You are ignorant. I'm sorry, but it's true. And that's okay. Because there are SO many things to know in this world that there is no way anybody can know them all. So you're ignorant. Own it.
Ignorance is not the same as stupidity. Ignorance does not mean you are incapable of learning or understanding. It just means that on this particular occasion you haven't learned (yet) and you don't understand.
I am a Gemini and I love to collect information. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I am addicted to information. I can't get enough of it. If there is something that has piqued my interest and I have not yet satisfied my curiosity, I can't sleep. If life interrupts my research, I might have an anxiety attack. I have notebooks and spreadsheets and text files so jam packed with information. I even have Wikis full of notes, cross referenced and foot-noted because I am a total geek. Some of these I've made public, some remain private. But I remain ignorant of a lot of things. Some things just never cross my radar until I'm confronted with them, some things I have zero interest or need for (wouldn't it be nice if these were always the same things) and I am sure I have forgotten at least 99.9% of everything I've learned. I know this to be true because I've been keeping notebooks of odd facts since the '80s and I just moved and found a bunch of them and they were full of stuff I didn't know I ever knew.
Yes, I am truly ignorant. I own it. And that's hard for someone like me.
The word "ignorant" is one that's thrown around the Pagan community a lot and that's a real problem. I remember when I first stepped into the community I heard that word a lot and it bothered be, because of my nature and made me feel like I had to learn everything so that I could fit in, so nobody would think I am ignorant. And that was not only unnecessary, but probably detrimental to my development.
You see, as a Pagan seeker, it is a good thing to kind of get a general overview of what everyone else is doing, but trying to learn everything means that you're going to miss something very important and that is the in-depth knowledge and wisdom that comes from studying your own path.
I know a lot of things about other Pagan groups because I keep a calendar of local events that include the activities of Heathen, Wiccan, Druid and other Pagan and Magical organizations and lots of metaphysical shops. So I am familiar with terms like blot and fire watch and Diana's Bow and such and sometimes I get curious and do a little research to find out what they're all about but for the most part, I am ignorant of the details. I don't have to know more than that they happen and where and when they happen because none of these things things apply to my personal path. (except maybe fire watch, I will get to one of those one day). If I decide to go to one, because a friend is hosting or invites me to be a guest, I will do more research so I know what to expect and what is expected of me, but for now it's not necessary.
What I do have to know is what my own Gods expect of me and what I can expect from them, their stories and my own ritual process. I don't have to know yours. I do have to know my own moral code, but not yours. And you don't have to know mine, unless you want to. I'd be happy to share.
These are the subjects I am most interested in: ethnobotany, ethnocynology, homesteading, cooking, baking, nutrition, Hellenic Lore, gardening, learning theory. I'm sure there's more but it's kinda early and I'm only halfway through my tea. (For my ignorant readers: ethnobotany is the study of the relationship between human culture and plants and ethnocynology is the study of the relationship between human culture and dogs.) These are big general subjects and I do not know everything about any one of them. These are the subjects that I will turn up NPR and shush everyone else in the car over. These are the subjects that I will join in strangers' conversations at the bar over. These are the subjects that I get particularly sensitive about when someone tells me I am ignorant of them. But those people are simply ignorant of the fact that I know more than the average bear about these things and maybe I'm just ignorant of that one little bit they're talking about.
The most upsetting thing about being labelled ignorant about something, especially something you are actually interested in learning more about, is that it tosses up an emotional barrier that actually blocks you from learning more.
For example: If I am talking about the abduction of Persephone, which is a subject I have researched deeply and am passionate about, and someone says to me "Oh you are so off base, I can't believe how ignorant you are." That person has just put up an emotional barrier between us. A barrier that will actually block me from taking the natural next step and saying "What makes you say that? Do you have more information that I don't have that you can share with me so that we can both walk away from this encounter enriched?" (paraphrasing of course). Instead I will either become embarrassed and awkward and seek my immediate escape, or I will become defensive and the whole thing will eventually descend into nothing more than the petty trading of insults.
If that person said instead "Interesting, but that's not the way I understand it. I read a book by Mr. Blah that focused brilliantly the cultural context of the story." I would be hooked. That person would be my best friend for the rest of the night and I would have a new author on my bucket list.
On the other hand, if someone is talking about say, football, and they say "Mr. Jockman is the greatest doer of whatever impressive thing football players do of all time". The only intelligent response I am capable of making is "I heard football descended from Aztec human sacrifice rituals." but my conversational companion will probably not appreciate that at all. So I must confess my ignorance, apologize and try to move the conversation to something else lest I be educated.
Yes, there is such a thing as willful ignorance and I own that too. Honestly, there is only so much space in my brain. Yes, Aztec human sacrifice rituals are welcome there. Football stats are not. I don't imagine this could ever be a problem for me. After all I have to make room for other completely uninteresting facts I can't afford to ignore, like how much money I need to scrape together to live this month, and when my car needs its next oil change and how to keep that furnace running. But willful ignorance must be carefully applied or it can be a problem. Like the time I allowed myself to be ignorant of the the fact that my boyfriend was willfully ignorant of the fact that his employer wasn't doing his taxes right the entire time I knew him. Yea, that landed on my head the year after we got married. (If you're wondering, said employer had absolutely no negative repercussions and it only took us 4 years to pay off the debt.)
The problem is, people just assume if someone is ignorant they are either willfully ignorant or incapable of learning. This is not usually the case and the assumption is unhelpful. The discovery of someone else's ignorance is an opportunity to enrich both your lives because, assuming the person has interest in the topic, he or she probably knows some stuff about it you don't as well. Using someone else's ignorance to stroke your own ego and make you feel like a superior being is not only rude, it is missing the opportunity to take an actual, functional step toward greatness. (arete)
On the other hand, when caught in ignorance, people generally end up either embarrassed or defensive. This too is unhelpful, but we've been taught to be ashamed of our ignorance. Don't be. You really do only have so much space in your mind. Fill it with things that are important to you and bugger the rest. If you do find you're ignorant of something that's important to you, view it as an opportunity to take another step toward greatness. Even if someone shuts you down, just make one more effort to salvage the opportunity by saying something like "Why do you say that, can you give me a specific example?" or "the way I understood it… blah… have you seen something different?" to give the other person the opportunity to join you in self improvement.
Ignorance is an opportunity for growth. If everyone knew everything, there would be no reason to do anything and where would be the point?
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