The name of this club might need a little explaining to some. When we “own our ignorance,” we openly admit that we do not know something. I think this is both very important and not done as much as it should be.
I have a lot to say in praise of ignorance, so I’ll be breaking it up into several short posts. This post is on explaining what I mean by “ignorance.”
Ignorance has a pretty nasty reputation. I’d like to showcase ignorance in a more positive light. There’s an important difference between being ignorant and being stupid. Being ignorant means lacking knowledge or information on a particular topic. Being stupid, however, means being incapable of figuring something out.
For instance, someone who is ignorant of physics simply hasn’t studied much physics. Perhaps she isn’t interested in physics, or is interested but hasn’t had the time to check it out yet. But someone who is stupid when it comes to physics is someone who can’t figure out physics when she actually sits down and studies it. The difference between ignorant and stupid is the difference between “hasn’t tried yet” and “has tried but can’t.”
Seen this way, ignorance isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s our default position on most topics. We don’t start out life with much knowledge of things (some knowledge, perhaps, but not much). As we grow older and learn more and more things, our pool of knowledge grows. Still, the number of things which we’re ignorant of remains pretty massive. But that’s OK. There’s a lot to get to, and we can’t get around to everything all at once.
In other words, our ignorance is our Netflix queue for knowledge.