Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Pinhole of Ignorance

Once upon a time I was a naive seventh grader.  Like most people (at least those I've talked to), my middle school experience was miserable.  I was not popular, or pretty.  I was still of the a religion different than most of my peers.  I had a new best friend and for the first time in my life, I stopped hanging out with guys and having a boyfriend and instead had what looked like to outsiders as a childhood.  So even while I was mentally regressing into a childlike state, our teachers were constantly trying desperately to get us to focus and think outside of our bodies, our families, and our town.

One such teacher was my social studies teacher.  I wish I could remember his name.  I didn't like social studies and my memory for names was never installed properly.  In addition to introducing us to the shapes, names, capitals, and predominate religions of the other countries that share our globe, (did you know everyone doesn't live in North America and some of them do things differently?  Amazing!) he tried to encourage us to take an interest in the happenings outside of our little lives.  In a desperate effort to get us to take an interest in national and international news and in reading the newspaper he had us each take a piece of black construction paper.  Then we were all handed a straight pin (which most people "stitched" to their palms, or used to pin fingers together).  The pin was to poke one small solitary hole in the middle of the paper.  Then we held the hole to our eyes and used the paper to block our peripheral vision.

"Take a good look, and think about what you can see in the classroom, " He calmly instructed us.  As we goofed around, laughed, and were generally those things that make middle school teachers count down the days to their retirement, we did find our sight seriously limited.  Stuff was happening, and we couldn't spin fast enough to see what it was.  People were talking, but without the visual cues our ability to comprehend what was said and done was very limited.

Eventually my teacher regained control over the room and silence was attained.  He vainly attempted to help us realize that by not taking an interest in outside events, government, the newspaper, and the happenings outside of our safe neighborhoods, we were effectively looking at the world through a pinhole in a piece of paper, maybe even less than that!  His goal was that we would see this as a bad thing.  I doubt it had an immediate impact on any of us, but by evidence that I am telling you this story now, you can see it stuck with at least me.

In the grand scheme it's easy to say he was right.  We need to be aware of the world and the happenings.  The ability to understand (or even approximate understanding) of another's viewpoint is of a value beyond measure.  However, there are many times when I find myself craving the pinhole of ignorance and the simplicity of a life that doesn't involve the shouts and cries of those who walk through life with blinders and a megaphone.  Sometimes it's just wonderful to pull myself back and pretend that beyond my front door no one exists in our plane of reality other than to service us at the interaction points of a local restaurant or store.

While the pinhole of ignorance makes me a lousy world citizen, it does lower my stress, relax my emotions, and let me focus on happiness.  There is definitely truth in the saying that ignorance is bliss.  It's bliss for the ignorant, as long as they can maintain the bubble of their ignorance.  It is not bliss for those outside the bubble, and living in the pinhole of ignorance is a very selfish thing.  Yet, it is someplace I think we could all stand to visit for the length of a vacation.  Unfortunately, it's like a drug and it can become habitual.  I find myself reading less and less internationally, and I shorten my scope to cope with my here and now.

Maybe it is time for me to return to reality.

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