Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ignorance is Amusing

There is no darkness but ignorance! - Shakespeare

Ignorance is amusing!” a very interesting comment from a very interesting man. It appears that life that lived in the middle ground is cognizant of the many nuances that exist in society. Here is where the amalgam of varied thoughts comes to roost. These thoughts from the periphery are assimilated and a finality of consequences is expressed. These expressers are by no means sages. They are not even intellectuals, especially not intellectuals. They are normal everyday human beings that get up in the morning and go to work. Have family to feed and live their lives in contented harmony of their souls. There are no blaring horns, no screeching brakes, and no rubber on the roads of expression, only simplicity of action.

The periphery in its fringes yelps and ponders, considers and interprets, shouts and debates, articulates and compromises, cajoles and threatens, sweetens and poisons, demands and strikes all in the name of reality. Something strange is going on here. Something that is quite contrary to the larger truth. Something equally as stubborn that defies in the face of reason.

The amusement of this weathered gentleman seemed infectious. He was not belligerent nor was he apologetic, just calmly considerate of reality. “Whenever there is anger, belying emotion there is always a considered threat. This threat can take any form. It can be a fear of loss, a loss of finances, anger related to belief, a loss of position, a loss of entitlement, a loss of power or even an expressed contrary opinion. This anger carries with it venom of such virulence that a perfectly calm persona can be reduced to an emotive wreck.” He shuddered, almost as if to rid of the feeling, of this decay of the human mind, of this laziness of thought and of mediocrity.

“But that is every person. We are all suited in opinions based on our own reality. Isn’t it?”

“Yes and that is the problem. Sometimes it is indoctrination, sometimes it is peer-pressure, sometimes it is plain ideology for power and other times it is plain laziness. But in all, there is an element of ignorance.”

“But the mind will confirm its prejudices?”

“Yes and that happens continuously in daily life. We see what we want to see. We hear what we want to hear and then join the chorus when such thoughts rhyme with ours and the symphony continues to draw us into its magical spell.” He reasoned quietly, “But it is up to us to be critical, to question, to understand the reality and the motive. It is for us…” He stopped talking and for a lengthy moment bent his head in deeper thought, as if anymore could not be expressed in words.

“So how does one purge such predetermined thoughts?”

“Easy.” He said, rising to the moment again, and his hand that had been stroking his chin and curling the gravity pulled skin into folds, let go momentarily and fell by his side, “Get rid of ignorance!”

Interesting how he sees the world. It is not all black and white. There is a lot of grey, as it exists in reality. But in that grey are the components of black and white. “There is no Shangri-La. There is no Utopian existence. Life is all blood, sweat and tears and if it is not then ignorance prevails. Ignoring reality can only last so long. It is a self-defeating code of existence. It is failure!” His voice a decibel higher but in control, his continence a shade rubious. He fell quiet for a moment, contemplating his next words with conserved measure.

“But knowledge is both true and contrived?

“Reality is real intelligence. True one cannot know all the facts because some are hidden but an average mind with average mental assets can determine right from wrong as it can differentiate between good and evil. The measure of life is in that and that alone,” he paused, “The difference is truth remains constant while contrived facts are constantly modified.”

Walking away from his humble abode, an inexpensive cottage perched atop a small hill, enclosed by the forest of nature; one got the feeling that this was no ordinary person. His wealth was in his mind. His riches in the banks were tools for advancement of science and life. He used those resources for a cause greater then himself. He used them for enhancing life.

It wasn’t like this forever. He grew up as a quiet meek kid in center city. He was one of eight and food was distributed in quantities that just barely satiated desire. Summers were always hot and the single fan blew a hot breeze on all of them lined up barrack style in their four-room home. But they were happy. He had a family that loved him and encouraged education. He would spend many hours a week under the trees and street lamps to read. He went to a public school and there he garnered a scholarship for his math capability. He went to a state college and paid his way doing odd jobs including pizza delivery every night after college. He married but never fathered a child, which tormented him all his life.

Life took its twisted turns and eventually landed him as a Chief Operating Officer of a Fortune 500 company. Money poured in and life became more comfortable for him then he desired. He convinced his wife to leave the expensive digs and move into his current modest cottage. There, retired from all obligations he learned to cook, bake, garden and think. He taught at a local community college and tutored kids who asked questions and several hovered around him as much as they could and would try every opportunity to gain access to him. If they could get an evening of his undivided attention at his cottage, which he granted once a month, they considered it a great gift. His tutoring started with one student and at last count there were fourteen, the maximum his cottage living room could afford to house in comfort. Even though what he said was simplistic but how he said it and worded it made them hungry for more. He never raised his voice just their consciousness. There was much to learn and much the students did learn. When asked he would say this was the best time of his life because he was helping shape the future.

He left a legacy for all students; a scholarship fund for any student with certain achievements that he defined. There were to be no committees. The student could apply and if he fulfilled certain criteria he could walk away with a scholarship. The only review was by a non-partisan out of state three-member body that confirmed the criteria. There was no politics involved and no enticement or inducement. It was simplicity at its best.

It was the summer of the following year when the ingenious clock of his thoughtful time came to a peaceful end. The known lion of ridding ignorance had passed and as his life had maintained, his death followed suit; he donated his life’s savings to improving literacy. He died to live through others. He gave others a chance to live in the real world. He was a lion in his beliefs and a martyr to his cause. He was the original banner against ignorance.

The world inexorably glides through space, turning and turning leaving its orbit ever so slowly by fractions as the universe expands. Time allots its vengeance on those that live in ignorance as well as those in the know, yet it is only the knowledgeable that are remembered by those that follow. It is only the truth seekers that live and make a difference. The rest, merely exist.

The cottage still stands, overgrown with weeds. The flowers that grow are all wild now. Life here has come and gone and maybe will come again in the form of another stranger. Where he will take it no one knows. But for now and until then this remains his domain, where once the cacophony of simple and complex questions from young students agitated the quiet and the quiet hush of students amidst the low baritone voice of the aged, wise teacher once filled the arrow of time.

It was in one of those last times when I saw him. His eyes had reduced to slits with overhung thick grey brows curling about in chaos, a crop of white unruly hair crowned his head and his sun drenched wrinkled skin like a freshly plowed field gave him even more majestic a presence. His frame was supported by a walking stick as he leaned over and in his usual quiet reserved manner said, “Remember, Knowledge is Strength!”

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