How To Not Be Ignorant
Remember the movie Pocahontas? The two most curious characters in the story are John Smith and Pocahontas. The second John touches down on the “New World” he’s off singing songs and climbing mountains. Pocahontas spends her time jumping off waterfalls and singing about what’s “just around the river bend.”
There’s a wonderful shot in the film where Pocahontas comes to a fork in the river. The left side features calm water, and the right side features heavy rapids. Do I really have to tell you which side she chooses?
You can chalk this up to her being an adrenaline junkie, but I’d more-so chalk it up to curiosity.
Contrast Pocahontas and John Smith with everybody else in the movie. The “settlers” have no desire to be curious. They’re here to do a job, find some gold, and get some glory back home. They know the “savages” aren’t to be trusted. They know there’s gold in the New World. Why be curious when you already know?
Same with the Indians. They’re sure that all the settlers are here to bring death and destruction. While they’re right about 99% of the settlers, they’re wrong about John Smith, who has an inquisitive heart.
After exploring the New World with a curious eye, John comes to understand it in ways the rest of the settlers could never dream of.
How To Not Be Ignorant
I’m a very ignorant person. As I’ve lived here in the Philippines for the last year, I’ve had no choice but to approach brand new situations every single day with curiosity.
Should I get into that rickety tricycle that looks dangerous? Sure.
I learned they’re not dangerous.
Should I go into that house and drink beer with a bunch of strangers after they invited me in? Sure.
We had a great time.
Should I roll the dice and head to Mindanao, one of the most dangerous parts of the Philippines, to do a collaboration with some other vloggers? Yes.
It didn’t seem as dangerous as everyone in Manila thinks.
All of these situations could’ve ended in catastrophe. The metal sidecar could’ve broken loose from the tricycle at 30 KM per hour. I could’ve gotten kidnapped by the people I was drinking beer with. I could’ve gotten kidnapped in Mindanao and been held for ransom or killed.
That last one has happened to foreigners here before.
Everyone always tells me of the risks involved with curiosity — and nobody mentions the rewards.
Curiosity is often frowned upon.
Take Curious George, for example. The main message behind these books is that curiosity causes lots of destruction and chaos.
The flip side of curiosity seems to be obedience, compliance, and restraint. If Curious George were always obedient, it would be the most boring book in the history of children’s books.
Sure, curiosity can absolutely go too far. There’s a pretty funny cartoon of Curious George laying dead next to a jar of acid that I’ve seen before. People can get themselves into all kinds of trouble by being too inquisitive, but I think curiosity can be the key to killing ignorance, too, not just the cat.
Curiosity is dangerous. You have to take a risk, though, to destroy ignorance.
Approach Every Situation With This Mindset
In Pocahontas, the settlers knew the Indians were “savages.” As the audience, we know this isn’t true, and that the settlers are the real savages.
Ask yourself, “What do I know?”
Imagine seeing a homeless person on the street. What do you know about them? You know that they’re most likely either drug addicts or faking it to get your money. But you see, you don’t know that.
Making assumptions is the enemy here.
External stimuli in our environment invoke the same assumptions in our mind, forcing the same reactions from us, further reinforcing what we think is true.
What if you change something in that chain of events, though? What if you change your assumption, or react differently to the stimuli?
Now you’re going to get a different outcome, and you may go further into the rabbit hole than you bargained for. One thing’s for sure, though, you’re going to understand the situation a lot better.
If you’re a close-minded conservative and you tune to CNN, a lightning-fast chain of events occur in your brain that probably end with you changing the channel. You may assume they’re fake news. Hell, you probably know they’re fake news. So your reaction is to click away.
If you insert curiosity into this mix, though, then you may stay for a few minutes and listen. If you insert even more curiosity into the mix, you may hear their coverage and find out it’s actually not fake news.
Maybe it is, though.
You got to insert curiosity into your life more if you want to banish ignorance and see things for how they really are.
To me, curiosity is the cure to ignorance.