It is typically a recurring theme in my life. I would go down one path a hundred and ten percent, slowly realize that I may have miscalculated, and seek counsel. Counsel always came in the form of Kim, my stepmother, who would almost consistently tell me the correct path or the correct response to my current stimuli. Ultimately, I would do whatever option my mind had already decided on, regardless of what she would say. Then, anywhere from a month to a year later, I would sulk back, head down, and admit that she was correct all along, and that if I would have listened, I may have saved myself from this current shame, pain, or whatever it was that I was experiencing.
I may have saved myself from the pain, or the unfortunate mistakes, but I would have never known that she was right unless I didn’t listen, it seemed. I find myself at a crossroads every time I don’t know the answer. Do I ask Kim, who almost always knows the correct course for me, whether it's food, love, or occupation, or do I figure it out myself and learn as I fail? If I took Kim’s advice, and avoided all potential disasters, would I ever fully comprehend the magnitude of wisdom she has stored up? If I didn’t disregard her advice for relationships, or ignore her warning for nutrition, could I ever have understood why she was right? It is in these situations where I wonder to myself, can knowledge, or wisdom, be transferred between people?
Kim could write book after book about the facts, about all she has ever told me regarding nutritional benefits, historical lessons, or family matters, but could she ever really expect her wisdom of what it feels like to make a poor decision, or how it feels to be left behind to find its way into my soul? I think that we can transfer knowledge, which is why we shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for college, and sit lecture style for hours to learn basic information such as math, science, or history. We can listen to Spanish speakers for hours to learn how to translate, but I don’t think we can ever transfer our wisdom. If we can learn the facts from professors, but not the way they learned those facts, the failures they went through to succeed, or the years studying their craft, is this knowledge really going to do us any good?
I try to have conversations with my little brothers where I lay out a path that careens around the failures, mistakes, and hiccups I have encountered. I try to create a daily dosage of all the life lessons I have learned in the past 4 years of attempt and then subsequent failure. I think this is pointless…… I can’t successfully share the secrets that I have learned in my mind, I can’t share what my struggles have taught me. There is no way to truly expect my brothers to understand what I have learned if they haven’t gone through what taught me those lessons.
This is why Kim’s advice never stuck with me until after I failed on my own. There seems to be no way to impact others with our “vast array of wisdom”. Therefore, can we never truly expect to pass on what we have learned? If I tell story after story of all of the horrendous mistakes I have made, would it even prevent one person from following those mistakes? Can I ever truly help my brother, besides just being an ear to listen and a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and to process his life with? Even if I spend 100 hours walking him through every lesson that I have ever been blessed to learn, could he ever fully understand what occurs in my mind?
When I first sat down with my mentor, and my old teacher, Mr. Cabral, he began to ask me what my vision was. I explain how I want to write, to work with older teens and attempt to help them navigate their way through the minefield known as growing up, and to use my failures to help them avoid failure. He paused, and asked, “If they never fail, do you think they will ever learn?”
I spent the last 4 years of my life imagining a future where I am helping others defend against life’s potential issues, but I feel as if I have been on a false crusade. Even if I got someone to lend me their ear, I don’t think it would do any good. This is the same idea as when I would read hundreds of books on people who lived great lives, and try to imitate them. Kim warned me that this is a path that leads to emptiness, and I must be myself regardless of what others do. I thought that I could soak in their wisdom from their words, but if I read the books of 1000 brilliant men, would that make me brilliant? Or would that just make me a man with a mind full of facts? Would this allow me to skip all of the struggles, the fires that occur, or would my time have been better spent experiencing life, and failing at as many things as possible?
I am not sure of an answer here. I think that other people have lived great lives, and learned many great lessons, and that can’t all be wasted. I think that books and stories have a great place in our lives, and I think that college or classrooms lectures can be helpful. But I also think that we learn best by doing, and if someone were to rob us of our ability to fail by guiding us through life to a row of success, they would actually be creating a human who is less resilient, less able to overcome, and less self sufficient. I think that knowledge, without the wisdom that comes with obtaining it, is empty and shallow.
I don’t think I am alone in this conundrum that I am facing here. In Siddhartha, Siddhartha tells his best friend that, “Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish….Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom.”
I also struggle with this deep feeling that most people do not want to learn, and therefore it is impossible to share wisdom, or most of the time even knowledge. When you see someone yelling at their wife or child, when you see someone eating food that will hurt them, how do you show or tell someone what a better option is? Do you even tell them, is that even your place? Even if I told them, would it do any good? Could I ever advise someone on a mistake that I believe (my perception shades this, it may not be a mistake to them) that they are making, if they don’t see it as a mistake themselves, if they must go through those mistakes to actually learn “right”? If they don’t see it as a mistake, will they ever be open to listening? I usually fall on the side of caution, and assume that it is not my place to judge, to put my beliefs, and to attempt to change others to what I see as successful. On the other hand, I had a boss that told me that it is our responsibility as human beings to help others become better. Therefore, if the person is obviously struggling handling stress and taking it out on his family, is it my place to tell/provide him advice?
Regardless, if it seems that wisdom can’t be shared between each other, what is the better path to take to achieve this wisdom? Should we attend college for 4-8 years to attempt to achieve that knowledge we are looking for, or should we throw ourselves into the fire of real life, to fail and learn that way? Is it better to study, to be, or to do? Should those who are fresh out of high school hunt for credits that show what they have seemingly learned, or hunt for experience that can only be achieved by living for yourself?
If so, is it better to study or to live? Is it better to get experience or to go to college? Can we ever actually share what we have learned?