Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, February 3, 2018 - Forgiving Ignorance

As much as we like to think of it in these terms, ignorance is not a crime. Nor is it a sin. Ignorance is a condition. A treatable condition, at that. It exists as a self-sustaining vacuum, which is, of course, unnatural. It has to be falsely perpetuated. Much like the idea of cigarettes being good for your health.
Humans are curious. More so than probably any other life form on the planet. We often give credit to our opposable thumbs for our progress as a species, but our ravenous curiosity far outweighs thumbs in terms of usefulness. As much as it is our strength however, curiosity is also our most profound vulnerability.
In service to our thirst for data we allow ourselves to be constantly filled with information and have nothing but our principles to filter it. But principles, ethics and values are in a tenuous position. They thrive only in the absence of fear. Once we have been triggered by fear, the fight or flight mechanism engages and our principles often fly right out the window.
Ignorance to various information on social issues, of healthy living, even basic common knowledge is a tool used by, and perhaps even perpetuated by, power structures to gain financial or political ground. The poor and uneducated should be recognized for the victimization they experience. Failure to do so only fuels the continuation of old and unhelpful ways. As a society we should know better than to forget them.
A compassionate heart is not offended by ignorance so much as alerted to its presence and need. This is the spiritual practice of nonresistance. Recognize ignorance rather than resist it. Don’t silence it. Forced silence creates a sense of victimization over time. Victims behave in predictable ways and are thus taken advantage of by those who cultivate power without integrity. We should neither vilify nor sequester them. To enhance the continuing arc of justice our society we must serve them.
Ignorance, especially hatred, should invite advocacy, mentorship, education, support. We should gravitate towards areas where proper education and the development of critical thinking are lacking. The people of this nation must remove its head from the sand and identify those who need our help.
As the Information Age grows, so too do our backyards. Our neighbors grow in number and with them, grows our awareness that we are an utterly interdependent species. We survive only as a single, unified tribe.
Our society has been described in films and literature as both a virus as well as an immune system. Which is it? Likely both. Humanity has spread out over the earth, arguably conquering it with both its avarice and its spiritual teachings simultaneously. They could be seen to be relying upon one another. Is there purpose here?
Perhaps the bell we are trying to ring throughout the universe is that of heavy lifting. The deep value we achieve by a difficult, but successful process. How much more profound is knowledge when it is given with integrity in the face of greed? How much grace exists in the act of loving — and empowering — both our enemy and our neighbor?
If we are trapped by the ignorance of ourselves or others only truth will set us free. Serve and receive the tired, the poor and the huddled masses as we have been taught to do. This has not been our national tradition to date, but still, we aspire. So mote it be.

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