This feuilleton provides the basis for all the following ones. It describes human Wisdom as the essential quality which permitted human species to survive and continue developing with no significant genetic alternations.
This feuilleton will describe what I mean by the term “human wisdom.” Rather than producing some philosophical definition a la Wikipedia, I will try to list some essential qualities which are usually associated with the idea of “being a wise person.”
Before we begin a remark: the list of qualities of human Wisdom described here is not exhaustive, and the order of their presentation not necessarily express their importance.
We begin with a quality on which everybody would agree: Wisdom is based on our fundamental desire to know. That was presented in Old Testimony as something negative going against God’s wishes. It looks that he was afraid that if humans would know too much, they may question his commands. As we will talk about religions, we will see that such an attitude is not surprising. It portrays systematic attempts to enforce obedience of the lower strata of society, while the upper one is afraid that those below may rebel.
The next quality of human Wisdom is emotional stability. A wise person can deal with one’s emotions. He or she does not react, instead becomes aware of the arising emotion and looks at it carefully to discover its source. From the point of view presented here, emotions are highly energetic thoughts produced by the confrontation of one’s opinions to which one is firmly attached to a situation that challenges this opinion. Typically, they produce various reactions.
To clarify the above, please note that the reaction differs from the response. The response of a wise person is precise and appropriate, while the reaction is often unpredictable and may have disastrous consequences.
The next quality of Wisdom is an ability to recognize the interconnectivity of phenomena, which are internally and externally. From the physics point of view, this interconnectivity should not be surprising. According to it, the nature of each phenomenon is a manifestation of energy, which, to a different degree, affects all others.
The meaning of the word phenomena has a vast scope. It embraces all manifestations of any energy which we can experience directly via our senses or with the aid of special equipment. But what is less accepted is the fact that our mental experiences like thoughts or emotions are also forms of energy. However, despite much research, what kind of energy produces them, as yet, is not fully known.
In spite that the interconnectivity of phenomena is evident, we tend to ignore it. That leads us to narrow the scope of our vision and often produces actions without looking at their consequences.
The awareness of our inseparability with the other beings leads to empathy and further on to compassion and altruism, which are critically important not only for others but ourselves as well. As we elaborate, later on, those qualities made Homo Sapiens survive, while other hominids perished during the Last Glacial period.
Another component of human Wisdom is the ability to discover the relation between cause and effect. Without that, humanity could not survive the severity of the glacial periods and continue to progress.
This ability, as well as creativity, are necessary for the development of technology and science. From the earliest period of its history, humanity created unbelievable progress. Beginning with the discovery of how to ignite and maintain fire, and later on, how to manufacture garments necessary to protect from the deadly coldness of Glacial periods – to the present when we discovered the possibility of editing genes and quantum computing.
However, all that would not be possible without the ability to express oneself and communicate in the form of language. It is the source of thinking and abstraction, which is the unique quality of human Wisdom. These two are intertwined – if there is no language, then thinking in an advanced way such as human – would not be possible. On the other hand, without thoughts, language would be limited to the animal level of communication.
Another crucial aspect of Wisdom is the ability to discern the essential features of distinct phenomena. It helps us to decide while we navigate between conflicting concepts and opinions, some of which are irrelevant and other important.
Discernments is closely related to another manifestation of human Wisdom, which is the ability to generalize. We accomplish it by creating new concepts that embrace several distinct phenomena that share the same essential features. Without that ability and formulation of abstract concepts, we could not develop theories that are the foundation of the development of science, technology and mathematics.
An exceptional component of Wisdom is creating art. Even though it very often has no direct practical use, it shows the human search for beauty. The earliest artistic artifacts were used for an individual’s decoration, such as jewelry, appreciation of nature and expression of religious beliefs.
That leads us to the emergence of religions, which are results of searching for an explanation of powerful phenomena that otherwise remain mysterious. The appreciation of nature also points out to gratitude for whatever humans were receiving.
An active component of human Wisdom is its innate curiosity, which closely related to the desire to know. Many animals are also curious, but they usually limit it to search for food, mate or potential shelter. Humans, on the other hand, are often curious without any particular reasons: they just want to know. This curiosity leads to many existing discoveries and is critically important to make new ones.
Curiosity is an essential ingredient of human learning. If properly exploited, curiosity allows avoiding stuffing our brains with useless facts, figures and opinions, so learning can focus on what is important and enjoyable, which provides further motivation.
One of the often-overlooked aspects of Wisdom is playfulness. According to recent archeological views, the play was significant in early human societies. It was not only the domain of children but among adults, it defused potential conflicts and promoted cooperation.
To summarize, Wisdom prevents creation fixed attachment to concepts, and also free us from those produced by ourselves and imposed on us by society. Due to it, we can realize the dynamic and fluid nature of reality. Consequently, we approach life with warmth, humour and playfulness. Wisdom also promotes the appreciation of ourselves, on the one hand, and prevents egomania on the other. It tames our emotions, which emerge from attachments to views, opinions, beliefs, etc.
However, we must not see Wisdom as something only benevolent, philosophical or spiritual. It permits us to be, if necessary, even fiercely pragmatic.
I again emphasize that what is presented so far do not pretend to describe all qualities and consequences of human Wisdom. But I hope it suffices to motivate us to explore the possibility of incorporating Wisdom into our lives.
Before ending, it is essential to address the question: is human Wisdom an innate or acquired quality?
We will argue that it is the former, that Wisdom is the inborn quality of every human being, who is not seriously mentally impaired. This assertion does not mean that all varieties of human Wisdom are identical for each individual; it would be easily disproved. For example, some of us are more prone to intuitive viewing reality, and others to more intellectual mode; some are gifted in artistic expressions while others in science.
Unfortunately, we cannot prove the assertion that Wisdom is the human’s innate quality directly by the scientific exploration of the human brain and body – at this point, neuroscience and biology are not developed enough to offer proper tools. However, we will present numerous indirect pieces of evidence supporting this view.
We will begin the very fact that Homo Sapiens survived as the only hominid while all the others perished. Our closest relatives, the Neandertal and Denisovan, could not survive the harsh conditions of the ice age and particularly the Last Glacial epoch.
The reasons are unknown though there exist at least a half a dozen hypotheses for the demise of Neanderthals. All of them agree that both Neanderthals and Denisovans had many human traits: they began the development of simple tools, knew how to deal with fire, form some social structures, but it was not sufficient. For example, they have not created the division of labour between females and males, because humans discovered that men were more suited to hunt and women to gather edible plants. The level of social altruism of Neanderthals was primitive, restricted to taking care of their children. Also, they cared about another member of the band only if she or he directly useful. It can be deduced from the fact that the bones of old individuals found in Neanderthal caves are very scarce – they were abandoned to die elsewhere. There is no evidence that they could intellectually relate the cause and effects necessary to create more sophisticated tools such as a bow and arrows or boomerang.
In contrast, Homo Sapiens possess these qualities and, of course, many more. Already 30,000 years ago, it created not only the bow, arrows and boomerangs but also ceramics and domesticated the dog, which became invaluable in assisting hunting and protection. The strikingly beautiful cave art that Picasso semi-jokingly qualified as superior to what had been done, later on. It required incredible ingenuity and cooperation to create these paintings in a completely dark cave.
The development of religions can be inferred from discovered multiple figurines that symbolize femininity. Such symbolism required a sophisticated way of perceiving nature and relations with it. Also, the cave paintings of animals point towards some form of unique spiritual ties as animals, which still present in some native society.
It is challenging to decide when humans created language. But it must have happened relatively early because without language the proper communication and cooperation would not be possible.
Obviously, at that time, humans have not, as yet, discovered too many abstract ideas nor systematic education, so their wisdom could not be “taught.” Its presence can only be explained that it accompanied humanity from the beginning as its innate quality, so the 18-century Swedish biologist Linneus honoured when he gave the taxonomic name to our species: Homo Sapiens, where Sapientia in Latin means Wisdom.