Knowledge, Wisdom, Experience, Understanding, and Intelligence are funny words- meaning that we tend to think that they all mean the same thing. That conflation is often harmful to us, however, and that detrimental effect occurs when one of these attributes is questioned. In these cases, because of that conflation we often assume that it is an attack on our intelligence as a whole, not realizing that they are all different things entirely.
When I opened the pages of Marilyn Manson’s autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, during one fateful Astronomy class in my Junior year of High School… I had no idea what awaited me among its pages. More importantly, though, I had no idea how life changing the words recorded in those pages would be for me.
The Antichrist is not just me, or just one person. It’s all of us. A collective state of mind that America needs to have awakened in them. I want to wake it in them. That’s the purpose of this tour, maybe even my life: To make Americans realize they don’t have to believe in something just because they’ve been told it all their lives. You can’t have someone who’s never had sex or drugs telling you it’s wrong. Only through experience can you determine your own morality. Humanity isn’t about constantly having to seek forgivness for being human; humanity is leading a guiltless existance as an individual.
I was an intelligent person in High School. I had poor attendance, struggled with Alcoholism, ran with a bad crowd, eventually developed an addiction to Prescription Narcotics, attempted suicide multiple times, struggled with Eating Disorders, and so much more… But I was (and still am) an Intelligent person and despite all of that I still managed to excel in school- though not to the level that I could have had I actually applied myself.
So I was by no means unintelligent- and I knew I was intelligent and that I had more knowledge than most of my Teachers and my peers combined… But despite all of that intelligence and knowledge, I could not for the life of me understand why experience was being touted by this man as being necessary for Knowledge to be complete; I could never grasp what Experience had to do with morality, or why Experiential Knowledge was- in many cases- much better than Educational Knowledge.
In fact, it wouldn’t be another 5 years until I learned a very important lesson that allowed me to actually, wholly, and truly understand what he meant: I had the experiences for myself. And this understanding led me to understand the difference between these terms- and that the differences, while subtle, were integral.
So what are these seemingly abstract and intangible concepts that so many people seem to confuse for one another?
Knowledge is the total sum of what we know; the factual and other information we have learned throughout the course of our lives.
Experience is the actual physical events that occur in our lives. Though experience often provides us with new knowledge, experience correctly refers to what we have actually physically lived– not the information or knowledge which is often garnered from that event.
Understanding is the ability to ultimately comprehend or grasp the meaning and complexity of the knowledge and experience that we garner in life
Intelligence refers to our ability to learn, understand, and then apply that knowledge to our life and activities.
Wisdom is sound judgement, action, or advice that is based on the total sum of one’s lived experiences and knowledge- and the understanding of that knowledge and experience.
Knowledge, Understanding, Experience, Wisdom, and Intelligence… They are all independent of one another in many ways- and in short, you can have one or several of these without having the others; knowledge without understanding, intelligence without wisdom, and so on. But I learned that while intelligence is different than, say, understanding or knowledge, they are still connected to one another; Intelligence itself does not and cannot act alone. It requires other factors such as knowledge, understanding, and so on.
But I also learned that some of these things are truly more important and more determining than others. Take, for instance, the two types of Knowledge that one can possess: Educational Knowledge and Experiential Knowledge.
Most knowledge that we have is educational knowledge- the facts, data, statistics, and other information often learned in an Educational setting. The bulk of this is received when we are in school during our youth, and again in College during our years as Young Adults.
However, simply having Knowledge of something does not always equate to truly understanding that subject, because ultimately some knowledge that we can (or could) possess on a subject cannot actually be taught in books or in educational settings such as this. Experiential Knowledge is much more important in that regard; having hands on, real life experience with the subject.
Why, though? Because in order for Knowledge and Experience to be truly applicable or appreciated, you have to understand it… And Educational Knowledge without a backing experience (and the Experiential Knowledge that is derived from it) cannot be truly understood on a deeper level. It is only surface knowledge; in many cases, Educational Knowledge only gives you a foundation from which to work, but it doesn’t actually bring you a truly deep understanding of the subject because Educational Knowledge is incomplete by default. It is also not always truly practical knowledge, either, and in a lot of cases it can and does make things seem far easier than they actually are. This is especially true in cases where that Knowledge is truly reliant on an Experience in order to be learned.
To use recent events as but one of many possible examples, I want to use my recent comments to a Young Woman wherein I said that she could not understand the hard work that goes into creating, maintaining, and ultimately supporting a Household of their own- and that she would not be able to understand it until she experienced it. This is because until we experience living on our own and having to truly be self sufficient, we have only the Educational Knowledge of what it takes; you may know all the theory and methodology that there is to know about maintaining and running a Household, but you will not actually genuinely understand the difficulty, dedication, and true price of it until you have one of your own to run; until you have the Experiential Knowledge that comes from the lived Experience of running your own Household.
Take another example: Knitting. You can study books, stitches, and patterns all day long if you want to- and in a way that knowledge is critically important carrying out the skill of Knitting. But it doesn’t actually mean anything or have any depth of understanding if you have never picked up Knitting Needles and made something yourself… And if you are anything like me, the price of Knitted items may even seem ridiculous to you. But it will only remain such until you Knit something and realize, through that experience, how much time and work goes into a single item. Because until then, your knowledge of knitting will be incomplete and you will not understand the muscle movements, strength, patience, and other factors which are at play. This knowledge requires you to actually pick up those Needles and Experience it for yourself.
What I also learned is that Experiential Knowledge is more important because it often has the strongest ability to affect your worldview; that missing Experiential Knowledge that is garnered through actually participating, physically, in those actions can and does often change your perspective on the subject as a natural byproduct of completing your knowledge base- and it often changes perspectives because those two together create a deeper level of understanding that you cannot achieve by only having only Educational Knowledge.
For example, in many cases you may have a hoard of factual information which leads you to a logical and rational conclusion about why this or that thing is (or should be considered) morally or legally wrong… But ultimately experiencing it for yourself at least once may make or break that ideology due to a completed understanding of the subject; through that experience you may actually come to see that there are benefits to it, and that “Good” and “Bad” are arbitrary categories… That things more often exist in a Grey Area and are neither “Good” nor “Bad” by default. Or it may likewise solidify your belief in it being wrong for one reason or another.
It does not make a person unintelligent or mean that they are not smart, however, if they only have one or the other, because Intelligence isn’t about the amount of knowledge, but your ability to understand and apply it to the problem at hand, your life, and so on… So you very well can get by without actually having any Experiential knowledge, or even Educational Knowledge of something- depending on what that something is… But even if you can reasonably get by with only one or the other, it does not change the fact that that Knowledge is still incomplete and will remain so for as long as you do not have the other half of its whole.
They compliment and augment one another; It is a chain-link fence where if one link is missing the others falter, are incomplete, or simply cannot exist at all because they are all required for true, in depth comprehension and understanding.