Part 2: The Difference Between Narrow- Mindedness and Ignorance

(Part 1)

Ignorance

They recognise their own ignorance: There is no shame in acknowledging that we are all ignorant – whether we are rich or poor, male or female, able or disabled, from the frigid North Pole to the scorching hot dunes of the Sahara, we are all ignorant about something. Despite what you’ve been hearing from the hyper-political media of today, ignorance knows no people group. It’s okay to acknowledge this reality. Not only is this okay but recognising the ignorance inside all of us can humble and unify us.

However, if we allow ourselves to think that we are more ignorant than we really are, we might turn ourselves into the victims of narrow-minded people – this can happen to people who are in manipulative relationships with their “friends”, or even with their own family members. These are narrow-minded people who choose to remain willfully blind to their own ignorance so that they can gleefully revel in yours. They can make themselves look like the good guy to you because they make you feel guilty for things that you shouldn’t feel bad about. For example, maybe you’re a man who has to deal with a third-wave feminist telling you that you are part of the “tyrannical” patriarchy.

If you suspect that you are the victim of someone who fits the criteria of a narrow-minded person, don’t be afraid to be sincere and stand up for yourself. If you don’t, you will continuously feel like the impossible is being expected from you. You will be like a rubber band that the other person tries to stretch beyond your limit. Once you snap, you will backlash into their face making them angrier at you than they were before. If you feel like you are being stretched too thin don’t hide your true feelings for too long. Even if you’re aware that you don’t know this person’s experience, don’t doubt that you are in the right by calling him or her out for their closed-minded attitude towards you.

Unknown

Temporary denial: This past summer I found myself in a situation where I thought that people were acting closed-minded towards me, but in reality, I don’t think they intended to be closed-minded. My job search councillor sent me to a meeting with two people who run a career-search workshop. When I got there, these people acted shocked by my life experience that was very different from theirs—they reacted negatively to the things that I haven’t done yet before they knew what I have done. Their emotions seemed to go in this order: unbelief, shock, anger, disappointment and then pity. From their tone of voice, and their impulsive jump into an emotional reaction, my first impression was that they were unopen and unwilling to understand my history, and current situation from growing up as an autistic Military brat moving every two to four years.

I wrote a narrative about my time with them from my perspective, and then e-mailed it to them with a carbon copy to my job search councillor. My job search councillor helped me to see things differently. I realize now that the way I wrote my narrative made me sound closed-minded. She helped me to understand where I might have misinterpreted them. She called the work shop people right after getting my carbon copy. She told me what they said to her—they told her that they learned a lot from what I wrote. I don’t know the background of these people, but somebody told me after this event that people who seldom move may struggle to understand a different kind of life outside of their home town. No matter what the situation, I think that not understanding me right off the bat wasn’t their fault. However, I do wish that they’d reply to my apology e-mail so that I’d know for sure that they forgave me, and that I forgave them.

Were we being narrow-minded, or just ignorant? I don’t know. This is where the barrier between the two starts to become hazy. These two people and myself seem to have fallen into this blurry in-between area. Sometimes emotions cause us to fall into a state of denial against whatever we are hearing or seeing. It’s easy to misunderstand this reaction as closed-mindedness when, in fact, denial might just be the first step in hearing information that seems shocking at first exposure.

This might also be why denial is known as the first step people go through while grieving. In good conscience, we would never say that someone who’s grieving, and experiencing denial is “closed-minded to reality”. We know that it’s nothing more than a temporary reaction to something the person had previously felt was impossible.

Conclusion

I hope that this two part blog post helped you to see ignorance in a more nuanced light. The world today makes ignorance seem so much simpler than it really is and that causes us to hurt each other – can we think differently about this?

Netivity

Christmas will be here in just a few days—Christmas is a time to remember when forgiveness came to us in the form of a newborn baby. When the baby grew up, He showed us how to let go of our narrow-mindedness so that we can see ourselves in others. Try to see yourself in Justin Trudeau—try to see yourself in Donald Trump—this will be hard if you dislike one or both of these men, but it’s worth a try.  I can now see a glimpse of myself in the workshop owners because I know that I reacted similarly towards them to how they reacted towards me.  However, this was just a glimpse.  I still forget my own faults, and then accuse others for shortcomings that I’ve also been guilty of.  The journey towards self-awareness will never end in this life; however, If we are willing to see ourselves in others, we will still be ignorant, but we will never again be narrow-minded.

Let’s bravely say what we truly feel about narrow-mindedness, and have more mercy for other people’s, and our own ignorance.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Part 1: The Difference Between Narrow-Mindedness and Ignorance

Where do we draw the line between narrow-mindedness and ignorance? The line is very fine, so it is difficult to detect it in other people, and even in ourselves; however, it’s important that we learn how to recognize the difference between the two — terrible things can happen if we don’t. We can end up causing a lot of pain because we misunderstood someone else’s ignorance as closed-mindedness, or they misunderstood us in this same way. Knowing the difference between the two might prevent us from expecting others to pay an unrealistic price that shouldn’t have to be paid – all because they, just like us, don’t know everything about the world.

Ignorance is usually harmless, but if we deny that we are ignorant our innocence turns into narrow-mindedness. If we see ourselves as knowing everything, then naturally, we will see others as stupid, uninformed, and maybe even evil.

I decided to split this blog post into two parts.  Today I will list three traits of narrow-minded people.  Tomorrow I will post about one trait of ignorance, and then I’m going to talk about a time this year when I couldn’t recognize the difference between the two in myself and others—I’m going to tell you the story that inspired me to write this blog post in the first place.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part about ignorance, and to read my story.  In the meantime prepare for yourself a steaming hot cup of cocoa (a couple gingerbread and shortbread cookies can’t hurt either) , get comfortable, and join me as we contemplate on three traits of narrow-mindedness that we should look out for in ourselves and others.

Hot Cocoa

Narrow-Mindedness

Calls other people “ignorant”: Whenever I look at media today, the news, internet, etc., I notice a strange trend. The characters on our electronic screens point their fingers at others and call them “ignorant” as if not knowing things makes them evil.  You don’t know anything about Indigenous culture?! “If you are not Indigenous yourself, don’t appropriate that culture and risk misrepresenting it”, or you might learn from your human tendency to be curious about what you are ignorant about. (Gasp! How awful would learning from our ignorance be?)

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant – absolutely nothing.  This word is being overused in a negative way by people who want it to have a strictly negative meaning. We are all ignorant, so if we call others “ignorant” out of pride or spite we risk acting like closed-minded hypocrites.  Whenever we are learning something new we need to start somewhere–we have to start off as being ignorant before we can become informed.  Where else can we start?

They do whatever it takes to avoid understanding you: Some children cover their ears to avoid listening to others; once people grow up, however, this behaviour becomes socially unacceptable. Because of this, adults might resort to other means. These means can include beginning a conversation with someone else while you are trying to talk to them, giving you a dirty look while you are trying to express yourself, changing the subject, or simply walking away to do something else.

Sometimes they will also use noise to block out information that others are trying to give to them. If there have been people in your life who tend to do this, you know that you feel trapped in their presence. If you try to sincerely express your own feelings to them, you can’t get a word in edgewise before they begin to shout at you angrily, roar with laughter, or burst into tears. They sabotage your freedom for the sake of their own.

If these things only last a short while, and later this person shows some willingness to communicate with you to find the truth, this may have not been closed-mindedness in the first place. Maybe this person was just confused or scared. Maybe he or she is now seeking forgiveness and trying to help you to understand what you did that upset them so that you know what you need to be forgiven for. However, if this person never shows any intention to understand you, or helping you to understand them, then this person is choosing to remain closed-minded.

They don’t believe in potential, and the need to change: How often have you heard people say, “You/I don’t need to change anything about your/myself”, “I am perfect just the way I am”, or “you are perfect just the way you are” as if these are complements? This philosophy is rooted in subjectivism, also known as relativism. I spoke about relativism in a blog post called “Smallfoot – Objectivism vs. Subjectivism”. Whenever people say these things, I believe that they want to hold onto their own opinions about you, and themselves whether these opinions are good, bad, true, or false. I know for a fact that I need to change – I need to get better at seeing the good in other people, and to develop my own potential to see other’s potentials. I would hope that others would want to see potential in me to become a better person than I am now — I am not “perfect just the way I am”. If they don’t believe in the need to change their own false perceptions of me, or my own false presuppositions of them, then they are acting like closed-minded relativists. I want to see potential in people who don’t believe in potential. Is that a bad thing?

(Part 2)

Smallfoot – Objectivism vs. Subjectivism

Smallfoot Several months ago, I watched the movie Smallfoot in the theater, and its message really resonated with me. For a children’s movie, its theme was very philosophically mature — maybe even more mature than most movies made for adults today. Plenty of reviews online say that this movie is ‘cute and funny for children while also being well-made, but unoriginal and kind of forgettable’. I must disagree. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I find this movie extremely original. I believe that Smallfoot tries to reveal a step forward for us as a society that is invisible to many people. This movie exercises a theme that has hardly ever been brought to the big screen in these post-modern times without catering to Christians in the western world – this movie is about searching for the absolute truth.

As I was watching this movie, I sensed that the writer really felt the weight of todays ideological war between objectivists and subjectivists. To clarify what I mean by these two terms, I define objectivists as people who believe in facts over opinions and subjectivists as people who believe in opinions over facts.

As a Christian, I also felt that this story was written by somebody who is moved by the Holy Spirit. After a little bit of research, it turned out that my intuition may not have been far off.

According to Movieguide.org, the script was written by a Christian screenwriter named Clare Sera. In an interview, she expresses her awareness of the dangers of demonizing people who aren’t us, especially because we all sin. She says it best like this: “I’m so tired of us making monsters of each other. Which is the major theme in the movie. I understand it’s an easier narrative to dismiss someone if you think they’re evil, and it’s fun because it makes you all the more righteous! But I’m not God. I don’t know who’s righteous or evil in His sight. I just see every single person falling short of His Glory and that includes me.”

What does demonizing others have to do with objectivism or subjectivism? I will answer this question with another question: Do we rely on our own subjective illusions/opinions about other people, or are we patient enough to learn the complex, objective truth about other people that might reveal that they are less different from us than we originally thought? Sera said, “I understand it’s an easier narrative to dismiss someone if you think they’re evil, and it’s fun because it makes you all the more righteous!” Whenever we dismiss others as being completely evil, we can never be wrong in our own eyes. In the same way, whenever we believe that we can never be wrong, or that we don’t have to change, we can’t prevent ourselves from believing that other people are evil. I see no way of escaping this cycle of cause and effect.

Due to the gradual development of subjectivism over the past few decades this mindset has grown into a monster. If a subjectivist has a negative opinion about another person, they will most likely count their own feelings about that person as being completely valid before taking the time to know him/her. We are seeing this happen whenever people get dismissed or attacked for denying that the patriarchy is a grand conspiracy to hold women down.  I can say that I don’t feel oppressed as a woman, and a subjectivist would be likely to brush it off or call me ‘privileged’ for some other reason.  We are seeing this happen whenever people question the motives of the “Black Lives Matter” movement because this movement has been put on a pedestal without any clear, objective meaning behind it, and without a clear answer to why they regard the statement “It’s Okay to be White” as being a disgrace.  To a subjectivist, the truth is relative even when taking other people into consideration.  If people seem good, they are completely good.  If people seem bad, they are completely bad.  If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

IT IS A DUCK.png

We all have tendencies towards acting on our own subjective thoughts even if we’re trying to be objective. We see this happen in the movie when Migo (a yeti) assumes that Percy (a human) doesn’t have any language skills because Migo only hears gibberish when Percy talks.  Percy assumes that Migo is a scary monster who wants to eat him when, in fact, he’s just trying to be friendly.  I see this happen whenever people think that I have nothing important to say because of my struggles with face-to-face interactions.  However, I am certain that there have been many times when people were interested in trying to understand the things that I was trying to say, but I didn’t recognize it in the moment. My mind’s view of you is extremely flawed, as is your mind’s view of me.

We live in a time when it seems that the harder we try to connect with others, the more other’s opinions will create a distance between themselves and us. These opinions, or illusions, can be enforced with religions, -isms, and world-views as represented by the machine in the movie (spoilers ahead).

snow covered mountain

We are told at the beginning of the movie that the yetis believe they live on a mountain that sits on the back of mammoths and float on a massive sea of clouds, and that there is nothing underneath the mammoths but darkness. We are also told that they believe the sun is a giant glowing snail in the sky — it doesn’t wake up until a yeti hits a gong.  This job currently belongs to Migo’s dad — a job that’s expected to be inherited by Migo in the near future.

After Migo explores the world underneath the clouds and sees no mammoths or darkness, but instead encounters the truth of human existence, he begins to question everything that he was taught. The Stonekeeper, an elderly yeti who wears the community’s laws on stones like a suit of protective armor, learns about Migo’s discovery of humans, aka small feet.  Out of fear for the community’s future the Stonekeeper reveals their grim history of trying to befriend humans to Migo — He told Migo that a long time ago humans attacked yetis before they got a chance to know them.  Soon after this the Stonekeeper reveals the massive machine that keeps the illusion going – a machine built inside the mountain that creates steam around it to maintain the illusion that they are floating on clouds. As the Stonekeeper is revealing this factory of turning gears and puffing steam to the younger yeti he raps these words:

“Every job and every task as pointless as it seems

all of it ensures that this important machine

keeps turning and turning and spinnin’ around

so those below don’t look up and those above don’t look down

and they’ll look ‘cause even if they hear of these atrocities

the only thing stronger than fear is curiosity.”

What kind of curiosity is the Stonekeeper talking about? Is he speaking about the curious notion that humans may not be purely bad, but instead, nuanced, and curious themselves? Is he referring to the curious thought that history might be more complex than he assumes it is? At the beginning of his rap he says “…we used to live down there but there were actions that we could not forgive down there.” By not being curious himself he seems to be denying that humans can ever be curious, or open-minded about yetis.  A lack of curiosity regarding the objective truth about other people will naturally lead to unforgiveness.

It’s a lack of forgiveness, and a lack of belief in other people – it’s a lack of belief that we can or need to change, and that other people can and should change, that causes us to hang by the thread of subjectivism. It won’t hold. I’m seeing the thread break. Our world is politically polarized right now. This ideological war is subjectivists vs. objectivists.  The subjectivists seem to be leftists, and the objectivists seem to be libertarians (classical liberals) and conservatives.  On one hand, the subjectivists are holding on tightly to their own opinions about other people; on the other hand, the objectivists are Christians, Agnostics, Atheists, and many others who believe in objective truth, all the while watching the train wreck that is happening on the far left. As we watch this train wreck, we notice how a lack of forgiveness over the sins of our ancestors, and a lack of desire for knowing the objective, nuanced, and often messy truth about who we all are as human beings can destroy us.  We do not want to become like the subjectivists. What can we do about this problem? Can we be curious? I believe that the more we allow ourselves to learn about how human nature unites us, the closer we will come to the transcendent truth.

Sweet Unity

sweetunity

On the day of New Year’s Eve 2019 in the heat of the transformation mindset I have made the rash decision to avoid processed sugars all week, and every week except Sundays. There are multiple normal reasons that I have for doing that, but nothing that’s a matter of life or death. I just wanted to see if this change would make my normal human health problems such as energy spikes and crashes, skin problems, motion sickness, and other things improve so that I can become a healthier version of physically ‘normal’. I told my mom about this on the phone, and coincidentally she said that she had made the decision to avoid desserts until Sundays. “Maybe we can support each other,” she said. Avoiding desserts is a change far less extreme than avoiding the processed sugar that’s in commercial peanut butter and fed to yeast to make bread fluffy, but it was still a similar kind of change.

I thought that this would be fun. I have lost some of my taste for sugar from the time I was a little kid–now if you give me the choice between peanut butter cups and cheezies, I’d go for the cheezies. This will be easy, I thought.

I got into the habit of getting up early in the morning to make myself a hearty sugar-free breakfast of some kind. Over the past few weeks I have made myself plenty of three-egg cheese and spinach omelettes, and they’ve kept me going very well until lunchtime. I’ve been brewing my coffee less strong so that it would taste too sweet for me if I even attempted to put a small amount of sugar in it, while beforehand I would have brewed it so strongly that once I had added my sugar, it would have been as decadent as bittersweet chocolate. I loved, and still do love coffee like this, but it was a lot of caffeine in one little comfort drink. Milder coffee with just a splash of milk has also been tasting really good, but in a different way. My energy, mood, and my stomach feel better now than before I began drinking coffee without sugar. It also cleanses my palate in a nice way after eating an omelet.

I’ve been liking what this choice has been doing for me, but this is the problem— as an over-analyzer of everything including ingredient labels, I could easily allow this choice to make me so self-centered that I can isolate myself from others for the sake of vanity. My arguments for following this restricted diet to such an extreme might not be strong enough and can potentially discredit the challenges of people who have no choice but to avoid sugar.

Why do I think that this choice can be unjustly isolating? I have begun to question this choice on my first day back to my volunteer job at a school when one of the teachers baked a birthday cake for the teacher I work with who had her birthday during the Christmas holidays. This was when I began to think about what a birthday cake, or any other kind of centerpiece dessert that we cut and share symbolizes—it symbolizes coming together to celebrate unity in one good thing. If I had said ‘no’ to a piece of cake I would have been denying the intentions to share for superficial reasons. I accepted a piece of cake and felt no regrets. In fact, my conscious would have been bothering me if I had said ‘no’. This might sound strange to some people, but it actually took willpower for me to accept a wonderful piece of homemade buttery pound cake with whipped cream icing all because of my legalistic tendency towards excessive self-control. Personal freedom takes effort sometimes—can you imagine that?

After this experience I tweaked my New Year’s resolution to include centerpiece desserts, but not a moment too soon I couldn’t help but acknowledge that my friends and family had been continuing to bake homemade treats such as cookies, and offering them to me just like they had always done—same story.  Although physically cookies are not centerpiece desserts that symbolize one unifying sweet that we share In pieces, they are still made with the intentions to share, so I’ve accepted homemade cookies, and the occasional candy. So now I’ve tweaked my resolution again: I will eat sweets whenever they are offered to me in kindness, but I won’t go out of my way to find something with sugar for myself for convenience’s sake. It’s considered normal in today’s world to turn to a vending machine candy due to hunger over taste, and that might be one of the biggest problems we face regarding sugar. There’s no unity involved in getting yourself a package of Pop Tarts just because you’ve missed breakfast. I doubt that there was any love put into the making of convenience sweets either. From now on whenever I’m offered anything sweet I will ask myself: “Is accepting this treat going to allow me to connect, or maintain connection with others?” If the answer it ‘yes’ I will accept it.

Because of my obsessive personality I can easily become an extremist in many aspects of my own life. I either neglect to care about worldly things, or I obsess over them. It’s hard for me to find the in-between, and my diet is not an exception to this problem. This reason is why I’ve thought it best to create rigid rules for myself, and then over time tweak them whenever they are proving to deprive me of whatever is freeing and humbling—this is transformation.  First Timothy 4:4-5 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the work of God and prayer (ESV).”