Conventional Wisdom

10 May

Wisdom is something we all aspire to and hope to attain. But one kind of wisdom can be tricky, even dangerous. It’s called Conventional Wisdom and is defined in a variety of ways. Here’s one: Conventional Wisdom is a statement that has been heard for such a long time, maybe years or decades, that we all assume it is truth. Just by the repetition of the statement, the words become our reality. Here’s an example: “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” I heard that growing up in little snippets of family conversation, but now I doubt that statement is absolute truth. Or how about this: “The purpose and meaning of a woman’s life is to get married, have children, be a supporting wife, and live in a house surrounded by a white picket fence.” We know that’s not true anymore! But those are historical pieces of Conventional Wisdom. Try this more modern one: “Success, or happiness, in life is measured by what you attain, accumulate and possess.” Or, one more: “More is better!”

Conventional Wisdom dissolves when new facts are discovered that strongly suggest or directly contradict the former way of thinking. “More is better” is the perfect example of Conventional Wisdom that will lead to increased problems in the world — economic and cultural ones, for sure. The discovery that undermines the “more is better” idea is unfolding before us as scientists and researchers find that there is and will be a limit to “more”. There aren’t enough life-sustaining requirements, like water, to last forever. “More” is limited by the capacity of creation to renew itself and by how we understand life all around us. The New Wisdom, still unfolding, is the recognition that everything is connected, everything is related and, in relationship, depends on and supports the other. Human beings are not the center of creation, but rather a part of creation. Thinking that “more is better” is replaced by the question “what is enough?” And the deeper question, of course: “How am I related to all that lives on this planet?”

The impulse and drive to have “more” is undermined by the fact that most people on the earth don’t have “enough”.
But there is enough to go around, if we could face the looming consequences of the false Conventional Wisdom that “more is better.”

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