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The Virtue of Ignorance

Updated on December 9, 2011

There is Value in Ignorance. . .

As hard as it is to believe; there is value to be found in ignorance. Particularly, in the acknowledgement that ignorance does exist in both ourselves and in others, and is perhaps even a healthy attribute when interpreted correctly.

Ignorance is simply defined as follows: noun - the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc.

To respect your own ignorance; is to merely respect the fact that it's impossible for you to know everything. This is a healthy attribute; without ignorance there is no cup to be filled. There's no learning, no discovery, no insight, no adventures, no goals, etc. There's nothing to accomplish. Paradoxically, a hypothetical person without ignorance would be - nothingness. Essentially, ignorance is necessary to become a living and breathing person. Without ignorance, we cease to be. . .

Thank goodness we have ignorance. I for one I'm glad I don't remember everything; can you imagine what a distraction that would be? There are many details that are best left unknowing. You wouldn't want to know the inners of every single person you come across, would you? I sure wouldn't, ignorance and privacy go hand in hand. The world laments endlessly of our ignorance, but I feel we're not ignorant enough. We're too informed and "too plugged in." It's impossible to keep a single thought to yourself without it being broadcasted; bringing privacy on the very edge of extinction. Yes, I have come to the realization the irony of writing the previous sentence in Hubpages, a "social" media site where I spill so much guts, I'm becoming completely transparent.

Ironically, we can become ignorant by relentlessly striving to alleviate our own ignorance. People who fear ignorance can have a habit of gathering more information than humanly possible. They suffer a severe case of information overload. Rather than accept the fact they can't learn everything all at once; and rather than accept the fact that they should focus on learning where their natural abilities lie. They instead choose the futile goal of achieving mastery in everything; and essentially master nothing.

What is ideal is to respect our ignorance - acknowledge that we can't know everything; and focus our attention on what we could potentially come to know best. If modern day academia would respectfully bow down to human reality that is ignorance; we wouldn't be hearing stories of students struggling with test scores. This is because test scores are all about students trying to memorize and regurgitate any and all facts within the shortest time span possible. This isn't humanly plausible; nor is it necessarily an admirable trait. If the focus was instead put on the student's strengths; rather than a collage of factoids devoid of any and all meaning or correlation, people may actually enjoy going to school.

So why does ignorance have such a terrible reputation? Ignorance has a horrible reputation because often we see it enacted in close correspondence with another human emotion - arrogance. An example of arrogance is the professor or teacher who expects all their students to be all knowing rounded little individuals; and who dares to scoff at the notion of individual ignorance, arguing that anyone can learn anything provided they just put in the effort and attention. I call rubbish - if everything were left to sheer willpower and tenacity alone; then everyone showing the effort would be working the top cluster of jobs with the most prestige. Clearly that isn't the case when we look at the world today. Clearly we have to respectfully acknowledge that many people will remain forever ignorant in many areas.

Ignorance when met with silence; we have the actions of the wise. Ignorance when met with bashful speech, rash actions, and spontaneity; we have the actions of the arrogant. An ignorant person is viewed as acceptable; only to become unacceptable whence they speak of their ignorance. It's not the ignorance that's the problem - merely the action accompanying it.

Ignorance can also become a killer when accompanied with nativity. Originally, I planned to title this article The Virtue of Refusing to Help. The idea was to show to people that while it's admirable to want to help people; often our helpful actions cause more harm than good. This wasn't meant to be a teach a man to fish lesson; the lesson has been told all too often. While that lesson can at times apply to certain situations; the simple reason why most people ultimately fail in helping another is because they lack the skills or knowledge in order to do so. By refusing to accept their ignorance in the name of chivalry, they succumb to a naivety that can bring harm to the very person they're trying to save.

We've all been victims of unwanted or misguided help. We've all been given advice that has led us to metaphorically teetering off a cliff. We've all been told financial strategies by people better off than ourselves, believing that they hold all the answers to our future financial well-being, only to be led into bankruptcy and broken promises. We've all had people who tried to help us accomplish a task, all but have the task poorly done; making the process much longer than if we simply did it ourselves. In all these cases, we have a person who is ignorant, but understandably refuses to acknowledge their own ignorance for the real desire to help people. This can often prove to be the most damaging case of misused ignorance of all. In the end we have a tragedy, two victims who only meant well, along with many tears and hardships ahead.

Keep this in mind the next time you desire to help a person; and you think you may not have the skills, ability, or knowledge to help them. If you think you can't help them; chances are you probably can't. So best for your sake and theirs - that you accept by virtue your own ignorance - and simply walk away.

-Donovan D. Westhaver


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    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Sorry for the typo, learns should have been leaves. Well, that is what I get from typing in the dark again! When will I learn?

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To Don: Not knowing everything learns much room for improvement and constant wonder at life and learning. Those are the more interesting people who are open to everything. Always watch for those who claim to know everything and nothing can be taught to them as they have always known it-those are the people I steer clear away from!