No Cure for Ignorance, Only Better Ignorance

10/01/2019

While I consider philosophy, history, and political books recreational reading, it is always refreshing to go back to the genre that introduced me to reading in the first place – fantasy. What better than the late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, containing equal parts humour, insightful quotes, and the only flat-earth theory that I would ever accept if such a thing were true. But it’s the middle one I wish to mention, as there was a specific quote from the third novel, Equal Rites (a great pun), about ignorance.

“They both savoured the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were only ignorant of ordinary things.”

In the context of the book, two of the wizards at the Unseen University are contemplating what one of the new students had given lectures about earlier regarding the world itself (the preceding lines are quoted here). They are revelling in their extensive ignorance about the nature of their world, something we should all strive to do as well in ours. It is my boundless ignorance that drives my desire to read up on history and current events, and the more I read the more I realise that I know so laughably little. It’s great.

When people compliment me on my knowledge, writing, etc. I never know quite how to react. Half of that probably has to do with social ineptness and being unsure of how to react, resulting in an awkward nod and smile or an even more awkward laugh.* But mostly it is because I quite often disagree with what they said. If the comment is “You know so much about Australian politics”, I would only consider myself to be adequately informed, and if you talk about Prime Ministers before Howard’s time I would have to admit I probably know more about the exploits of their US contemporaries. If the comment relates to said US exploits, then I would have to admit my knowledge is severely lacking. Modesty? Perhaps a little, but I won’t pretend to know things I don’t, and I’m sure that list is much greater than the list of things I do know.

So I would encourage ignorance. Not the kind of ignorance you see on commercial news comments sections, like Nine or Fox, but educated ignorance. A realisation that the world you know is but a fraction of what exists. Whether that is in science – where such statements are more prominent – and acknowledging that the universe is so far out of our comprehension that our best scientific minds dedicate their lives to solving its mysteries; or if it is the history of our world and an understanding of why things transpire the way they do where there is always new information to gain, a new perspective to observe.

The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know. If you don’t have a passion to keep learning, to keep gaining knowledge and broadening your ignorance, then you truly will remain ignorant.

* An old friend of mine once complimented me on my knowledge and asked me a question regarding Russia. His only reply to my answer was “That’s hot.” Homo-sapiosexual jokes aside, that really had me stumped for a response.

 

Liked this? Read Dark Emu: A Reflection

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