Monday, January 16, 2012

Traditional? Well... it depends.

Often, I attract flak for trampling over the 'Traditional' in my quest for the 'Wise'. Let me explain. 

Tradition, Knowledge, Wisdom. Unfortunately, these three are often used interchangeably by well-meaning people. If I were to draw a Venn diagram, there would definitely be common areas amongst their three corresponding circles. How large or small these areas of intersection would be, depend upon the knowledge of the person we are deliberating. However, what we can definitely be sure of is that there would be three circles, not one.

What is Tradition? The dictionary definition reads as follows: the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.
So, even if a practice emerged from observing facts and rational action, there is ample scope for deviation or corruption of the practice while it was being passed "from generation to generation". Therefore, following traditions is no guarantee of being right.

Now, if we take Knowledge, the dictionary definition reads: acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition. 
So, does being knowledgeable ensure one's being right? Well, to some extent, having extensive knowledge does enable us to analyze questions with facts as opposed to beliefs, and hence enables us to reach more authentic answers, as compared to simply following Tradition. But is Knowledge alone sufficient?

Why is it that students who fare exceptionally well at school do not always fare well in life? And why is it that some of the brightest innovators and entrepreneurs that we have ever seen were just average at school, or even dropped out of the formal education system? Did they have higher EQ or Emotional Quotient to help them use their high IQs? I do not have the data to answer this question. But what I can be sure of is that these people must have had that seemingly elusive yet attainable quality: Wisdom.

 The dictionary woefully falls short of the magnitude of the word with this definition: knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.  
To me, Wisdom encompasses Knowledge of current and preceding facts; the Knowledge of Traditions; the Knowledge of unreasonable gaps in Tradition, if any; the Knowledge of the current 'climate' for action, and the Knowledge of the ramifications of one's actions. It is the ultimate distillation of information, made comprehensible through deep analysis. 

Now if you'd reassess my opening statement, you'll understand what I mean. Where Tradition is backed by Knowledge, I am a dutiful follower. However, where tradition stands alone, unreasonable, illogical, backed only by the belief that "this is the way it has always been done and hence should be done", kindly excuse me. And this, is my Wisdom. I rest my case.