No Tomatoes Please
The Irish athlete Brian O'Driscoll is credited with saying: Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.
Dictionaries define wisdom along the lines of: soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. A shorter version: applying good judgment to the use (or not) of knowledge. For instance, not mixing tomatoes with watermelon and nectarines.
- knowing how to produce a nuclear bomb but never doing so.
- knowing your boss should take off seventy-five pounds but not telling him.
- knowing what the f-word means but not using it with your grandmother.
- knowing how to commit a crime without being caught but refraining from doing so.
Good judgment is, of course, a relative term. What is considered good to one is bad to another. KKK adherents embrace a set of values diametrically opposed to most Americans. Yet there are principles of good judgment that are accepted by the general populace. For instance, refraining from actions that injure oneself or others. Or promoting education for the nation’s children. Or respecting the laws of the land for the sake of peace and good order.
Part of being a responsible and caring citizen is to apply the good judgment test to one’s decision-making and subsequent actions. Recently some teenagers in Michigan killed a man by throwing rocks off an interstate overpass onto cars. Lots of teenagers exhibit wisdom by seriously applying judgment before deciding and acting. The Michigan children did not.
One of my oft-stated fatherly counsels to my children has been to always use your best judgment. It hasn’t always happened – in their life or mine. But it is the desirable goal. Throughout life one would do well to ask such questions as: would tomatoes improve my fruit salad?