Ignorance and Stupidity

None of us enjoy being referred to as “ignorant” or “stupid”. It’s unflattering and annoying. It’s also not necessarily true. There’s a big difference between ignorance and stupidity. Do you know what it is?

I’m ignorant of a lot of things – the precise way nuclear energy is used in a reactor, for example. I’m sure I could learn, but I’ve no interest in know what goes on to make the energy we use here in Central PA from the Three Mile Island reactor any more than having some overwhelming desire to understand how the desktop I’m using right now actually works.

Grandma Esther once asked me if I knew the difference between the two words. Here’s her explanation: “An ig’rant person you can learn; but a stupid person ya jist gotta take back of the barn and shoot ‘em”. I think she was kidding; I’m sure she was; but then again we’re talking about my grandmother and she was a pretty good shot.

The point she was making was that ignorance is nothing about which to be ashamed. It’s correctable. Stupidity we just have to live through and hope not to repeat. We can choose to learn about subjects that we do not understand. We can choose to change our experience. It sounds a lot like Ernest Holmes’ belief of “changing your thinking – change your life”…and it is. Grandma Esther might not have finished eighth grade, but she was wise beyond some I’ve met who have academic recognition.

Feeling ignorant can cause us to feel less than those around us. It can stop us from moving ahead with dreams, goals and plans. It can paralyze our efforts to improve our circumstances. It wasn’t until I returned to college in my forties that my mother, then in her mid-seventies, announced that if I could go back to school then she could, too. She returned to high school, the oldest in her class, and achieved her GED in just a few short months. Seeing herself as a drop-out her entire life had convinced her that she was stupid. She was neither stupid, nor ignorant, as her classes proved. She shined as the student most devoted to study. She discovered, much to her surprise, that her years of living had provided an education far beyond what was required for her to pass her exams.

As for stupidity, well…I don’t recommend Grandma Esther’s suggestion. I do, however, acknowledge that I, along with everyone else, tend to do stupid things from time-to-time. The point is not that we might or will do stupid things, but how we react to that reality. That will be the focus of my next blog, “Frying Bacon in the Nude”. Stay tuned! I’ll be back to you after August 18th when we return from our trip abroad!

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Dr. Terry

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