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How much good information and opportunities did we throw away due to our ignorance?

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents about the (relative) importance of college education and, at the end of the meeting, a mother approached me indicating that she had a question.

The mother contextualized her question by saying that her daughter was already close to finishing high school, with intentions to continue studying. "Is that why she always gets so many letters from universities?" asked the mother. "Yes," I replied.

“Because I didn't know it, every time one of those letters arrives, I throw it away. Since I don't understand what those letters say, I thought my daughter didn't need them,” the mother explained.

I felt the urge to kneel on the ground, extend my arms, move my head back and, under a black storm cloud and heavy downpour, shout "Nooooo!" for several minutes.

I did nothing. Instead, I said, “Some of those letters may be worth several thousand dollars to your daughter. From now on, every time you reach a letter, give it to him. She will know what to do.”

But the truth is that, throughout our lives, each of us receives valuable information or unmissable opportunities that we "throw in the trash" because of our own ignorance, be a real ignorance or, worse, self-imposed and consciously repeated ignorance so that the truth does not threaten or change our little world.

In fact, I am absolutely sure that I myself have thrown it away, certainly even without knowing it or without becoming aware of it, information and opportunities that, if properly activated, could have been of great benefit to me and, even more important, for those around me.

(Incidentally, I learned a long time ago that the best opportunities I receive are not for me or just for me, but to be shared with others.)

In a sense, it is better not knowing that, due to our ignorance, good information was lost or a good opportunity no longer exists, because becoming aware of the consequences of our ignorance would mean becoming aware of our ignorance and, therefore, ignorance no longer would serve us as an excuse.

But sooner or later, by those turns of life, we reach a point where we understand that we have wasted information and opportunities, in some cases unrepeatable and of high quality, simply because we prefer to cling to our ignorance (which we call “common sense”,  “tradition”, and “education”, among other many names) than to open our mind and heart to a new reality.

We may need to adopt the habit of assuming that every message that comes our way is a message for us or for someone close to us. To think what that message may be is, therefore, to resist ignorance. As Socrates said, wisdom is knowing our ignorance. 

Two millennia ago, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) taught in his speech in Athens that what God really forgives is our ignorance. Therefore, with that forgiveness already received, do not discard the next message that comes to you.

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