In the Matrix, there’s a pivotal scene that I’m often reminded of. Cypher, one of the good guys, makes a deal with the machines to give up his friends. He explains the reason:
“You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After 9 years, you know what I realize?
Ignorance is bliss.”Cypher, The Matrix
He knows that the Matrix is just a computer simulation and not real life, but real life is hard, and he doesn’t care anymore. So he is giving up.
All of us, right now, could be working towards a better community, a better nation, and a better world. The problem is, most people have just given up.
Doing something of value requires effort. We need to pay attention, understand the problem(s), and work towards a solution. The bigger the problem, the more complex the solution, and the more effort, experience and knowledge it will take to tackle it. Average Jane from Rapidan isn’t going to jump in and tackle the national health care system at the very beginning. There are a lot of people with a lot of intelligence and a lot of experience that are more likely to see success there than Jane (there are also a lot of people without a lot of intelligence or experiences already trying that one too). Maybe Average Jane needs to figure out if there’s a way to not throw a soda bottle out the window of her car first, then we can move up from there.
People handle their endeavor for a lack of effort in different ways. Some isolate – they don’t want to see the news, they don’t want to know what the issues are, they don’t want to understand what’s going on with their neighbors. They just want to be left alone, and will remain in that place until the Thought Police from the Socialist States of America come knocking on the door. These people tend to be ignorantly blissful and mostly useless, ignoring not only current issues and events, but also ignoring their call to show love to their neighbors (which they think means the people that live on either side of them, and in reality means looking out for our fellow human beings).
There’s another cross section of the “ignorantly blissful” that tend to be far more irritating: the pretenders. They’re the ones that read a headline and rage, without reading the article. They’re the ones that are looking for opportunities to speak up and be heard, without knowing what they’re talking about. These people can be found all over the place, from social media trolls to virtue signalers to protesters that don’t know what they’re protesting.
I had a conversation with someone recently who had a concern over an organization based in large part on a position paper that it had posted. I read the paper and was pleased with what I read; it was thoughtful, well-stated, and biblically founded. The person with the concern, however, had read very little of the paper, in part because it was a bit academic and difficult to understand. It was the headline of the paper, and the existence of the paper, that he was concerned with. The difference between this person and the “ignorantly blissful” is that he wanted to understand and, instead of jumping on social media to rage, called me up, sat down and had a conversation in order to better understand the topic. I wish more people would be more like him.
If we want to be useful, if we want to do the work God has called us to do, then that means we are going to need to work. It requires physical exertion, emotional energy, and intellectual effort. We need to think, learn, grown, and understand others in order to love God and love others as we are called to do. That doesn’t mean we all need Master’s Degrees or to attend weekend seminars, but it does mean we need to read and listen, not only to what we believe but also to those we disagree with.
I have a “heresy” section of my personal library for that reason. It’s a shelf with a selection of books that I would never recommend. They’re books that I thoroughly disagree with. But they’re also books that I have read, wanting to understand what they taught and what others who read them believe so that I can better understand and interact with them.
Do your homework. Listen to varying opinions. Think, then engage. The world needs more of that.