Ignoring Ignorance: Why Understanding Is Everything We Need
How many of us have heard or read the quote, apparently by Thomas Jefferson, “If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?”
Ignorance has long been a topic in spiritual writings. In fact, one of my favorite gospels discusses ignorance, but most of us have never even heard of this gospel.
How many of us have heard of the gospel of Mary? Did you know that Mary, not Mother Mary, but Mary Magdalene, was actually a disciple of Jesus, and was probably the Mary who was a sister of Martha and Lazarus? Did you know that she was not a prostitute, but that that idea was misinformation, most likely created by the developing church, as it sought to denounce women in leadership?
I don’t know if you know the story of Mary and Martha, but in it, Jesus tells Martha that Mary has made the best choice to sit at his feet and to learn. Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus, much like the male disciples. There were women disciples, they just didn’t usually get to learn to read and write, so few of them wrote gospels.
But, Mary did. Yes, there are ancient fragments of a gospel called the “Gospel According to Mary.” Parts of it are missing, but what remains is fascinating, because it paints a picture of Mary understanding Jesus’ teachings better than the men did, except for one of them, who, I think was Benjamin. (It’s been a long time since I read the gospel.)
Well, in Mary’s gospel, she writes the fascinating teaching: “Ignorance is a sin.”
Wow! When I first read that, I thought, well, that’s not fair, because we cannot help it if we don’t know something. But the truth is that we can help how much wisdom and knowledge we gain in life.
We are responsible for learning. We are responsible for our own level of knowledge. Sounds kind of obvious, doesn’t it? We are responsible for our own level of wisdom. That, too, sounds obvious, doesn’t it?
But where do we go in our culture to learn wisdom? What institutions even exist to help us to become wise? Originally, I believe that was one of the goals of universities: to increase knowledge and wisdom. Now, people seem to go to a university so that they can gain some knowledge and skills so that they can get a job.
Why is it that our culture values how much people earn, how well an athlete performs, how well an actor performs, or how much a person produces in life so much more than we value wisdom and knowledge in the broadest, most universal sense?
As I think of the “leaders” of the world, I think of those who seem angry, discontent, and not full of peace, disrespectful of others. When anger and disrespect are tied together, there is often an underlying fear, and that fear usually arises from ignorance.
When I think of other leaders, like the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis, I see compassion, peace, respect, contentment. What is the difference?
This morning, it came to me during a contemplative moment (meaning the Universe spoke to me), that ignorance as a sin does not merely refer to not knowing something; it means willfully ignoring opportunities to gain understanding; that is, choosing to remain in our current level of understanding, or misunderstanding, as the case may be.
‘Ignore’ is after all, a part of the word ‘ignorance.’
How often do we witness people clashing vehemently over religion and politics because we simply do not want to try to understand one another?
How often do we ourselves simply assume that we will never understand someone or something? How often do we assume that life and the universe simply cannot be understood, and that we will have to accept limited understanding until we die?
One of the most motivating factors in my life has been a desire to understand life, the Universe, and everyone and everything; I dream of being able to have more knowledge about so many different subjects, and often get lost on the internet reading and reading more.
As for wisdom, who has wisdom, what is it, and where does it come from?
Everyone will, of course, have their own answers to those questions. What I have found is that meditation has helped tremendously, along with simply asking the Universe questions as I meditate. If we trust in love and peace and the Universe itself and also trust ourselves, during the quiet of meditation, answers will come. The quality of the wisdom in the answers will depend on our own level of vibration of peace, love, and goodwill.
We cannot understand a Universe or any part of it if we do not have goodwill towards it.
And that is crucial for today, in a time when goodwill is only rarely taught, rarely modeled and rarely understood in the public domain.
I invite us to engage in the goodwill of seeking greater understanding of life and the Universe. I invite us to engage in the goodwill of seeking greater understanding of others – all others, not just the ones we like, love, or agree with.
I invite us to seek understanding, rather than ignoring our own ignorance. And that, I believe, will empower us to create more goodwill in the Universe, instead of less. If we increase goodwill and understanding among human beings, Mary Magdalene will approve!
Peace and goodwill,
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