Almost all failures of mankind, from the smallest to the biggest, are rooted in ignorance: arguments about politics on social media, personal finance mistakes, failed relationships, and war.
This is because ignorance is at the root of the most destructive of behaviors and emotions, such as selfishness, arrogance, hubris, fear, greed and hate.
But the mere recognition of the prevalence and negative symptoms of ignorance in the world does not quite go far enough to cure the disease of ignorance.
The cure begins with recognizing ignorance at the individual level -- with the awareness that you are both a part of the problem and the solution.
And once the illusion and superficiality of ignorance is removed, the reality of awareness and the depth of truth begin to emerge.
"The fool doth think he is wise but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." ~ William Shakespeare
I am confident that all of the world's problems and challenges, whether they be personal, inter-personal, national, or international, begin with each human being as an individual.
For this reason, among others, a prevailing theme in my forthcoming book, which I am confident will be finally published in 2016, is centered around self-knowledge. And the foundation of self-knowledge, for the wise person, is the awareness of one's own ignorance.
Here is an unedited excerpt from my soon-to-be published book. It is a hypothetical dialogue between Sage and Student, and it has a personal and timely message:
Sage: Do you know yourself?
Student: Of course I know myself. Are you joking?
Sage: How do you know that you know yourself? And no, I’m not joking.
Student: I know my name, I know my home address, I know my Social Security number, I know where I was born, I know where I went to school, I know my favorite things, and I know what I have done in the past.
Sage: You know things about yourself and you can recall your personal experiences, which are all respective aspects of what I call Knowing and Acting. But are these the same as who you are, which is your Being?
Student: Yes, these things are all part of who I am. They all made me into the person I am today.
Sage: What if the person you are today is not the real you?
Student: That’s a strange thought. What do you mean?
Sage: Imagine you discovered today that you were adopted at birth and that you were actually born to a family in a distant country with different value systems than yours today. Would that make you a different person? How would you feel upon discovering this truth?
Student: That’s difficult to imagine. But if I discovered I was adopted and my birth parents had different beliefs and value systems than the person I am today, I guess I might be confused about who I am.
Sage: Why do you think that?
Student: Because what I thought I knew would no longer be the truth; and that would change what I think about who I am now.
Sage: So you think that being raised by a different family in a different country with different values would make you a different person?
Student: Yes, of course I would be different because I would be more like my birth parents and less like my adoptive parents.
Sage: What if your real parents were radical extremists, blinded by ignorance, hate, and fear, and they existed to plot the murder of innocent people — people like the current you and your adoptive parents — just because you thought differently than them?
Student: Oh no, I would never be like that!
Sage: Why not?
Student: Because ignorance is foolish; hate and fear are destructive emotions; and it is wrong to kill innocent people. I would never act like that!
Sage: Are you saying that what a person knows and how a person acts may be a deception — that who they think they are may just be a part of a person’s conditioning and programming from outside sources, and therefore this external identity is not reflective of the authentic Self?
Student: Yes, I believe that is what I am saying.
Sage: And so, although you fortunately see the world very differently than a radical extremist, how do you know that your current worldview is truthful and accurate?
Student: I suppose I don’t really know for sure.
Sage: So I repeat the question: Do you know yourself?
Student: (after a long pause) I don’t know.
Sage: And so, by simply recognizing your ignorance, you have taken a real step toward mastery of life...
And so, dear reader, do you know your Self? Put differently, to what degree do your adopted beliefs and values influence your thoughts and behaviors? If you are a product of your environment, how do you know that your environment is a complete reflection of reality?
If you ever answer a question with the words, "I don't know," you are on the path to wisdom. If not, think again...