In our daily interactions, we often try to consider what elements combine to create real “wisdom.” The challenge is that wisdom is what we call a mental construct. That is to say that it is something that exists only in our minds. Other constructs include motivation, creativity, and intelligence.
Mental constructs are hard to consider, yet we know that they are there. We primarily understand and accept them through outward behaviors and our actions.
The following quote from Robert Thurman tries to help crystalize exact what constitutes true wisdom.
Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance.
One of the reasons I love this quote is the inclusion of the term “cognitive dissonance.” Cognitive dissonance is the stress or imbalance that occurs mentally when we try to hold two competing thoughts in our mind. True learning occurs when there is this imbalance in our mind and actions.
An example of cognitive dissonance would be a person that considers themselves to be environmentally friendly, yet they drive a vehicle that does not have good gas mileage.
A lower level example of this would be regularly cooking with specific tools and methods, and then trying to cook food from a different region. Imagine regularly cooking pasta, and then trying to cook some Vietnamese food with a wok and unfamiliar ingredients.
In Thurman’s quote, he suggest that true wisdom comes from this imbalance or stress that occurs as we learn new things. It is in this discomfort, in these attempts to learn and struggle that we achieve true wisdom.
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Also published on Medium.