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Ignorance and Arguments

This was a comment left on the blog in response to my post yesterday, titled “Trouble in Texas.” The original question that I responded to yesterday was, “Due to the ignorance of others here in Texas, I get no leverage and I try to remain peaceful, but its very hard, I get frustrated. What should I do to ignore these conservatives and reach Enlightenment?”

And as my response, I pointed to a previous article about Dealing with Hatred.

Comment:

I am a little disappointed in your answer for two reasons; 1: the author did not ask about how to deal with hatred, he asked how to deal with the ignorance of others. 2; I really wanted your opinion on the subject because I have wanted to ask the very same question MANY times as I have struggled with the same subject many times.

Other than that keep up the good work, I find that your writing stimulates the thoughts of others, and that cannot be a bad thing.

Response:

First, let me point out that if you wanted to ask the question many times, then you should have asked sooner! I love to answer questions, they give me something to write about. So by asking questions, you’re doing me a favor as much as you are helping yourself by asking. Don’t hesitate or fear to email me! I’m always eager to tackle any topic.

Now, on to your real comment. I feel that ignorance and hatred are heavily intertwined. Generally, we fear or hate things we don’t fully understand, and we don’t try to understand things that we instinctively hate. It’s a major catch-22, and we have to try to handle those subjects carefully.

In theory, if you are simply running into plain ignorance, then all you have to do is explain yourself to the person in question and they won’t be ignorant any more. It’s rarely that simple, since there is either fear or hate involved. Fear and hate are powerful barriers to an open mind. Still, simple explanations are probably the best place to get started if you really want to beat ignorance and teach others.

One way to co-exist with those who are judgmental is to simply not give them anything to judge you with; become a model of good Buddhist behavior, live the life and be a real role-model. Personally, I don’t walk around town advertising the fact that I’m a Buddhist; there are only a handful of non-Internet friends and family that even know I am one. I see no need to tell everyone what I believe, as there are always some people who are going to judge me in a negative way. Yes, that’s due to ignorance on their part, but I know that I cannot educate everyone, especially those who have already made up their minds. I’m perfectly happy being the best Buddhist I can be in my actions and words, and every once in a while when the topic comes up with a friend or colleague, it’s the perfect opportunity to explain things to them. By demonstrating in my day-to-day actions that Buddhists aren’t “Heathen Idolators” (or whatever some people want to call us out of ignorance) people are much more open to my opinions when it does eventually come up.

I’m talking about Buddhism, but the same goes for the original questioner’s opinions on gay marriage, abortions, philosophy, and Communism. Both sides of each of the topics he mentions have strong arguments that make perfect sense to the people who advocate them; neither side is clearly wrong or blatantly stupid, although at times the opposition probably feels otherwise.

People in California are generally speaking more liberal-minded than those in Texas; that doesn’t make either group right or wrong. Still, if the writer is walking around Texas in a Che Guevera t-shirt carrying his Marx book and holding his boyfriend’s hand at the Pro-Choice rally, he’s going to find a lot of people unwilling to accept, or even listen to, his ideas. The writer didn’t say he was doing those things, but he definitely seems to have an issue with Conservatives, so I get the impression that the hostility may be mutual. I don’t intend to attack anyone, but sometimes the people who yell the loudest about others ignorance are the ones trying hardest to shove their own ideas down someone else’s throat. If this is the case, then he needs to examine why it is so important to him to change the minds of others and let that go.

I’ve always found that a little diplomacy goes a long way, and simply keeping my mouth shut in some situations goes even farther. If you go out looking for a fight, it’s usually pretty easy to find one.

6 comments to Ignorance and Arguments

  • Z

    the same goes for the original questioner’s opinions on gay marriage, abortions, philosophy, and Communism. Both sides of each of the topics he mentions have strong arguments that make perfect sense to the people who advocate them; neither side is clearly wrong or blatantly stupid, although at times the opposition probably feels otherwise.

    While I do agree that what people believe makes perfect sense to those advocating it, sometimes it is because they are ignoring the flaws in their arguments and justifying things that cause suffering. A faulty argument is clearly “wrong thinking” and can allow people to justify committing acts that cause suffering.

    In the case of gays, what people do with each other (be it social, business or otherwise) is no one else’s business. Whether we approve of it or not is irrelevant unless it directly causes us suffering.

    In the case of political systems, any system that advocates theft, coercion and/or violence is flawed and thus “wrong”, but many advocate one system over another because it “serves the greater good”. This ignores the suffering of a few to the benefit of many. For some, this is acceptable. I do not agree.

    The majority of suffering in the world that is man-made comes from trying to exert control over the behavior of others through violence, coercion and theft and that is clearly bad karma.

    My advice is not to concern yourself with what others do unless they are causing direct harm to you or another person. Cease trying to control them and instead, focus your attention on improving your life and the lives of those you love.

  • Brian Schell

    Someone emailed this to me:

    I would like to add something to this (what is becoming a) discussion.

    My first response to the Texas-troubled person is: please do not ignore the ignorance of others. This would mean denying a great opportunity for learning how your own mind works. Many times your worst enemy can be your best teacher. So I would recommend seeking out what makes you want to ignore others who think differently? Why do you care? What is the root of this emotion? Try and meditate on this.

    Besides the above, I would also advise to avoid setting quite unreachable goals. Don’t aim for enlightment. Enlightment should not be a goal; it is nothing but an impermanent state of being you allready have. You are enlightened; you just don’t know it yet. So, set reachable goals now. But don’t force yourself. This will only produce counteractive results.

    Thank you for the opportunity of sharing my thoughts.

  • Lee

    when I began training I wanted to tell everyone about it.. I was an executive in a large corporation owned by Texans… I thought everyone was open minded and would think my discoveries were great. I was wrong. I lost my job. Then I learned a bigger lesson … as I tried to share ‘what I knew’ I realized there was a great responsibility in the sharing because I might mislead others and cause more problems and challenges for the person… I then took the admonition to ‘make them ask three times before speaking… then tell them how hard it is to be a buddhist… let the moss grow on your mouth.” I now only speak when the person wanting to know….REALLY wants to know.. and I am very careful what I share.

  • Godai

    It’s funny how easy it is foe us to see the “ignorance” of others. You create your own universe…your wisdom, others ignorance…your ignorance, others wisdom. It’s funny how we think our ransient thoughts and delusions are more valid than theirs.

  • Walt

    I have worked for non-profits for many years and have come across all stripes of political and religious affiliations. One aspect of this that continues to strike me is that no matter how much I may disagree with some of these colleagues about this or that issue, we somehow manage to work together with common goal of helping others.

  • joann

    When it all seems chaotic and senseless,I use a meditation that helps me instantly. I call it “no more stone throwing” Imagine life as a huge pond and there are many of us throwing rocks into it to– disturbing the natural flow and habitat of it. Step away from a problem(pond) and stop throwing (new problems,attitudes,views) into the beauty that is there. Observe the stillness as you harness your life and thoughts and it will all gain a greater perspective.

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