ON IGNORANCE

This is my response to a letter from a friend who is a professor, lawyer, and part-time philosopher.

Billy,

I have finally freed up a couple of minutes to respond to your email. Sorry for the delay. I’ll send this along for you without a lot of editing (none). J

My quick response to the issue of ignorance initially was along the lines of a “pure, working or applied definition” of the terms involved. Further reflection on this area leads me in the direction you suggest.

Also, this writing is not intended to be a complete dissection or final analysis of all the factors of this issue. Rather, it is simply an attempt to point out other contributive factors that may open the door to further understanding.

When we consider the human factor in this equation, in addition to the pure definition of the term, the door opens to an infinity of other causal elements. Still, I feel, as you also suggest, that this area cannot be ignored lest we also be accused of being or becoming “ignorant” as well.

Following this ongoing analysis of ignorance, we go from “lack of awareness” to “lack of acknowledgment” to “deliberate unawareness” to “relevance” to “failing to take responsibility.”

Now, admitting that the terms above, awareness, acknowledgment, and responsibility, are in and of themselves pretty powerfully basic concepts. Tugging further on this string could easily lead us into the philosophical or even metaphysical realms. Still, it is interesting, so here goes.

It is my opinion that attempting to identify the true source of ignorance cannot lead otherwise other than the realm of the human spirit. By whatever label it is identified, the soul, the spirit, the universal mind or whatever, I think we can both agree on what we’re talking about.

This “something” is closely identified with but distinctly different and separate from the human body, which could be termed a three-dimensional calling card. It is a carbon-oxygen engine with a low thermal tolerance and is valuable in terms of familiarity, for ease of communication and for other reasons. But there is strong evidence that there is more to life than the body alone, which I won’t bother to go into here.

This is no great treatise on the spirit, though perhaps fodder for analysis another time, it is only an attempt to figure out something about the subject of ignorance. I am confronted with this subject many times in my work with businesspeople and salespeople. Often I was required to do an analysis of some bad situation or individual performance and discover the “real why” (or root cause) behind what was going on.

Invariably, I had to exercise my ability to look for and see what wasn’t there.

For the visible was easy to see and had already been examined exhaustively to no little avail or change. I had to train myself to see the invisible. Only then was I able to find the source and begin to unravel the problem. I also found that it is not a difficult skill to develop, that is, seeing what isn’t there.

After all, it isn’t much of a stretch intellectually to realize that awareness, responsibility, ethics, affinity, love, hate, communication, knowledge, wisdom, truth are all invisible, yet the manifestations of such are visible at the same time.

Operating from this premise, I have solved many previously unsolvable problems. So, this brings me to the application of this principle to the analysis at hand.

I suggest that underneath elements such as intentional unawareness, deliberate lack of acknowledgment and responsibility failure is found the idea fixee. And that this is found in the mind of the spiritual being occupying the human body. Thus it is invisible to the naked eye, yet it’s manifestations are abundantly apparent.

I propose also that this fixed idea is a self-generated (aberrated) computation with certain identifiable characteristics. It is used to keep one “safe” but it also creates its own trap.

It is something adopted in a time of considerable stress when one was unable to face something directly and formulate a reasonable solution. Unfortunately, it sometimes works. It is then used whenever one is again faced with a stressful situation or some seemingly overwhelming problem. You can always pull out your handy-dandy, one-stop-shop, solution to everything.

The idea fixee. or fixed idea solves everything . . . or does it? It seems to guarantee your continued survival . . . or does it? It provides an easy escape from any uncomfortable situation . . . or does it?

In my opinion, this fixed idea causes more problems than it ever solves in the long run. It also may explain the blindness of some people to the obvious and resultant ignorance.

Even when confronted with visible evidence, people with such an affliction still resist and clutch their own solution to their bosoms, their own fixed idea that explains everything for them. They no longer need to inspect, to look or observe, because they already know the answer. It covers up failures, flaws, and foibles. It camouflages mistakes in the application, errors in judgment and ethical lapses, intentional or not.

But, it is this one thing, the idea fixee, that causes all the difficulties one has in life. For it is only by honest observation of the obvious, by actually facing what is in front of one, by looking without flinching that one is able to see through the murky waters of confusion and ignorance and breakthrough to the sunlight and become able to see things for what they are . . . not for what you have previously decided what you want them to be.

Finally, if you have stayed with me this far, I suggest that identifying and becoming aware of such elements in oneself and others might act to free one to a wider sphere of inspection. And after all, isn’t this really what life is about anyway?

Final Thoughts:

A closer look at the root word, ignorant is as follows:

An adjective that may imply a general condition or apply to a lack of knowledge or awareness of a specific or particular thing. It seems to me then, that we might postulate that the common denominator of ignorance is a lack of awareness.

Given that a “viewpoint” is a point of view or a position from which something is considered or evaluated, doesn’t it follow logically that one could not hold a viewpoint on something of which he is unaware?

For without awareness or knowledge of the element to be evaluated, he or she wouldn’t have the ability to observe, sense, perceive, examine, compare or contrast anything related to the item in question.

Now the penny drops!

The question is answered thusly in my opinion. It would seem impossible for ignorance to be a viewpoint.

For, once a person becomes aware or conscious of the fact that they have such a viewpoint, they could not be totally ignorant of that which is being observed to form such a viewpoint.

And finally: It is the wise man who knows that he does not know

I welcome your response and input.

Daniel Jacobs, 2004

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