Mindfulness, Patience, and Ignorance

 Topic: Mindfulness, Patience, and Ignorance

“Knowledge is wonderful and truth serene. But man in their service bleeds.”

Bhartrihari, seventh-century Hindu poet

"The greater part of the population is not very intelligent, dreads responsibility, and desires nothing better than to be told what to do. Provided the rulers do not interfere with its material comforts and its cherished beliefs, it is perfectly happy to let itself be ruled." -Aldous Leonard Huxley, English writer and philosopher.

Sometimes, we encounter somebody who holds an idea that is so ridiculously backwards that it makes any rational person’s head spin. One obvious example is those who firmly and sincerely believe that the Earth is flat. This idea is so profoundly stupid that anyone who asserts such instantly loses about sixty IQ points in my estimation of them. We have known for a fact that the Earth is a big ball for literally thousands of years. And yet, they persist. Now, as beings with intelligence greater than the common housefly, we have two options when we encounter this specimen in the wild: We can either try to answer their stupidity, or we can leave it alone. Since there is no way to convince someone wearing a tinfoil hat that they are being ridiculous, it is far better for one’s Serenity to just keep right on scrolling. Or just nod your head and say “Uh-huh” and change the subject to something even more blatantly obvious than the shape of the planet. (Question, though: Do they think all the planets are flat? Or just the Earth?)

While it can be truly painful to realize that technically, somebody who believes the planet is a disk is the same species as you are, one has to realize that not everyone is ready to even start seeking Enlightenment, which of course begins by seeking the truth in all things. Some people will spend their entire lives in ignorance. Education only works if the mind is ready to accept and assimilate new information, and there are a few people who just do not want to do that. (I went to high school with several such people, and to church with a whole lot more.)

People are also truly apathetic and ill-informed. Unless it is happening on their doorstep, they do not concern themselves with the world’s problems. They are happy to de-humanize anyone not like them, especially if their source of news tells them how inhuman others really are. They support anyone who claims to share their beliefs, paying little attention to what those same people actually do. As long as they have cars and houses and streaming video to keep them entertained, it is true that the majority could not care less about what others are suffering. Millions go to church each week and nod and sing along, never applying the underlying messages of generosity and altruism that most modern religions seem to at least be trying to convey. Mostly what they take away from church is that they are special, enjoying a cozy relationship with good old God that will buy them a place in Heaven. They do not need to change and grow in any way, they can just keep mouthing the right words and they are in. Any challenge to this core belief is met with the utmost hostility.

All of this means that anyone seeking Enlightenment must deal with people who are not seeking it. We must deal with others as Patiently and Mindfully as we can, recognizing that you cannot convince somebody that they are wrong in what they believe. Sometimes it is almost physically painful to see somebody saying something so wrong you expect the sky to split open and a lightning bolt to strike them for being so uninformed. But it is not your job to awaken or enlighten somebody who has already made up their mind. For your own Serenity, just let them be. Every soul comes to Enlightenment in their own time and in their own way, and coming at them with something that will feel like an attack is rarely necessary. In most cases, ignorance is just an irritation, like poor spelling and grammar, and correcting them is just giving them more attention. (One reason you should absolutely call out ignorance is if it is also racist. That shit actually hurts people.)

Have you ever gotten into an argument with somebody who believed something ridiculous? Did you manage to change their mind?


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