I’m amazed at how content some people are with ignorance. They live day to day without reading newspapers, watching news, surfing the web. And I’m finding more and more of these people each and every day. People that choose not to encumber themselves with technological tools such as smart phones and Facebook accounts. People that don’t have cable or satellite subscriptions or even a television to watch them on. What gives?
My wife’s aunt is in her late thirties or early forties and can’t read. Not English. Not Vietnamese, which is her native country. I just can’t imagine stumbling through life and seeing WORDS everywhere and not knowing what they say. I mean, how could anyone go through life without having any inkling of what is going on around them?
On the flip side, I see people that seem to LIVE on social networking sites. I've even had some recent Facebook "friends" that have lost all social etiquette. It seems some people, rather than choosing to give updates on their daily happenings or posting pictures of things they find interesting or exciting, have decided that Facebook is a prime market for proselytizing their political agendas. It’s not like he or she would go around telling people in public that Romney is an idiot or Obama is inept. Doing so would probably, at the very least, get a few choice vulgar words or middle fingers tossed at them. Yet on Facebook they have no problem posting graphs and phrases outlining the fallacies of our president and/or his competitor. Or worse yet, a few of my Facebook “friends” have posted glaringly inappropriate content. Nobody wants to know that you think that lady’s butt looks nice, even though you used some outrageously vulgar language to express your sentiments. Nobody cares that you think certain people have lied to you for years, and that they can all reside in a fiery biblical residence for their rest of eternity. Nobody cares about your religion or your politics or anything else you post in an attempt to make people see your point of view. Because either people will agree with you, or they won’t, and the ones that won’t will just think you are nuts and defriend/block/ignore you.
I’m not sure which is better, being completely naïve to the ways of the world or knowing entirely too much, especially with regards to close friends and members of your own family.
When I turned eighteen, I got a tattoo on my leg of the Chinese symbol for the word slave. I had it lasered off in my late twenties because, well, it was the Chinese symbol for the word slave! And really, I think it might have actually meant “female slave”—I know, how awful is that!—and I felt extremely embarrassed about it when I frequented Chinese eateries. But the reason I got the tattoo in the first place was purely philosophical. It was to always remind me that I am a slave to my desires. In other words, I live in a capitalist, keeping-up-with-the-Jones’s society where everyone is judgmental of everyone else, money equals power, and we are raised from a young age to place value in material possessions. I will always want things. And each and every time I see something I want, that something begins to own me. I’ve lost control. I’ve become nothing more than a child lusting over a piece of candy.
For a while I actually dreamed of moving to China and joining a monastery. I wanted to train my body and my mind to think without influence, to exist without needs, to accept all and judge nothing. Of course, being a white American kid, I realized those were merely pipe dreams. Sure I studied martial arts and read hundreds of books on eastern philosophies, but I had to be realistic. And now that I’m a father and a husband, I wouldn’t trade my family for the world. But I still envy those monks, knowing that they know nothing and yet everything at the same time.
Our minds, as babies, have not yet developed enough to understand the world in which we live. And as we grow, we learn to love, hate, value, judge, believe. We learn what is right and what is wrong, what makes us happy and what makes us sad. But unfortunately all of that is relative. What I judge to be good, like maybe voting for Obama for president, someone else may judge to be bad. I value my Dodge Ram pickup truck, and yet I know a few people who detest the make and model and even hate the people who drive them, as I learned one day when a friend not-so-eloquently put his foot in his mouth by bashing people who drove them, not knowing that I had just purchased one a few weeks prior. Oops!
So really, all of these things that we’ve learned since the time we were born really seem quite trivial and meaningless, don’t they? Even down to the mere words we use to describe things. Is it a spoon? A utensil? A lifter? A ladle? A spatula? Did you walk here? Or stroll? Trot? Bounce? Saunter? Oolala! We use labels to define things, and yet those words do no justice for what I’m describing. Each of you reading this is picturing a different type of spoon—plastic, ornate, wooden, soup, large, small. Does it matter? All this knowledge in our heads is pointless. Rather we should be focusing on the tangible and intangible. Focus on what we observe. Pass no judgment. Do not label it. Observe it, understand it, and then move on.
Having an empty, clear mind is a wondrous thing. Because without that, we are all mindless slaves. I’m a slave to my desires, and so are you. I can’t just give up social media. I mean, I can, but how else would I let all of my followers know I have this wonderful blog? I can’t quit my job, because then I couldn’t put food on the table for my family. I can’t give up drinking Red Bull. Ok, maybe I can, but why should I? We are born to be consumers. We are born to grow up, go to school, get a job, have a family if we choose, grow old, and die…and buy buy buy all the way through.
Sad, really. Life for those monks seems so much simpler. And easy. And peaceful. They know a spoon is for eating rice, and that’s that. They don’t get to hear daily about gas prices going up, injustices toward others, etc. etc. It's no wonder they are some of the greatest thinkers mankind has to offer.
Maybe my friends and family who live life outside of the proverbial “Know” are onto something. And maybe I shouldn’t have had that tattoo removed.