First Annual Day of Ignorance

I don't mean to brag, but the social media tracking site Klout has deemed me an "expert" in the following:

  • Authors
  • Bible
  • Books
  • Christianity
  • Churches
  • Evangelism
  • Faith
  • Freelance Writing
  • Marriage
  • Nonfiction Books
  • Publishing
  • Religion
  • Spirituality
I can, in fact, if I understand Klout correctly (and please note that I am not considered an expert in Klout), be an expert in up to twenty-three things. I'm pretty sure expertise is gauged by how often I post to social media on these topics, and not on any demonstrated mastery of the subject matter. My wife, for example, might dispute my expertise on marriage; my authors (I'm an editor) might take issue with my mastery of them.

But such is the nature of our times. We get immediate affirmation for our briefest, most passing thoughts. I tweet 140 characters about freelance writing and someone "favorites" (not a verb) my tweet; there's exhibit A in my case for expertise. I post to Facebook a quick bon mot about religion, someone likes it, and I'm on the fast track to "expert" status. There's no harm in trying - there's no dislike button - and so we post and repost and repost. Measured in volume, our opinions are profound. Measured in depth? There is no such measure.

We want to participate in the urgent and weighty conversations of our time. And we are raised to perceive (or at least portray) ourselves as omnicompetent. And we are offended by disagreement. Put them all together and what do you have?

You have a mess, is what you have. A never-ending argument, pitched at high volume in the public square to the lowest common denominator. A false sense of expertise and a compounding pile of hurt feelings. More heat, less light. More feigned and presumed expertise, papering over a crisis of collective incompetence. As the proctor of the final exam said to Adam Sandler in his critically acclaimed film Billy Madison (did I mention I'm an expert on the cinema?), "Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened."

Funny, right? But it can get tragic. When we weigh in on serious matters with unconsidered thoughts, we derail important conversations and forestall social progress. We listen to the wrong voices in a debate because they out-shout the voices who have invested the time and passion to come to know what they're talking about.

We need a regular reminder to ourselves, a common clearing of the air. We need a kind of Yom Kippur to acknowledge and divest ourselves of nor our sins but our ignorance. So I'm calling for a first (and, let's be honest, probably last) Annual Day of Ignorance.

Ignorance because to admit we are not experts in something doesn't prohibit us from becoming experts. Competence in any area of consideration isn't a natural gift; it's a learned skill. To confess our ignorance can be to commit ourselves to become informed.

Day because having something on the calendar means we can anticipate it and prepare for it. We can recall it when it's over. And for twenty-four hours we can lean into what we want, which is less heat, more light, more humility and, yes, more competency.

Annual because our current environment fosters the problem we're trying to solve, and so even as we earnestly seek to minimize the damage our individual ignorance may cause, and even as we strive to speak more meaningfully into the weighty matters of our day, there are insidious, automatized forces encouraging us to speak without thinking, to make summary judgments without discerning, to let our tongue loose before we have listened. We need to enter into a pattern of admitting what we don't know, and only then might our public discourse and our social action become more responsible and more effective.

When we admit our ignorance and commit to pursuing competency, we might just have our eyes opened to who the true experts are. As just one example, Professor Soong-Chan Rah often says (regarding one of my supposed areas of expertise, religion), "“If you, as a white person, want to move into an urban setting and do ministry, and you don’t have any non-white mentors, you’re not a missionary, you’re a colonialist.”

This informed critique of the collision of a missionary impulse, evangelistic zeal, and a naivete about matters of systemic racial privilege, confronts our ignorance and challenges us toward circumspection and thoughtfulness.

There are countless other conversations taking place today that would benefit from us listening and not speaking, learning and not preaching, finding true experts and inviting them to advise us in the things that concern us. Just when we think we've overcome our ignorance in one area, another issue surfaces and exposes the vastness of what continues to elude us. And still we are encouraged at every turn to see ourselves as omnicompetent, our opinions as authoritative. We need this, folks: We need to accept the limitations of our competency and embrace our responsibility to listen, learn, grow and do better.

I propose that we mark each July 5 as an Annual Day of Ignorance. July 5 is the birthday of P. T. Barnum, who once famously (or so the Internet tells me) said, "There's a sucker born every minute." One minute years ago, you were that sucker. So was I. So is everybody.


Anonymous said…
i don'r mean tp brag but
This is my eldest grand son
Luk3onlin3 Minecraft Introduction 1 & Introducytion 2.
Anonymous said…
I am still reading & absorbing / not even 1/2 way through - right.
"a flase sense of experitse"
Okay - I am sick to death of the 'EXPERTS'
The news media roll them out regularily to sure up the next scam the government & their buddy's want to pull that will raise the cost of living yet again - etc. because this list goes on.
So therefore
This is the greatest show on earth
It's show time
Will the real expert come on down.
Or am I wrong ?
Anonymous said…
ABC Q&A program Monday 22 june 2015 - Terror, Poverty & Native Title.
6.55 minutes into the show Dee Madigan says
"in advertising we do a thing called Maslows Hierachy."
This is an expert telling us - only that Maslows Heirachy / pyramid was one mans untested, unproven, theory & only ever that & then it was thrown into the trash can.
And yet the advertising experts sell it for millions as a tried & true method.
Go figure why

Anonymous said…
You being an expert:
Congratulations !
Does it have anything to do with what/how you reveal yourself in your writing .../?
A giving of yourself.
The amount of personality/charm/charisma/intimacy you exude with the letters that you put together.
I am not flattering you here, the first article I read of yours was steeped in charm, innocence & the hope that a child has when they wish hard for something important.
Anyone can write but, with some people, it's like you are reading their entire thought process during the writing.
Or do I have ESP.
Anonymous said…
*And we are offended by disagreement.
are we ?
is that what it is ?
*a never-ending arguement, pitched at high volume in the public square to the lowest commmon dnominator.
who do you mean ? - who is the lowest common denominator ?
are you talking about 'commom people' here ? as in the ignorant masses.
{the should never have given them the idiot box you know & then the internet. it was cruel letting them think that they actually mattered, hell why did they ever teach us to read & write for that matter}
or is the lowest common denominator a what ?
The Collective Incompetance sounds interesting sophysticated/intellectual/chic/upper-echelon/elitist.
I forgot the word CRISIS.
Why, what ever are you trying to say ?

Bill Madison & all that he represents is so threatened by the exterior of - the outside of his comfort zone/ & his pay packet & life style / that he lashes out violently. Bill is the one who has not had an intelligent thought since way back when, a time he himself has forgotten, he has probably realized that he & his world is changing, being replaced - progress - & at his age is experiencing a midlife crisis, a difficult time indeed for Billy boy.
*the voices who know what they are talking about.
* but our ignorance.
how will we ever learn if we do not talk ?
do you think that no one can hear over the shouting ?
In the olden days, on the trading floor of the Stock Exchange traders would shout & gesture, the shorthand language of the trading room floor & the chalky would write up the bids.
Chaos, madness, & yet it worked, necessity is the mother of all invention.
We the people are versitile if nothing else.
*the ignorance our ignorance may cause.
Humans can think real fast
why do you think that no one is listening ?
* listen, learn & grow & do better
i totally agree with you.
then what do we do about the wilful/deliberate/wanton/element on planet earth that acts on greed & selfinterest, with dog eat dog devil may care delight.
The psychopath element in our society.
the banking sector
the political arena
the media
Dave, once we the people of this planet relied on what were told by the self interested & ambitious power brokers of the world & they spun the yarns. Today, for the first time in our existence on planet earth, we the people talk to each other. I can get news as it is happening at the scene, audio visual, uncut & contaminated by the properganda machine of the wannabe's.
Their whitewashing does not work anymore & it is getting better 7 growing stronger every every nanosecond.
I guess God got sick of us listening to lies.
Tjink about it man.
Anonymous said…
In business class we were told that a Chalky was worth his weight in gold.
David Zimmerman said…
It would be tremendously helpful to me to know who you are. I find these comments hard to take seriously when they're anonymous. In any event, by "the lowest common denominator" I didn't mean people; I meant the least respectful, mutually edifying aspects of the conversation.
Anonymous said…
Do you wonder if I am not someones idea of a practical joke ?
A buddy who want's to liven up the show, or perhaps a jealous saboteur !
You have my email address - so if you want to make sure that I am a complete stranger, email me.
Austin Cline the atheist has been sending me his news letter first 2tice a week & the once a week for 6 years ... maybe more.
The Daily Mail emailed to ban me from commenting because I criticisd the British Royals. I pointed them to 3 articles posted by them that were so much worse & they re-enstated me.
Eddie = The Deen Show send me thier show each week, inspiration comes from anywhere.
Robert Spencers - Jihad Watch, though it's been several months since I have visited his website.
I am usually R Davis in the comments section
* Desretpeace comments section
& several other places.
I have teeth & I do not bite.
And it can be just the one email to see if I exist - I am busy as you are.
Austin once emailed me to say "read a book sometime" in the end I was right & he was wrong.
I hate boring conversation, that is why I prefer to go alone in my car so I can run away when it gets bad.

My local member of Parliment is The Honorable Kelvin Thomson Member for Wills Labor Party in Munroe St Coburg, they are in opposition currently. I email regularily. If you ring, Mark will answer, he & I have spoken several times. I shop across the road & live a mile away, between Sydney Rd & Melville Rd.
Maps - Street View is a great way to have a look.
Have you written 'the' best seller yet ?
or better still the series thereof.
If not then why not ?

Anonymous said…
I don't do twitter & facebook
I have a lot to read & then to research it so that I can comment, which is where I prefer to be
There is only so much time in a day.
Anonymous said…
this is Anders website.
Who got the Bail-outs Granted to Greece
comments section = me
That's all folks.
Anonymous said…
Dave: this is one of your many good looking uncles. I always read your postings but this is the first time I have looked at your comments in over a month, because it is apparent that someone has decided, in his (or her--but I have never met a woman this childish, so I think it is "his"") small, stupid way, to be a jerk. As Socrates' young critic Billy once said: "Don't create! Wait for others to create, and then destroy!" I think that just as Socrates was the father of philosophy, Billy was the father of criminal mischief, and his disciple Anonymous has it down pat: to "intentionally damage, deface or destroy the property of another." There are fools, damn fools, and people like Mr. Anonymous, who are just kind of pathetic.

Anyway--I still read your posts but I don't read Mr. Anonymous, and recommend you join me in avoiding the comments. Think of Mr. Anonymous' postings as the functional equivalent of someone spray painting his or her name on the side of a building--a pathetic way to cry "ME! ME! ME!" by someone who doesn't know the first thing about architecture and is jealous of those who do.

Be good--your best looking uncle Pete

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