstances that we have no experience crossing. Our path ahead is often vague and indistinguishable from past journeys.
The context of our moral gyroscope is always changing. A wise person uses their knowledge and experience to act according to the unique needs of the moment. The rational thinker makes new combinations, creating new paradigms to fit the changing world and environment. Past experience tells us that “staying the course” often heads us for the iceberg that is 90% under the sea. To navigate a rapidly changing paradigm, as we are with the COVID-19 virus, we must think outside the systems we have used before. The ability to be plastic, moldable during this time can change our outcome from a disaster to new a new set of archetypes and models where we leave behind our inability as a society to embrace the differences, needs, and future of all. Perhaps as a world we can stop seeing any peoples as collateral damage.
If we are wise, we know how to use these skills of moral skill and will to serve others with empathy, kindness, and care. These types of people are not born but made out of experience. We must have permission from our inner feelings and intuition to act in a way that is fitting for the moment and circumstances. Many times, this means passing beyond, the personal emotions to do what is for the better good of all.
Morality and straight thinking take a lot of experience. You fail many times, but with wise teachers and leaders you learn from the mistakes. A teacher/mentor is one that has, through experience and personal inner investigation, learned to navigate a changing world and environment, and knows how to reset their inner gyroscope to fit the current moment in history.
You don’t need to be a genius to be wise. Without wisdom being intelligent is not enough. When things go wrong the majority of people reach for more rules or stronger ones. And we reach for reasons (incentives) to help people play by the rules. How can you even write a rule that gets people to bypass their emotions and intuitions to act differently and accommodate to the changing situations we are now faced with? How do you pay a bonus for empathy and kindness?
All great solutions have been made by those who stepped outside of the rules, that thought differently, and were able to embrace the current moment of change with wisdom and straight thinking. An over reliance on rules slices away at our ability to create and use our experiences and past improvisations. Moral will, inner integrity is undermined by an incessant reliance on inducements to follow the rules and do the right thing. When we don’t allow ourselves to think outside of the box of rules, we think we have been given; we are engaging on an inner war against our wisdom, intuition, and experiences.
We script what we think teachers/mentors should be saying because we don’t trust them to teach on their own, as if something is wrong with their ability to adapt to their students needs. The duplicity of expecting a teacher to be intuitive and wise, but only allowing them to teach the words set down as a script. This scenario leave no room for changing as the current environment manifests.
Scripts are meant to prevent misadventure, and they do prevent disaster, but the scripts produce mediocracy or worse dull and boring situations where no one learns anything other than a few facts. Scripts are needed to a degree to give teachers an idea of the words that are needed to teach the class. Too many rules and scripts keep the teachers from using their gifts and experiences. Eventually those with gifts stop teaching.
In todays environment too many incentives cause individuals ask what is in it for me, rather than what is my responsibility. The me generation, started in the 60s with Ayn Rand’s ideas of you want it you should have it. President Reagan brought this back to life in politics. The result is seen today in our legislative bodies and our government as a whole, new rules must satisfy individual groups’ wants to get passed. The dire needs of our climate is an easy to see example this.
Excessive incentives demoralize professional activity. We can see this in the big bonuses given where individuals, such as drug company salespeople, sell not because the product is healthy, but because of their bonus. Drs prescribing opioids because of the bonuses the companies offer. Excessive bonuses cause individuals to lose morality and self-confidence in their own abilities.
“We must ask, just NOT is it profitable? But is it right?” Barak Obama
Too many rules, and incentives causes us to lose our professional morality. We stop asking is it the right thing to do. When we stop overloading the system with rules and bonuses, we encourage teachers and mentors because they want to do the right thing. By-the-way teaching “how-to-be-ethical, does not increase morality. Teaching how we make those decisions does. Morality and ethics are dependent on an individual’s experiences and social structure.
We should strive to be heroes, both average and extraordinary heroes. Our communities and world needs both. Research has shown that if we show behavior that puts the well being of other before our own ego needs the community around us will do the same. We need leaders that will encourage moral behavior and deeds. We need leaders that show us by example kindness, empathy, and care. We need leaders that are willing to put away their personal agendas for the greater good. We need leaders that are willing to create new paradigms for a changing world and environment.
Even the wisest and the strongest individuals will give up if they have to swim against the current all the time. Work you do that interacts with other people is moral work. As teachers we should strive to be ordinary heroes to those we mentor. We should strive to be moral exemplars to those we mentor and teach.
We are always teaching and mentoring, someone is always watching us. The most important thing our students need to lean is to respect themselves, their teachers, and learning. Once these three are in a student’s mind the rest is easy.
If we use our practical wisdom it allows other virtues such as honesty, courage, empathy, kindness et all to be used and learned. We must pay attention to our organization so that those who come can learn the virtue of practical wisdom and not have their creative ability suppressed by rules and outdated scripts.
© Suzanne Deakins March 26, 2020