Knowledge and Wisdom

When I want to think deeply, ponder a problem, or grasp a truth, I choose to watch a sunset. So recently, prayerfully, I  wondered where education will take my grandchildren. With the obsessive testing that requires facts, and the sociopolitical agendas that dictate curriculum, will my ‘grands’ grasp the difference between knowledge and wisdom? 

It’s one thing to know genus and species or what cross breeding yields Asiatic lily colors: it’s quite another to contemplate the wisdom that creates and sustains such beauty.

I taught many of my former students to grapple with the ideas William Cowper expressed in his 1700s poem, “The Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom.”

Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,

Have ofttimes no connection. Knowledge dwells 

In heads replete with thoughts of other men;

Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.

Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass,

The mere materials, with which wisdom builds,

Till smoothed and squared and filled to its place,

Does not encumber whom it seems to enrich.

Knowledge is proud, that he has learned so much;

Wisdom is humble, that he knows no more.

As we drive home today, I choose, once again,  to meditate on Cowper’s  poem, especially the tension between pride and  humility. And I hope you will stir your own ideas about knowledge and wisdom. It truly matters.

2 thoughts on “Knowledge and Wisdom

  1. Funny you should present a distinction between knowledge and wisdom, dear Flo. Today I read Proverbs 18 — Verse 2 gobsmacked me: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
    but only in expressing his opinion.” Makes looking at lilies (star-gazing?) a worthwhile pursuit I think!


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