A while back, I shared a blog post in my monthly newsletter about Brett McCracken’s blog post on what he calls a “wisdom pyramid”. It’s basically a play on the food pyramids of yesteryear and our consumption of content. The emphasis is to show where we can find wisdom and how counter it is to adjust where we currently seek it. Judging from the number of people who clicked over to read his article in that newsletter, I had to share what I learned from reading his book that expounds on that blog post.
I’ll share some highlights and points I loved from the book, but this is my official recommendation to get the book and read the whole thing! It’s already transformed the way I look at nature and church.
McCracken’s first line of the book is short but pure gold.
“Our world has more and more information, but less and less wisdom.”
This is why we need a wisdom pyramid. We won’t fall into wisdom by accident, especially in our current times. It’s likely for many of us that we have the pyramid turned completely upside down (but we’ll get to that in a second) and get most of our content consumption from online. He says our sources of intake can “make us healthy, or they can make us sick.”
These are the specific issues he shares about an out of balance pyramid:
- It’s changing our brains’ abilities to think carefully and critically.
- It’s draining our energy as it over-burdens our brains and we’re left to filter the info
- It’s causing stress and anxiety.
- It’s affecting what we actually do. The information-action ratio is changing, meaning we act less on what we learn.
- We’re looking more to be entertained (heard of infotainment?) than to learn.
- We’re reading about the same amount of content each day as a novel but it’s much less focused, vetted, and beneficial.
- We’re unstable and dizzied being oriented around the new constantly.
So let’s dive into the layers of the wisdom pyramid!
“Today’s post-truth world is like a claustrophobic escape room where we are all frantically fiddling with things on the floor, hoping they’ll unlock an exit–all the while ignoring a hidden-in-plain-sight book that has the instructions we need.”
The foundation of all God’s truth is rooted here. Psalm 1:3 compares the person who takes delight in the Law of the Lord (the Bible) to a tree planted by streams of water. The water nourishes and the roots go down deep. Without the Word, our hopes of finding wisdom are impossible. Without the Word, finding truth in the coming areas wouldn’t work. I won’t say too much here because I think we all know this. We simply need to act on what we know to be true, which funny enough, is what Brett calls wisdom. 😉
- What rhythms do you have for making Scripture more central to your day-to-day life?
- What resources (books, commentaries, videos, podcasts, etc) could be helpful to energize your Bible study?
“In an age of nauseating narcissism where everyone clamors for stardom and Instagram likes, the church humbles us and weekly reminds us: this is not about you. This is about God. You are welcome here, you are wanted, your presence in the body is important. You are part of the story. But God is the star, not you.”
I loved this entire chapter because I don’t think about this aspect often. But if we flip our pyramid’s upside and spend life online, we can stick to bubbles that constantly affirm us. We can go on thinking life revolves around us because there are people out there excited to see what I’ll eat at brunch or where to the gym today. We’ll also talk incessantly and never learn to listen, which if our desire is wisdom, we’d be smart to do less talking and more listening. McCracken shares the idea of having no unarticulated opinions. Is anything kept to ourselves? Or does the world know what we think about every topic? If the world knows our every opinion, it’s because we are talking too much and value sharing what we think over learning what someone else might have to say.
Church, the habit of being with the body of believers, shifts our focus from self, to the body of which we are a part of but not the center. And why can it be trusted? Because it isn’t like so many things we find online trying to pander to the viewer for likes, sales, or page hits. McCracken says “The reality is church is a source of truth precisely because it doesn’t exist to serve our interests on our terms.” It’s not another thing orbiting around us.
- Be a part of something bigger than yourself. If you’ve stayed away from the church for any reason, read this blog post about returning.
- Have accountability in the church, don’t just show up. “To land in a church and to be grounded there, to be accountable there, provides a spiritual and relational stability.”
- Literally, let the local church help you take action. “Our inflated focus on global awareness depletes our capacity for local action. It’s of course valuable to be aware of the wider world to some extent, but there is wisdom in embracing the focus and limits of localism.” If you’ve done our Anxiety Detox, you know how strongly I feel about this point!
- Read theology from people of previous generations. “There is a great cloud of witnesses who came before us and wrestled with many of the questions and trials we face today. It’s important for contemporary Christians to avoid chronological snobbery, assuming our issues and insights are unique or new.”
“Nature reminds us there is a world bigger than the one we’ve made. … We are creatures and not the creator.”
“Nature’s glory is not an end unto itself. It’s not a god to worship. It’s a prism and amplifier of God’s glory.”
Nature reflects God’s glory. It’s easy to have our nose buried in our phones as another beautiful sunset cascades into the horizon and miss reminders of God. Like reminders of his creativity to create another beautiful sky with the most gorgeous mixture of color. Reminders of his constancy as the sunrise breaks each morning with no missed days. Reminders of God’s specificity as we remember the sun’s perfect distance from the earth. Reminders of our smallness as we think of all the people seeing the same sky. All this awaits us and more if we’ll make time for it.
- Commit to more time in nature – I saw this post about the 1,000 hours outside challenge. I loved the added encouragement to get outside, even in winter so we’re taking the challenge but aiming for 365 hours instead of 1,000. I think we honestly could hit 1,000 because of summer and going to the pool but we’re new to this so I figured we’d make it fun and not some stressful thing to cram into the year!
- Learn about nature – To notice the intricacies of God’s design that may go unnoticed, maybe we need to read about it? We love Louie Giglio’s devotion for kids, Indescribable.
- Take care of nature, but don’t worship it. As a culture, we tend to swing in one of two directions. What if we just respected nature and tended the land while not obsessing or valuing it over human life and our Father?
Y’all know I need no convincing to read more books. But I loved what Brett shared about why they can be a source of wisdom.
- Reading books slows us down. We aren’t hopping from idea to idea but sitting with one topic, processing ideas, and getting to have space to ponder.
- We can learn how to have empathy for others, as we read about the lives of others. Y’all know I am not as big of a fiction or memoir reader so this was a good challenge to me.
- You don’t have to agree with everyone an author says. I know this but as someone who shares her book list each year, I am very aware that people can see my list and assume I believe something different from what I believe based on the books I read. This has definitely kept me from reading more widely and learning from other perspectives. This goes back to Scripture as our foundation. If we don’t have discernment, reading books with differing views can be dangerous but as we drink deeply of the Word, I think we can fear less reading broader perspectives. “To read well is not to take everything the author says at face value. Rather, it is to understand the author’s argument as best as we can, learn from it, but check it against what else we know.”
- Be intentional about how you choose books.
- Read one old book for every three new books.
- Pick up a fiction or memoir and get to know the characters.
“Consider the diversity of spices––from cumin to cayenne to nutmeg and turmeric. God could have created the world so that humans only needed to eat a bland, gruel-like substance in order to survive, but he didn’t.”
No, He didn’t. Instead, God gave us beauty all around simply to be enjoyed. What a generous God we have! And what makes it beautiful?
“Van Gogh’s Starry Night can only exist because God first created stars and the colors of night. Bach’s ‘Cello Suite’ can only exist because God created trees, whose wood is used to carve a cello, and horses, whose hair is used to fashion a bow. Beauty is beautiful because it demonstrates man’s creative capacity to make new things out of the raw materials God provides.”
- Appreciate art – With access to the entire world of art online, music on Spotify, or cinema on our TV apps, it’s easy to almost be overwhelmed by beauty and not get to take it all in. We have to embrace silence and give space to recognize beauty. Have you seen art galleries? The walls are rarely packed to the brim but given space to breathe so we can see the beauty with less noise.
- Draw the hand back to God – As you see beautiful things, recognize how each delicate part originated from God.
As much time as we can spend on the cons of the internet, there are good reasons to be here. For one, McCracken highlights the need for light in dark places. As someone who’s left Instagram after feeling the Lord’s prompting, I don’t take this to mean that we need to be on every platform. We still need to be smart about it.
So how do we use the internet well?
- When you open your phone, know where you’re headed – Brett reminds us not to just “surf”. This is mindless and rarely results in anything fruitful or worth the time we normally end up on it if we aren’t intentionally focused on our goal for being online.
- Be a light – What a gift that we can be on platforms and share God’s goodness! We can redeem this space for so much good.
- Try our Social Media Detox – It’s all about helping get your time down while getting intentional about seeing where you spend your time.
As I reflect on this pyramid, I start to notice how many ways I miss out on wisdom. I look for them in certain spots but honestly more times than not, I just drifting into places that hold little wisdom because it’s so readily available to me.
Brett says the world teaches us that “fortune favors the fast on the Internet.” But what if we slowed down, got intentional about what we consumed, and got to experience God in all His wisdom. In the music we hear, the skies we lay beneath, the stories we read, and the community we experience. I’m feeling wiser already.
Want to dive into this topic more? Grab Brett’s book, The Wisdom Pyramid, here.