Do You Tune Out or Tune In to Atrocities?

Zoe's been busy with speaking & traveling and didn't have time to write a blog post for today, so here's a repost from 11/19/10. Enjoy!

I’ve always been struck by people saying that they don’t want to know about a particular atrocity or cruelty or problem in the world. It’s not uncommon to hear this from adults (though rarely from youth). I think the motivation to avoid new knowledge stems from people’s desire to live with integrity. That might sound like an odd statement, but if you learn something that calls into question choices you make, and you really don’t want to change, then you’ll be faced with the unpleasant experience of living without integrity. Better not to know. Ignorance is bliss after all.

But I’m struck by this head-in-the-sand behavior because it’s foreign to me. I’ve always wanted to know. Even if I am unready or unwilling to make a different choice, I’d rather know and live with my discomfort than not know. I’d rather have the opportunity to live more closely aligned with my values.

Over time, though, I’m beginning to understand the disinclination to know. I do get tired of all the bad news, of learning about more problems, of facing my own lack of integrity. This fatigue is helping me understand those people who say, “Don’t tell me about _______. I don’t want to know.” And understanding is a good thing. It helps me build bridges and offer smaller invitations. It helps me teach more wisely and carefully and inspire baby steps toward knowing. It keeps me from being self-righteous, and helps me maintain some humility.

Still, even when I get tired, I know there’s no other path for me. Maybe I’ll take a brief respite from the myriad books and videos that expose me to the grave and horrible problems in the world, but not for long. There’s work to do, and I don’t know how else to live with myself or to live in this imperfect world that needs our good work.

What about you?

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education

Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education

My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Image courtesy of Identity Photogr@phy via Creative Commons.

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