The Ready Room: Natural Ignorance

Ignorance.  It simply means (from it’s Latin root) what one doesn’t know.  It doesn’t imply stupidity or foolishness.  When I am ignorant of a thing, it’s just what I don’t know.  There are so many things I don’t know.  There are some things that, when I become aware of my ignorance, I want to learn.  Others, not so much.  I am particularly tuned in to what I think of as “natural” ignorance.  These are things that because of my life’s conditions, I would not have the opportunity to know just by living and being in my daily life.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day.  I have tried to be tuned in to the women’s movement for the last 30+ years of my life.  As a man living in this culture, I do not know what it’s like being a woman living in this culture, and so when women speak about what is important to them, I try to listen and to learn and to displace some of my natural ignorance.

Yesterday was also the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights march across the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL.  I took time yesterday to find and watch or read these two pieces which help me with my ignorance of what it means to be a person of color living in this culture.  The first is a TED Talk by James A. White, Sr. about what he experienced 53 years ago and what his own grandchildren are experiencing now.  The composure, wisdom and grace with which he tells his story humbles me and informs my ignorance.

Yesterday, a friend sent out this article: Ten Ways White People are More Racist Than They Realize.  The title is hard to read.  It presses up against my natural ignorance, but I’ve been working on this particular aspect of my natural ignorance long enough that I knew before I opened the article that there was something important there for me.  Some of the ten things I did now. Some of them were new to me, and they broke me open a little more in ways that, I hope, will make me a better brother in the human family.

I am who I am.  You are who you are.  Our very life circumstances define us and to some degree make us ignorant of others whose life circumstances have defined them differently. Beyond that, collective ignorance around our differences only fuel social, cultural and political systems that keep us divided against one another.

I invite you, today, to do something that helps you prepare yourself to be a better brother or sister in this human family.  We all own a certain amount of natural ignorance.  We don’t have to keep it.

Bob Patrick

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2 Responses to The Ready Room: Natural Ignorance

  1. Peggy Averyt says:

    Love these Words of Wisdom. Thanks for the reminder that being called ignorant is not an insult, but an invitation to learn more about something.

    • Bob Patrick says:

      I appreciate the feedback, Peggy. I talk about this word with teenagers (who often enough use it as a put down). Nothing wrong with not knowing something, but when we become aware of what we don’t know–then, as you say, that’s an invitation to learn. Even so, the Buddha taught that suffering arose from ignorance. We certainly see that in human relations.

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