21 May 2012

Ignorance: It's a Good Thing

“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties.” - Sir Francis Bacon

"I know one thing, that I know nothing" - Socrates

It seems counter-intuitive, but the state of ignorance is important to one's personal development.

How could that possibly make sense? My mind reels against the very idea - the very absurdity - in this, the "information age," where so much knowledge is readily available at the speed of the beasts that pull my chariot (modem, router, etc.) through the ethereal realms of knowledge - on safari, so to speak, to hunt down the big game and haul back the answers to life's big questions.

Ironically, ignorance is often misunderstood as being stupid or witless. It is true that ignorance can be a source of many troubles or mistakes. But is it ignorance as in a lack of knowledge, or is it ignorance as in the presupposition of knowledge (ignorance of the fact of one's ignorance) that gets us into trouble?

So how is it that ignorance should be important to one's personal development? The answer to the question is simply: all understanding and all experience begins in ignorance. To gain understanding, let go of presumption and belief. Make room for the truth; become ignorant and approach the world through the eyes of innocence.

Even when armed with the method of research - which is a skill, a tool, something of which we are born with the base elements (ie: our senses) which we must learn to refine and forge and hone - we should begin all inquiries in a state of ignorance.

The first card of the Tarot
This is the thought that lead me to begin reading about things like the Tarot. There are many people who believe in these things despite having little to no "scientific" evidence to back up the validity or the practice of such "occult sciences." On the other hand, many more people assume all sorts of things about the folks who practice such "superstitious" rituals - that they're hippies, Devil worshipers, wearing rose-colored glasses or have their heads in the clouds and so on. I'm not going into my own thoughts on that matter, nor will I attempt to persuade you toward one conclusion or another. But consider that The Fool is the first card in the Tarot (generally represented by zero). Alone or depending on its dignity (its relation to surrounding cards) it can signify great potential or opportunity...and what could possibly have more potential than complete ignorance?

If we presume to be certain of anything at all about something, we are prone to cloud our understanding of it and to start down other avenues of misinformation. But if we presume to know nothing before approaching and experiencing a thing, then we are open to the joy of transforming doubts into knowledge and understanding. Keeping oneself in a state of ignorance allows one to let go of presumptions and experience truth for what it is, rather than what one expects or wants it to be. It is ignorance that truly allows us to move forward and to learn, but one must choose to use ignorance in this way - to keep an open mind, unbiased by past experience or by the things that other people have taught you. I'm not saying that one should not endeavor to learn or forget all that one has learned, but to put Ignorance to use so that one may continue to learn.