There is a pretentiousness that sometimes follows our digital world around like a puppy dog. In fact, many folks won’t hesitate to tell us we no longer need libraries, books, research librarians, or most publishers for that matter. They are convinced the internet is the sum of all knowledge.
Neil Gaiman, the popular British writer and filmmaker who depends on research for his work, was recently quoted as saying: “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” Gaiman was correct, of course. The internet is filled with answers and occasionally facts, but picking through all of that clutter can be difficult, if not impossible.
Not long ago, librarian Marcus Banks wrote an interesting article for American Libraries magazine entitled “Ten Reasons Libraries Are Still Better Than the Internet.” Among the many interesting points he made was that libraries respect history. Librarians can help us source real news from false news; librarians can give us what we need, rather than telling us what we need; and unlike most search engines, libraries provide us open access to information and don’t censor our thoughts. It seems good librarians are pretty wise people who can help us find what we’re looking for rather than telling us what we need.
And I wish we had many more wise people because sometimes it seems as though we’re all living in the old song lyric, “Everyone’s talking at me, I don’t hear a word they’re saying.”
In fact, it seems we’re surrounded by people who are all too pleased to give us opinions rather than wisdom. They include cable news readers, “thought leaders,” “social influencers,” celebrities, and our hundreds of friends, followers, and connections on social media.
What many of us are missing and craving are the warm, gentle, and thoughtful voices of those who have not been afraid to ponder, reflect, pray, act judiciously in all things and with deliberate intention.
Where Has Wisdom Gone?
In olden times, we went to the village elders for the value of their wisdom and counsel. Somewhat more recently, many of us sought out members of the clergy or teachers or the wise doctor. We might have poured our souls out to an aged relative, an old farmer who planted many seasons, a nursemaid who raised many children, or those who overcame great hardship.
So, I ask us all, what has happened to wisdom? I believe I have an answer if you will bear with me. I believe we have willingly chased wisdom right out of our villages, towns, and cities.
Wisdom, and those who were able to dispense it with kindness and love, were replaced with digitized baby-sitters who filled our computer screens with information. Information became more important than rational thinking.
Or we turned to angry and often negative personalities to tell us not only what we were doing was wrong, but how we could quickly fix it in five or seven or ten steps. We became surrounded with experts more than willing to yell at us. We let them into our hearts and homes. Or we let judgmental people on social media bully us or mock us or demean us.
And the calm, steady voices of wisdom? We were often told to show them the door and to remove them from our lives. For wisdom, we were led to believe, was unnecessary when we had the internet. We let the angry raised voices of the arrogant drown out tenderness. It was more important for us to allow our social media friends, people we never even met in person, judge the way we looked, or what we believed, or even whom we should love.
Looking In All The Right Places
If I close my eyes, I can remember those with wisdom who were once there to help and guide me. My 6th-grade teacher, Margaret, and my grandmother. While they are gone, and it fills my eyes with tears, I rest assured they are still in my midst. They can’t be found online, and I would submit no search engine in the world can ever replace them.
How, then, will we recognize wisdom when we need to seek its counsel? Open up the most precious search engine of all: your heart. Search for wisdom within your heart, and it will appear. It will be there for you. It will smile into your soul. Our past experiences and people’s insights provide great lessons for us to apply in the future. Your heart will help you find what you’re looking for and recognize what you need. It will help you differentiate between right and wrong and remind you that the search for wisdom isn’t found in knowing the right thing to do; it’s actually doing it. It’s about being the best version of you.
As my 6th-grade teacher would say, “Your potential is endless. Go do what you were created to do.” Margaret would say, “Be careful how you talk to yourself, because you are listening.” And my grandmother always reminded me to be who I was intended to be. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself, and the right people will love you.”
Back in 1980, American country music singer Johnny Lee sang, “I was looking for love in all the wrong places.” In 2021, look in the right places as you are searching for wisdom.