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Wisdom, Culture and Communication
Currently I teach at three different campuses belonging to two different tertiary institutes.
At one of these institutes I teach undergraduate students enrolled in Bachelor of Health Science degree courses, and at the other I teach postgraduate International students in what is called a “Professional Year Program”.
Both roles I thoroughly enjoy and I often consider the differences and the similarities between the two groups of students. Those considerations have led to the title of this article, “Wisdom, Communication and Culture”, because those three attributes are inextricably linked.
If one hundred different people were asked for a definition of “wisdom”, or their understanding of “wisdom”, I would not be at all surprised if one hundred different responses were received. Succinctly defining or describing “wisdom” is an almost impossible task. One reason for this being that understanding of it can be culturally related. Your race, background, attitudes, values and beliefs can all impinge on your understanding of what “wisdom” really is.
As an example, some cultures have a greater respect for their elderly than others. These cultures place a strong correlation between advancing years and wisdom. Life experiences must certainly have a place in what is considered “wisdom”. If we make mistakes and learn from them, then we are becoming wiser. Probably more importantly, if we have successes and learn from them also, then we are becoming wiser.
However, none of us live long enough to make all the mistakes or have all the successes ourselves. We therefore need to learn from others’ mistakes and successes. This is the knowledge bank that we have available for us to use.
Wisdom though, is more than one’s age, life experiences and accumulated knowledge, it is more about the application of these things and the wholeness of life.
The owl is often used as a symbol of wisdom. It has large prominent eyes which not only see in the dark, but appear to be watching everything with penetrating attention.
So wisdom is also about “seeing”. It is about seeing beyond a narrow perspective to other points of view and the bigger picture. It involves seeing into the future and understanding the possible consequences of our actions. It is about seeing and understanding that we have and need to use multiple intelligences. We need to integrate facts, understandings, spiritual sensibilities, emotional intelligence, universal intelligence and diverse experiences and perspectives.
This brings me to the “Communication and Culture” part of this article’s title. The more we communicate with people who are different from us the greater will be our understanding of those people. This will in turn lead to a reduction of prejudice and produce a deeper understanding and acceptance of different values, beliefs and attitudes.
Former cultural barriers are being broken down through effective communication. Different world cultures are not as isolated in the 21st century, as they were in the earlier part of the 20th century and prior to that. The world in effect has become a much smaller place, and we are all learning more from each other.
Positive attitudes, compassion, understanding and desiring the good of the whole through sound communication with all, including those from other cultures will lead to greater wisdom.
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