Try Not to be Ignorant

When you write a blog that has a fair number of readers, you get a lot of comments on your writing. I just did a quick query, and I’ve had over 18,000 comments here, nearly all of which I’ve read. Most are positive and constructive, some are contrary but still constructive, and some are malicious.

I’d guess I have less than a hundred malicious comments (which is a huge testament to my awesome readers), but they do come once in a while. They don’t affect me emotionally because, frankly, pickup gave me a really thick skin, and I have enough positive feedback from people whose opinions I respect.

That doesn’t stop me from thinking about the comments, though. I actually find them really fascinating. I mean– for me to leave even a positive comment, I have to really engage with a post. I can’t fathom what would cause me to leave a negative post. What’s the point?

There was a comment today about how my carbon footprint is huge, how going to see MMA fights is stupid, how people who fight are stupid, and how America is stupid for hosting such fights.

What’s interesting to me is the ignorance. I don’t mean that as an insult, though. It was actually a reminder to me.

I remember back when my brother got into UFC. I told him that it was stupid, that the people doing it were stupid, and that he should watch something less mindless. I thought I was right, too. Everything I knew about mixed martial arts told me that these things were true.

But I didn’t know much about MMA, and that was the problem. I was ignorant. Not on purpose, just by default.

This has happened plenty of times with me. I think I’m a little arrogant by nature, something I work on, and that causes me to believe I know a lot more than I do. Or at least I feel like I can infer a lot from a little, which is not always true.

A remedy that’s worked for me is to avoid rushing to have an opinion. I try to resist the internal pressure to categorize things as good or bad, right or wrong, smart or stupid. Instead, I default to neutral.

What do I think of child beauty pageants? I’m neutral. The very little I’ve seen makes them seem ridiculous and possibly harmful, but along with that I have to admit that I know next to nothing about them, and that what I do know has been filtered through a very mainstream lens. What do I think of Russia? The news makes it seem like a bad place full of bad people, but my one day there was a really positive experience. The truth is that I don’t know enough to make an opinion, so I should avoid doing so.

This isn’t just new aged feelgoodery, either. Having strong opinions on things you know little about actually prevents you from learning more. I was very ignorant on healthy eating, so I ridiculed it and avoided it. How much time have I taken off my life for the years I smugly ate fishwiches from McDonalds?

The first step is to recognize when you’re ignorant. Next time you have a strong opinion on something you aren’t well versed in, ask yourself how solid the foundation of that opinion is. I’ve been on both sides of ignorant opinions enough to realize how often mistakes are made.

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Photo is a cactus at the conservatory in Hong Kong park.

Heading to Utah today to visit my brother!

Two people complained about my carbon footprint recently. I think that it’s very low despite lots of flying. Anyone want to calculate it? I will provide all relevant information. Would also be willing to bet it’s 20% more than median or less (I actually think it’s just flat out less).

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