Stubborn Ignorance

Hard as I try, I have realized one important truth: There is only one person whose mind I can “get inside of” for educational purposes; that mind is my own. It’s the rare, gifted writer/educator who can truly get inside another person’s mind and figure out how best to reach/teach them. As a writer/educator of average ability, all I can do is offer suggestions based on the problem that I see, and on the solution that works for me. If I have never faced an issue myself, I will not write about it, nor proclaim any “expertise” in it. I say this because I need you to know that this is the selfish and honest vantage point from which I write (“me-me-me!”).

So, you will please forgive me as I go on a rant regarding one of my own more-frustrating traits—that is “stubborn ignorance.” If you see yourself in the mirror that I am about to hold up, then great! Just don’t take this as a personal attack; the attack is against me alone. Now, I will say that I have seen this trait in others, related to the banjo (I think it’s a pretty universal phenomenon with all subjects among us silly humans). My ulterior motive is certainly to reach that person who may relate, but I would never single out or name anyone but myself.

While I had very low self-esteem as a kid and young man, I still managed to have an unhealthy dose of youthful, ignorant bravado thrown in. So, when I first heard Buddy Wachter (at the age of 28), my first impulse—after picking my jaw up off the floor of course—was to think “oh, I can do that!” Little did I know about the years of hard work that had gone into his playing, the many teachers/influences he had had (including personal coaching from Eddie Peabody and Perry Bechtel), or the sheer magnitude of his “natural” gift (well beyond us mere mortals); all I knew was that he was a human being, therefore, “I can do that too!”

My healthy, realistic self-esteem today can be traced back to that encounter; he woke me up and got me moving in many ways. My returning to college for a degree in Music Education can be credited to his direct influence, among other things.

If it wasn’t for my stubborn ignorance though, I would have humbly cast aside everything I knew at that fateful moment, and started over again! By this time (31 years later), I surely would have made up for the abandoned time/experience, and—unfettered by my youthful bad habits and self-esteem issues—would have been a lot further down the road to accomplishment than I am now.

Even though I knew in my heart that I had to change a lot of things, I stubbornly held onto my “way of being,” ignorant of the weaknesses of my position. Even though a big part of me wanted to improve, my childhood habit was to dig in and say “you can’t teach me anything!” Efforts by others to get through my thick scull only made me dig in deeper. Only the fact that I was paying for it made me listen to the extent that I did to my college professors; I was not an ideal student!

Society tells us that we are supposed to be “complete” at the completion of high school (or after varying levels of college education depending on your goals); “graduation” is seen as the culmination of the learning/growing experience, instead of being “just the beginning” of your journey. At 18 years old, I thought I was what I was going to be! I’m sure glad that notion got squashed, but I sure could have helped my situation by being open-minded instead of blocking it with my stubborn ignorance!

This has affected me in other ways as well. My Military career for instance: Being told I should practice my instrument had the opposite effect too often! It was like I didn’t want to get better, and thus stand a better chance of attaining a higher rank! You would think the carrot of making more money (then, and now in retirement) would have gotten through to me! Now that I am no longer being judged by a superior, I actually enjoy playing the clarinet—and I’m even open to suggestions for improvement.

Our natural, human habit—our survival mechanism—is to think that we already know everything we are capable of knowing. When confronted with something outside our current capability/self-belief level, it’s too easy to rationalize it away, instead of abandoning our delusional self-concept to follow a different, perhaps better path. I believe my current path is a good one—mostly free of stubborn ignorance—or at least, the best one I’ve been on yet.

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