I am grateful for the book learning I’ve received, mostly because I found to my great relief that the existential questions I struggled to solve had already been grappled with for centuries, that I was not alone. Professors challenged us to temporarily suspend our beliefs so that we could appreciate new perspectives. This flexibility gave us freedom to explore, and opened a door to lifelong learning.
When I think of someone “smart,” the image that comes to mind is that of the stereotypical absent-minded professor, surrounded by book-covered desks and chalkboards covered with mathematical formulas. But as time goes on, you learn to appreciate that intelligence comes in many forms, and from many different places. And that it’s often informally acquired, without ever earning a diploma.
Spatial intelligence, the street smart learning that taxi and bus drivers acquire while traveling the streets of a city is a valuable navigating skill. An avid collector catalogues all his treasures, and is always in pursuit of a coveted item. Pre-literate storytellers told tales from memory that had been passed down from generation to generation. There are those with intuitive or instinctual knowledge, and those with mental disabilities who make a vital contribution to society in their unpretentious simplicity. Children view the world with wide-eyed wonder and are willing to experiment with new ideas.
Being smart is a good goal, but being wise is a better one. “The fear (reverence, respect, awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10). We can learn from the lives of others in the ancient wisdom literature of Scripture, and from those who are daily placed in our path. We can learn to apply knowledge in practical daily life, and in our relationships. We can be aware, use our senses fully in our environment, but also use the “third eye” in witnessing our own internal and external reactions to different situations.
God grants us life in all its abundance, a world in which we can learn every single day. What a gift!