When This Is, That Is

Exploring the world of conditionality

A Small Case of Ignorance

ignoranceI live in a suburban residential area where the speed limit is 25 mph. In the neighborhood is a middle school, where the speed limit drops to 20 mph at the beginning and end of the school day, when children are arriving and departing. One morning, as I was leaving the neighborhood and approaching the school zone, I saw ahead of me two boys walking along the sidewalk. One of them wore a hoody that obscured his peripheral vision. The other was intent on some electronic device—a phone or game. Neither showed any sign of awareness that a car was coming toward them as they sauntered across the street right in my path.

No, I didn’t hit them. I noticed them in plenty of time and anticipated what they might do. 

On the surface, this is just one of thousands of examples of child-like behavior. It’s the kind of thing kids do, and it’s why the speed limit is decreased in school zones. There are kids everywhere.

On a deeper level, it’s just another example of ignorance. And here I don’t use the word to mean stupid. I mean ignorance of reality, ignorance of what is really happening. Those boys were ignorant of an approaching car and ignorant of any danger. With their lack of vision and occupied with their distractions, they simply weren’t aware of what was happening around them. 

But at what point in a child’s life does he or she cross the threshold from a state of ignorance to a state of awareness? Sixteen? Eighteen? Twenty-one? As I noted above, the speed limit is reduced in school zones because kids are everywhere. And those kids need to be protected from drivers who’s awareness is impaired by thousands of distractions, drivers who may be ignorant of what’s going on around them.

There is no built-in threshold a person automatically crosses from ignorance to awareness. Indeed, many people remain ignorant of reality their entire lives. They like their hoodies and their distractions, and they are unaware that the world is anything otherwise. It is their reality. 

But there is a reality outside the distractions, just as there was for the boys who walked in front of my car as it was heading toward them.


• Can you think of one or two adult instances where you saw the foolishness or danger in someone else’s behavior, but they could not see it?

• If so, is it possible that others can see the foolishness or danger in something you are doing but can’t see?

• If there is a state of “the way things really are,” is it possible to be in it?

• If so, how do you get there?

• What do you think?

3 Responses to A Small Case of Ignorance

  1. Sabio says:

    Yeah, we all have models for things — it is unavoidable.

  2. Sabio, when I was in my 20s or thereabouts, I got this idea I called cosmic truth. Although I was a practicing Catholic at the time (outwardly, anyway) cosmic truth was not of God, but beyond (0r even without) God. Later came the Hubble telescope, which gave me a workable metaphor. Hubble is this gigantic eye trained on the universe. It sees what’s happening. And there are trillions upon trillions of things happening at once. There is no interpretation of what’s happening, nor any judgment. But there is just this constant stream of things happening, with one event leading to the next. The stream is as wide as the universe and runs in all directions. To me, that’s the way things really are—on the cosmic level and on the microcosmic level.

    Mixed into to the stream are human beings who are capable of interpreting events and making judgements about them. I’m told that in quantum theory, just observing a particle’s behavior changes its behavior. The same seems true for people. Watch what they do and they change what they do (so long as they know they are being observed). That, too, is the way things are.

    And that’s what I think! 😉

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

  3. Sabio Lantz says:

    (1) Yes, a buddy just died because he did not wear a helmet on his motorcycle ride.
    (2) I do stupid things all the time too
    (3) I don’t think there is a state of “the way things really are” — it is a silly abused Buddhist myth in my humble opinion.
    (4) So you can’t get there
    (5) THAT is what I think 🙂

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