*Only* Ignorance

I’ve been musing over a great deal this past month… especially with the election coming up… A lot of things that are being done and said by people who are close to me are getting on my nerves :)

I just find it funny… that today, as I sat down to lunch, I opened Black Beauty to a random page… and here is what I read:

“I wish, John, you’d say a bit of a kind word to Joe; the boy is quite broken-hearted, he can’t eat his meals, and he can’t smile. he says he knows it was all his fault, though he is sure he did the best he knew, and he says, if Beauty dies, no one will ever speak to him again. It goes to my heart to hear him; I think you might give him just a word, he is not a bad boy.”

After a short pause, John said slowly, “You must not be too hard upon me, Tom. I know he meant no harm, I never said he did; I know he is not a bad boy, but you see I am sore myself; that horse is the pride of my heart, to say nothing of his being such a favourite with the master and mistress; and to think that his life may be flung away in this manner, is more than I can bear; but if you think I am hard on the boy, I will try to give him a good word tomorrow — that is, I mean if Beauty is better.”

“Well, John! thank you, I knew you did not wish it to be too hard, and I am glad you see it was only ignorance.”

John’s voice almost startled me as he answered, Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don’t you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness? — and which does the most mischief, heaven only knows. If people can say, ‘Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,’ they think it is all right. I suppose Martha Mulwash did not mean to kill that baby, when she dosed it with Dalby, and soothing syrups; but she did kill it, and was tried for manslaughter.”

“And serve her right, too,” said Tom. “A woman should not undertake to nurse a tender little child without knowing what is good and what is bad for it.”

“Bill Starkey,” continued John, “did not mean to frighten his brother into fits, when he dressed up like a ghost, and ran after him in the moonlight; but he did; and that bright, handsome little fellow, that might have been the pride of any mother’s heart, is just no better than an idiot, and never will be, if he live to be eighty years old. You were a good deal cup you yourself, Tom, two weeks ago, when those young ladies left your hothouse door open, with a frosty east wind blowing right in; you said it killed a good many of your plants.”

“A good many!” said Tom, “there was not one of the tender cuttings that was not nipped off; I shall have to strike all over again, and the worst of it is, that I don’t know where to go to get fresh ones. I was nearly mad when I came in and saw what was done.”

“And yet,” said John, “I am sure the young ladies did not mean it; it was only ignorance!

I heard no more of this conversation, for the medicine did well and sent me to sleep, and in the morning I felt much better; but I thought often of John’s words when I came to know more of the world.

They say that ignorance is no excuse, and I’ve always agreed, but my argument was based more on the fact that information is so easily accessed these days, and if people will not take the time or trouble to inform themselves and form their consciences as they ought — for consciences are formed, they do not simply happen; we went over that in ToB — they cannot make up lame excuses about not knowing where to look or whatnot. That’s ridiculous. Granted, you need to look in the right places, but that’s no excuse for not looking. There’s a world of good, good reading material out there. Start with the Bible, and with the CCC.

Anyway, the point is, this passage made me think more about it, in simpler terms than had occurred to me before. John is quite right. Ignorance is the worst thing in the world, next to intended evil.

I read somewhere that the only real failure is the one who fails to try. So true.

“Still, ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ is no reason not to ask myself if I’m living it right.



  1. Okay, Ais. Answer me this: what do we do then about people who don’t KNOW they’re ignorant about something?

    It’s one thing to talk people who say they don’t know about this or that. It’s another thing to see them not knowing BUT not caring one way or the other, because they just don’t know any better.

    That’s why we need to work on that *love* thing, ya know — people won’t care what you know until/unless they know that you care ;)

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