Enlightenment is not an absence of ignorance. Enlightenment and ignorance are not opposites. The true opposite of ignorance is omniscient. I’ve been accused of omnipotence, but never omniscience. Omnipotence is an odd word to describe a person. At least three different people who have never met each other have used the word to describe me. I can honestly say that I am not omnipotent. If I were, I’d have won the lottery by now…er, no, I wouldn’t need to win the lottery to have everything that I want. Unless I am, in my omnipotence, subconsciously restraining myself because I want to want so that I can better appreciate the having when it comes. Probably not. But just in case, I’ll have a talk with my subconscious to let it know that the time has come to get what I want.
True enlightenment comes from being completely cognizant the magnitude of one’s ignorance.
In other words until you can both comprehend and admit to how much you don’t know, you are not yet enlightened.
I’m not talking the Buddhist state of spiritual bliss. I’m talking about enlightenment from a purely intellectual standpoint. Buddhist enlightenment can simply be described in the oft-quoted Reinhold Niebuhr Christian prayer “Serenity”, or alternately it can be summed up in the statement, “I don’t care anymore.” Okay, both of those comparisons are a little ignorant, but by being aware of my ignorance I am enlightened. Ideally, I’d take the opportunity presented by becoming aware that I don’t know something to learn about it, but, there’s a whole lot of stuff out there to learn about and only so much time. I’ll take the time to learn the hard facts, but skip learning various interpretations of the facts until they’re relevant to something.
I’m also not talking about the early philosophies of enlightenment, (other than my own, presented in this blog). The secular philosophies of enlightenment are mostly based on being anti-religion. I can’t go in for wholesale atheism. There’s simply no proof that gods do not exist. There’s also no proof that they do. Without hard proof one way or the other, I’m not willing to throw in with either the atheists or any of the organized religions. I will continue to belittle some religious dogmas for their blatant falsehoods such as when religion tries to stray from explaining the philosophical why to explaining the physical how.
I am talking about knowing the limits of one’s knowledge. In awareness of the boundaries, it is a simpler task to identify where the boundary most needs to be expanded, while acknowledging that it could stand to be expanded in every direction. The limits of the mortal lifetime and the human brain prevent infinite expansion.
Ignorance, itself, is nothing to be ashamed of. It is simply a lack of knowledge. It’s even okay to choose to remain ignorant of some things. I will probably always be ignorant of the contents of George W. Bush’s autobiography. But I am aware of this ignorance and at no time will I claim expertise of knowledge of W’s life. Ignorance is only something to be ashamed of when it is willful because the knowledge might endanger held beliefs. Ignorance by proxy is especially dangerous. One should never take another person’s word that one idea is right and another is wrong without analyzing at least some the facts for themselves. If the facts are beyond an individual’s comprehension, that individual should accept that and simply withstand the compulsion to believe too strongly one way or the other on the subject.
Enlightenment: Knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t.