It may seem pretentious to talk about wisdom, which is the subject of this blog, and equally pretentious to talk about mastery as I did in yesterday's post. These terms may raise the question for some, who does he think he is? Let me assure you that besides reading the National Geographic at breakfast, I make enough mistakes to be humbled for decades to come.
This month's National Geographic (November 2010) article about the Mysteries of Great Migrations is about animal migration. It is mystifying to both scientists and the casual observer that small butterflies, large animals and birds can travel nearly the length of North America, and that they do so with such unrelenting sense of purpose.
The pursuit of mastery is very much like the relentless behavior that a pronghorn displays when moving to its winter range. From the article:
What is it that makes animal migration such a magnificent spectacle for the eye and he mind? Is it the sheer abundance of wildlife in motion? Is it the steep odds to be overcome? Is it the amazing feats of precise navigation? The answer is all of the above. But there's another reason why the long-distance journeys of wildebeests, sandhill cranes, monarch butterflies, sea turtles, and so many other species inspire our awe. One biologist has noted the "undistractibility" of migrating animals. A nonscientist, risking anthropomorphism, might say: Yes, they have a sense of larger purpose.
What the natural inclinations of humans toward mastery (once so encouraged) and the relentless behavior of animal migrations have in common is a sense of greater purpose. Engagement of each child in a sense of purpose should be one of the points on the Beaufort Scale of educational assessment. If we allow our children to be distracted toward powerlessness by the mundane, through products guaranteed to be user friendly and easier than ever to use without investment of time or the development of skill we will be alone. While the other animals of the planet are driven by higher purpose, we will have completed our descent.