Jun
02

In a Word

The word is “consilience”, until recently, a rare word recovered for us by biologist, Edward O. Wilson. Literally, a “jumping together” of knowledge across disciplines, consilience is all about “connectivity” and the weaving together of ideas from different domains of knowledge to reveal deeper, common groundworks of explanation.
Our minds delight in consilience, notwithstanding the serious fragmentation of knowledge bequeathed to us by 20th and 21st century specialization.

Consilience, in turn, delights in inductive thinking, thinking which brings us from the specific and readily apparent to that which is more general, more pervasive, but perhaps hidden. Above all, consilience loves metaphors. Metaphors, the unifying insights! They connect – the color of my love’s eyes to the silver blue sea, or Juliet’s radiance to that of the sun. And that connection pleases us precisely because the field of meaning around “my love’s eyes” or “Juliet” has been expanded or positioned with distinction within the larger fabric of all that we know, all that we care about.

Our “big picture” has also been bumped up in coherence, the zillion bits of information rolling around in our head suddenly feel like they fit together more appropriately. That’s a good feeling. That’s consilience, at least, in miniature. Multiply the effect across the depth and breadth of the disciplines of knowledge and the myriad tones of experience and we see consilience as Wilson would have us see it, writ large: the goal of a true liberal arts education.

Knowledge fit together in a broad connected landscape. If only educators and leaders today could glance up from their bottom lines and lowest common denominators to see this writing on the wall. The “jumping together” of knowledge across disciplines (interdisciplinary thinking, learning and research) is thinking and learning at its basic best — and most joyful.

It’s time we invest our time and resources more wholeheartedly in this joyful activity. As I see it, consilience is the high ground in education, creative thinking and entrepreneurship. No doubt, it will require many brave, creative leaps from us all — and we will have to make many of these “leaps” against the prevailing currents of specialization.

Are you ready to leap? Are you ready for consilience? Start flexing those muscles. What price learning?

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