The Wisdom Pyramid, by Brett McCracken, was refreshing and challenging. According to the author, “This book proposes that we need a better diet of knowledge and better habits of information intake.” He convincingly argues that, in this age of information overload, we need “an ordering framework for navigating the noise and the mess of our cultural moment.” He then proposes a paradigm shift in the way we prioritize sources of information in our lives and how we choose to consume them. Given the global culture of information glut the author’s proposed epistemological hierarchy is the most practically beneficial aspect of this book.
McCracken begins by accurately diagnosing the reason for the mental and spiritual sickness that is being transmitted throughout our world, and our churches: information overload. The first section addresses a large variety of observable symptoms, causes, and results. He then presents a “best practices” approach to intentionally seeking wisdom as opposed to drinking from the fire hose of information overload available to us. The second section serves as the construction zone for the level-by-level raising of the wisdom pyramid, which McCracken likens to the food pyramid. He presents six sources of truth that will help us obtain wisdom in order of importance. A chapter is devoted to each of these knowledge groups: the Bible; the church; nature; books; beauty; and the internet or social media.
I came to the book expecting a polarizing argument regarding the increasingly pervasive overconsumption of social media. What I found was a reasonable solution that allows a place, albeit a much smaller one, for the consumption of such things. The strength of this book is that it prioritizes other, more foundational, sources of wisdom that are often overlooked in our fast paced, information-oriented world.
Using the food pyramid as a well-known reference to help readers relate to his approach was a brilliant idea. The author makes an important distinction, however, between his wisdom pyramid and the food pyramid. Where we were taught that we should eat a balanced diet composed of all the food groups, he tells us that we should not feel compelled to seek a information from all of the knowledge sources available to us. Instructing readers to prioritize sources of information based upon the order presented in the wisdom pyramid, He gives preeminence to the two required sources of wisdom, the Bible and the Church, and relegates the internet and social media to the lowest order of priority and necessity. In doing so, he presents a welcome correction to the information consumption habits of many in our world.
Sometimes we lose touch with important things in our lives and never even realize it.
One of the strengths of this book is how well it causally connects current cultural issues to the ever-present excess of available information. The value of the book, however, lies in the case McCracken makes for each layer of his wisdom pyramid. Sometimes we lose touch with important things in our lives and never even realize it. After acknowledging the fundamental nature of the bible and the church, he places nature, books, and beauty ahead of social media, making the connection between godly wisdom and these critical sources of truth that are often overlooked in our screen-oriented world. The arguments presented in those chapters, alone, are worth the price of the book.
I consider myself to be a pretty well-balanced person. However, after reading this book I feel compelled to shift my own approach to information consumption. In fact, I felt its impact was important enough that I bought copies for every member of my ministry training group. This book is very approachable, but the principles contained in it are transformative, particularly in our current “too much,” “too fast,” and “too focused on me” world. You need to put this one on the top of your reading list.
Tony McCall is the pastor of the Pentecostals of Lake City in Northeast Arkansas. He and his wife, Angie, have 2 sons and a daughter-in-law, all of whom are active in ministry. He holds two masters degrees: Master of Arts in Communications Research and Master of Theological Studies. He is also an educator, teaching in the communications field for both Urshan College, where he serves as Program Coordinator for Communication Studies and Arkansas State University. When he gets a chance to rest, he’s likely to spend it standing in a river, fly rod in hand, chasing trout.