Ignorance and Arrogance

We took our kids, aged 13, 10, and 5, backpacking in the Grand Canyon this past week. The older two carried backpacks with all their own personal gear plus some crew gear. Hal carried his sleeping bag, a few snacks, and a small bottle of water. It was my husband’s and my fourth trip into the Big Ditch, our kids’ first.

I have several blog posts planned about our trip, but for whatever reason, the inspiration to write has been migrating backwards from the end of the trip to the beginning. So while I have three posts ready to go, I can’t run them until I get the ones that belong before them written. Plus, I’ll be a guest blogger on another blog tomorrow – a first for me! – and I don’t want to break up the Grand Canyon series. So I’m holding off. Ironically, the guest post is about a much earlier backpacking experience of mine. I’ll post a link so you can check it out.

Hiking gives you a lot of time to mull things over in your head. Some of the stuff is unrelated to your surroundings but not all of it. I’m often thinking about the people I pass while on the trail as well as things going on at home.

Less than 1% of the visitors to Grand Canyon National Park go below the rim to camp. Many of those that do ride mules to Phantom Ranch. Still others backpack but without as much gear because they, too, are staying in the cabins at Phantom Ranch and eating the food available at the canteen.

That makes people like us, carrying all of our sleeping gear and food and everything else we need on our backs, very rare. As I pondered my reaction to other people and their reactions to me, I came up with incomplete yet maybe workable definitions of Ignorance and Arrogance.

Ignorance assumes everyone else is doing the same thing as you. It can’t imagine anything more. This can be represented by day hikers heading down into the canyon as you work your way up who ask you how far down you went before you started heading back up. They don’t notice that you have way too much stuff on your back to be a day hiker. They are hiking down a bit and then heading back up; therefore, that must be what you are doing.

Arrogance assumes no one is doing the same thing as you. It can’t imagine anyone being as {awesome, cutting edge, brave, tough, knowledgeable, intelligent, fill-in-the-blank} as you. This can be represented by seasoned hikers who (like me, I must admit) assume that everyone they meet is a novice who probably rode a mule down. Or who doesn’t know what they are doing. Or needs their assistance or advice in some way.

I encountered both sets of people on this trip. I pondered my interactions with them and came to the conclusion that perhaps, in a way, ignorance and arrogance are two sides of the same coin. Or maybe arrogance is just a special form of ignorance. Perhaps both are caused by a failure of imagination. Something to consider.


4 thoughts on “Ignorance and Arrogance

  1. This is a wonderful concept! It makes me think of a class in undergrad where we talked about Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. I got into a debate with a guy about the difference between Innocence and Ignorance. He insisted they were the same thing. I insisted they share some qualities or features but are two distinct states of existence. The professor was loving the back and forth and pretty soon the whole class was taking sides and citing examples.
    Your last paragraph really nails it: two sides of the same coin, or arrogance being a “special” kind of ignorance? I agree with both of those. And I am arrogant enough to think that my opinion here matters! 😉

  2. Reblogged this on Just As I Am…Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder and commented:
    I once had a debate with a classmate over William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. He said Innocence and Ignorance are exactly the same thing. I said they were nuanced and distinct from each other despite sharing similar features; that is, they are two separate states of being. Over at My Bright Spots blog, the writer poses the question of whether Ignorance and Arrogance are two sides of the same coin, or whether Arrogance is a “special” kind of Ignorance. I wonder what Laura Ingalls Wilder would say? Please read the reblog here, and my next entry will cite LIW’s thoughts on this intriguing question. Let me know your thoughts, too…

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