A couple of nights ago, my husband, Itinerant Cryptographer, and I were debating the current state of American politics.
"I just wish there was an up-and-coming environmentally-aware presidential candidate," I lamented. "The last one we had was Al Gore, and I'm not sure he would have made a great president."
We proceeded to dissect several recent prominent political figures. With my green-leaning views and his Libertarian ones, we diverged on several points.
"I think he was stupid," I declared, describing a politician rather bluntly.
Itinerant Cryptographer disagreed. "He was ignorant on the issues," my husband said. "I think he could have understood them if his advisors had allowed it."
Ignorance. We imbue the word with disgust, but what does it really mean?
Merriam-Webster defines ignorance as "the state or fact of being ignorant: lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.
So let's face facts: there's no shame in being ignorant. No one can know everything. But when we refuse to examine new ideas or learn new things, we are choosing to remain ignorant. Ignoring the issues doesn't make them go away.
There are certain subjects - foreign policy, how a camera works, proper use of a compass, how to diagram a sentence* - that are going to send me straight to a text book or even a children's encyclopedia. It might feel embarrassing to me - how can I not know what fuels the trains that run behind my house? - but there is no shame to not knowing the answer. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Life is a learning lesson. I truly believe that our job is to learn, ponder, and use our newly-acquired knowledge to leave the world a better place than we found it.
Photo credit: Leon Brooks, BurningWell.org
* My nine-year-old learned to diagram sentences in the third grade. Despite my two college degrees and scads of English classes, I never learned to do this. My husband had to help our son with his homework because it baffled me. But now that I've written this post (despite my firm desire to remain ignorant on this subject!), I am going to go to my son and have him teach me how to diagram sentences. I don't want to be a hypocrite!
What are you going to learn today?