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Ignorance and Folly

Roya's Corner...
By Roya Monajem, Tehran

Is there any difference between an ignorant and a fool? There should be, otherwise we did not need two different words for it, even though one of the meanings of 'fool' according to dictionaries is 'ignorant.'

First let's play a little bit of Politics. Was Saddam Hussein a fool or an ignorant? What about President Bush? (I do apologize for my imprudence. This is not to hurt the feeling of all those who used to believe in Saddam or now believe in President Bush.) Did really Saddam think that he could beat Bush? Do the followers of Entefazeh really believe that their stones are powerful enough to defeat the advanced military technology of Israelis? Surely, neither are that fool. Or in relation to Iran, that apparently should be waiting to go through a fate similar to Afghanistan and Iraq, if we decide not to be as foolish as Saddam to pave the way for our country's destruction and plunder, we should surrender to US wishes as we surely do not have the required technology to have any hopes for victory. Then wouldn't we be fools to allow a foreign power to determine our fate?

Was Socrates a fool to drink the hemlock?

Were Eve and Adam fools for transgressing God's order, or were they ignorant? Or perhaps they were both. They were fools to commit an act that they were told 'not to commit' and they were ignorant because they didn't know what the price would be: eternal pain and suffering on the Earth. So perhaps this is one of the differences between the two, a fool does what he shouldn't do, but the ignorant is ignorant of whether he should or should not do something. But why was it 'bad' to eat that Forbidden Fruit? As there are three main actors in this drama, God, Snake and Man, so depending on their different perspectives, the answer would be different.

From the point of view of the snake - the instrument of Satan - the consequence of eating the Forbidden Fruit was that they (i.e. Adam and Eve) could become like Gods. Who are gods? In the shortest and simplest way we can say: They are omniscience, omnipotent and eternal Creators, which at once distinguishes them from Man who is mortal with a contingent, conditional fate. So poor Satan wasn't really that evil and his agent snake was not really that malevolent! From this perspective just the opposite is true. Eating that Forbidden Fruit was the best thing in Heaven that Adam and Eve could do! The only apparent consequence for them was to change to gods, particularly when their God had not revealed the probable end result of violating His commandment. He had not created Hell yet!

In our 'political' example, Saddam Hussein's snake must have told Saddam that 'he would turn to a Savior of the world of Islam.' And Mr. Bush's snake must have whispered into his ears that 'he would turn to a real Emperor of the world, somebody like the great Persian emperor Cyrus or the Greek emperor Alexander the Great or Mongol emperor, Chingiz Khan!' Such really irresistible Temptations!

Then we have the God's perspective. If snake had spoken the Truth in relation to the consequence of eating the Forbidden Fruit, then the first question is that why God did not want Man to find that godly power? Why did He create Man anyway? One of the reasons offered is that God felt bored and lonely and thus He created Man to entertain Himself? And when are we entertained best? When the subject of our entertainment possesses enough power to enchant us to the degree that we would 'forget' ourselves -including our daily pains and sufferings. (This is the aim of entertainment, isn't it?). In other words, we were supposed to play the same role for the Lord that fools (court clown) used to play for Earthly Kings. Such a paradox! On one hand, it seems that the more ignorant the entertainer the better (that is perhaps why God did not want Man to attain that Knowledge and Kings chose fools for this purpose), on the other hand, we know at least from the descriptions we have read about court clowns or fools that they were quite 'wise' as well. And the journey of Man on the Earth as shown symbolically in Tarot cards (or ancient Egyptian occult knowledge) starts with the card Fool. Why are fools entertaining?

But God could not be that selfish. Surely, there should be a benevolent side to His Commandment too. Shouldn't there? Perhaps God was tired of his knowledge of good and evil and he didn't wish Man to suffer the same fate! Isn't this Knowledge the root of all conflicts and wars and miseries on the Earth?

Saddam is Evil according to Mr. Bush and Mr. Bush is Evil according to Saddam and they both judge according to their personal Knowledge of good and evil (conditioned religiously, socially, culturally)! Which one is evil then?

So perhaps God forbid Man to eat that Hellish Fruit, because He didn't want Man to suffer.

Finally there is Man's perspective. On one hand there was the great temptation that snake had instigated and on the other, there was God's command and there was Him having ignorance and folly as his characteristic features as described in Koran (see below).

So perhaps this is the main difference between an ignorant and a fool. A fool is one who surrenders to temptations. But wouldn't he do it out of his essential ignorance?

Before explaining the reason for presenting this discourse, let us look at a quotation from Koran too. And the reason for referring to this so-called theological, but in fact mythological conceptions is to dig our collective 'unconsciousness' as to find perhaps a way out of the dilemma of indispensability of human pain and suffering and hopefully to transcend it.

It is said in Koran that while Heavens, Earth and Mountains refused to accept 'the Lent Burden' (baareh amaanat), Man accepted it because "Verily, man is very ignorant and very cruel." (Ahzab, 72) Although Koran doesn't explain what this 'Lent Burden' might be, but the majority of our 'mystical spiritualists,' Hafez as the best well-known example among them, believe that this 'Lent Burden' is 'Love.'

Angels do not know what love is
Ask for a cup of wine and pour it on Man's dust

But perhaps this is an allusion to that very 'hellish' Forbidden Fruit again. And the Lent Burden is that very "Knowledge" obtained after eating it? It is a burden because when one 'knows what is evil and what is good' then one is constantly faced with the act of 'making a choice' which is implicitly conveyed in the above verse by Hafez too. Angels had no choice in loving god. They were made this way. But Man does have this choice: To love or not to love; which accidentally and at least from one point of view is exactly like saying "To be or not to be." What is the point of living a love-less life? A love-less life, isn't it the root of our intolerance to pains, sufferings and grieves (which are the integral constituents of human life, as we are told), the cause of all our illnesses, despairs, nihilisms?

Man chose to accept the Lent Burden because Man was ignorant of the probable consequences of it. But he was also a fool for not thinking why on earth Heavens, Earth and Mountains didn't accept it, despite their greater power. They were not ignorant and cruel like him! They knew how heavy this 'Lent Burden' is. How strenuous and stressful is this play of 'choice-making.' How great is this responsibility.

But what part does cruelty play in this drama? ("Verily, Man is very ignorant and very cruel.") Why isn't it enough to be ignorant or fool?

Having that Knowledge implies living with a conscience which in turn implies having oneself constantly on trial. Because Man is essentially ignorant and fool, he is constantly making mistakes and therefore is constantly punishing himself, perhaps even more ruthlessly than any external courts of justice. So perhaps this is why another essential characteristic of this Fool called Man should be cruelty. What a combination: Ignorance, folly and cruelty, is it then really surprising that the world we are living in is as it is (ruled for example, by President Bushs, Saddams, Talibans and so on? The reason for including President Bush in this category is mainly because he is ignorant of the consequences of his decisions for the future of America and American people. Where is Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Chengiz Khan and what happened to their empires and their people? As a once great nation and country that played a major role in the development of civilization, today we - the inhabitants of the Land of Cyrus the Great - just seem to be a puppet in the hands of superpowers wondering whether we are going to experience what Afghanistan and Iraq experienced or something else is awaiting us? We are wondering how our rulers would respond to this 'compulsory submission to the new world order.' Would they act ignorantly (like President Bushs or foolishly, like Saddams)? And are all of them 'cruel' enough to aim at more destruction and massacres again?

... Payvand News - 5/13/03 ... --

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