The art of ignorance

  • Parminder Kaur
  • |
  • Updated: Apr 19, 2013 10:57 IST

We are all familiar with many art forms that manifest themselves in various aspects of our personal and professional lives. While there are certain inherent talents like music, dance and acting (even these are subject to grooming), the more technical ones can be perfected through rigorous training.

Not that fortunate with the inherent talents, I have always struggled, invariably finding myself putting in extra efforts, to acquire a few skills necessary for survival. However, I don’t credit myself for all the lessons learned and maiden territories explored. I owe many learning opportunities to the wizards of the inimitable “art of ignorance”.

Believe me, it took many years of professional obliviousness to identify this unknown dimension of art and its scholars. Whenever a new task (mostly without any fiscal incentive)was proposed during official meetings, I inadvertently found myself volunteering for it, as many colleagues and seniors opted out claiming ignorance to the required expertise, and declaring themselves incompetent for the job at hand. Revelling in self-admiration, I often slogged to sail through self-invited drudgery.

My wiser counterparts, on the other hand, smooth-sailed through their routine work, occasionally empathising with me.

I would not have unravelled this mysterious art of “unknowing the known”, but for an eye-opening incident in the office. One of my colleagues, when asked to prepare a power point presentation for the annual review and budget meeting, excused himself by claiming ignorance to the said computer programme, and I, as usual, magnanimously volunteered for it. Although I was not well-versed with power point back then, you see those were the good old 90s when we didn’t live and breathe computers.

A few days later, the management invited individual presentations from our team for a new project, and this was an incentive-based assignment. We all tried our best, but the presentation which found acceptance was the one by my once-ignorant colleague, and that too in power point. That was my first introduction to this hitherto unknown skill of “unlearning the learned” and vice versa for personal benefit.

Today, after so many years, I am still not a disciple of this art form, but there are many connoisseurs of the “art of ignorance” who diligently practice it in various forms in their social and professional lives. The stalwarts, of course, are our seasoned politicians who are veterans when it comes to being ignorant of the soaring inflation, plummeting growth rate, misuse of funds allocated for public welfare, progress of projects, their own election manifestos and even the voters of their constituency who elected them.

Someone has rightly said: “Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.”

Nonetheless, the art of ignorance may be beneficial for its exponents and detrimental to others, but I earnestly dedicate this column to everyone whose feigned ignorance compelled me to venture into uninitiated territories, challenge my limitations and emerge enriched by each experience. May the light of virtuous wisdom dispel the shadows of feigned ignorance!


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