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.

Questions:

• 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?