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We must value wisdom - like not putting a tomato in a fruit salad

PUBLISHED: 11:02 09 August 2018

Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad, says Marianne Gibbs 
PHOTO: IAN BURT

Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad, says Marianne Gibbs PHOTO: IAN BURT

Archant © 2009

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

I’ve no idea where I first heard that - it made me laugh at the time and it still does - but I got to thinking the other day about wisdom and where it comes from and I decided it could only come from experience and that comes with age.

Experience and age don’t seem to be valued today like they used to be, or indeed still are in other societies.

Everything today seems to focus on the young with their technology skills and instant access to Wikipedia. Soon not even knowledge will be valued - why should it be when Alexa or Google can answer virtually every question put to them?

Why learn anything or remember anything if you have a smart phone in your hand and can just look up stuff instantly, and yet..........what about when the phone signal is down, or the power cut comes? That’s when underlying knowledge comes to the fore.

For example I learnt to cook from scratch in the 1960s. I seldom need to consult a cookery book. I do have them of course but I mostly use them for inspiration rather than a recipe.

I can make a Victoria sponge without even weighing the ingredients because experience has taught me what 4oz of butter looks like and when I cut that amount off a large block of butter I’m spot on with the weight.

However, wisdom tells me that while that may be fine for a family cake it will not do for a Women’s Institute competition. Here, I would weigh everything including the eggs.

Clever old me, I can look at the sky and decide for myself whether or not I will need an umbrella. I don’t need an internet weather forecasting service with 90% accuracy to tell me whether or not it’s going to rain.

I always err on the side of caution anyway and take one if I’m not sure - that’s wisdom. Experience of being wrong a lot of the time means that in future if I’m going to buy a new coat, I will always buy one with a hood.

The trouble with wisdom and erring on the side of caution is that if someone asks me for my opinion on some planned change they are planning to make, I can see all the things that might go wrong, coming across as negative.

This never went down very well when I was at work; however, if the planning person could answer my ‘what if?’ questions fully, showing they had thought everything through and had contingency plans, I could turn into the most enthusiastic and supportive person on the whole team, which is why I always managed to keep my jobs whilst at the same time annoying nearly everyone I ever worked with.

The pity of it is that in most cases the most experienced, wisest people in a company, who are generally the older members, are the ones to be made redundant first.

When will we as a society learn to value experience as being equally important to academic qualifications? Not with everything I suppose, but would you want a newly qualified dentist fresh out of Dental School clutching a degree to do your root canal filling, or someone in their 40s/50s with a lifetime of experience?

We should be grateful for the people who are able to ask the awkward questions, point out the blindingly obvious mistakes, but more importantly are able to put things right when the time comes.

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