Francis Bacon said, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Brett McCracken’s The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World is a good book to chew on, and it’s a good book to help us reflect thoughtfully on our mental, social, spiritual, and experiential dietary habits.
No doubt, you’re familiar with the food pyramid which looks something like this:
Basically, healthy foods and liquids get the bulk of the servings and proportions. In some versions of the pyramid, there’s a little room for deserts and junk foods at the top–in limited servings.
In his book, McCracken adapts this idea for a wisdom pyramid analogy. Although readers may differ on the details, it does seem that the information, relationships, and experiences we consume affects our well-being, depending on the varying levels of related quality. This seems true for our spiritual, social, emotional, and intellectual experiences. McCraken’s Wisdom Pyramid basically follows this pattern:
>>>>>Internet and Social Media (small, infrequent servings)
The Bible (large, frequent servings)Adapted from Brett McCracken’s The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World.
Even if you’re not personally aligned with McCracken’s Christian faith and philosophical framework, there’s much to consider in his model as you reflect on pursuing long-term flourishing. Much like our experiences with food and diet as we age, we eventually realize that our forms entertainment, information, and ways of relating don’t always leave us healthy and feeling healthy. So, McCracken gives us a way to reflect on healthy choices that can contribute to our long-term flourishing.
I’d be interested to hear how folks from other spiritual and philosophical traditions would employ such an analogy. Help for considering other perspectives in terms of different sorts of sacred texts may be found with author and teacher Robert Scholes (Scholes makes a good case for how even secular political texts can be in a sense “sacred” to some communities.) I do suspect that we could find much common ground on the problems with our society’s junk-food habits centering around social media and the Internet.
I was also thinking about how McCraken offers us a model of wisdom that is better than what might be called the brain-on-a-stick wisdom pyramid.
The DIKW pyramid arranges the values differently from the food pyramid or McCracken’s Wisdom Pyramid. Here, wisdom would not be junk food but built upon data, information, and knowledge. There’s some truth to this conceptualization, but it lacks some important considerations.
It’s good to see how McCracken’s approach to wisdom contrasts to this DIKW paradigm by including issues of what many philosophers, psychologists, and theologians have called embodiment (educators sometimes address this in concerns about “the whole child”). I think the DIKW version above inherits many problems that can be traced back to Rene Descartes’ view of knowledge and rationality, which leaves out important dimensions of our embodied identities, experiences, and situated contexts.
McCracken gives readers much to think about with his thoughtful book. I’m still chewing on a few ideas after finishing it two weeks ago. I can’t help but think that beauty plays a much more foundational role in the wisdom pyramid, but it’s still helpful and stimulating to consider his approach. With some of the COVID restrictions lifting, this would be a great book to thoughtfully discuss over a meal with a fellow reader and seeker of wisdom.