on collecting other people's deep thoughts

about a month ago i listened to an onbeing episode with david isay. among other things, david is the founder of storycorps. his interview, titled ‘listening as an act of love’ was super interesting and there are vast implications of his thinking about listening as core pillar of being loving, from the interpersonal scale to the societal and global scales.  

but all that aside for the moment, one line in his interview really stuck out to me:

“i’m really good at collecting other people’s deep thoughts.”

because of what storycorps is, this was pretty tongue-in-cheek. that said, the reality of what it means to be a collector of deep thoughts is one that i feel like i live.

my whole life people have told me that i’m wise beyond my years. in some ways, i think this is mostly just a stance i take to the world. maybe it’s because it’s what comes naturally to me, but i think i do a really good job at cutting through the bs of daily life to identify and observe trends. i can recognize these trends over the course of a single friend’s life when i’ve known them for long enough, but also across different people’s lives. the combination of those two things enable me really latch on when someone is saying something deep.

sometimes the other person doesn’t even recognize the depth of what they’ve said. when i repeat it back to them, they’re often shocked at the gravity of their own statement (sidenote: is it the process of reflecting it back that adds gravity? who knows.)

anyways, these thoughts are a little all over the place, but one thing is for sure. i definitely feel similar to david in that i recognize that i’m a good collector of other people’s deep thoughts. does that in itself make me wise? i’m not sure. the dictionary definition of wisdom is about applying experience, knowledge, and good judgment. if the experience, knowledge etc is gathered from somewhere else, does that undermine my own wisdom? maybe. but maybe not. that said, if the knowledge gathered from other sources is invalid, what are books even for?