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Don’t Choose Rational Ignorance

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By Mark Azzara

Dear Friend,

As I read one of the daily email newsfeeds that stream in every morning, I had one of those epiphanies that make life so interesting.

The headline read: “Our Cell Phones Aren’t Safe,” and the description read, “Security flaws threaten our privacy and bank accounts. So why aren’t we fixing them?”

And my first thought, based on 75 years of life experience, was, “Nothing will change because of that article. Absolutely nothing.”

That’s when I got my epiphany. If you can ignore the superficiality, the profanity, the debasement of humanity found on the Internet, you will see that it also provides serious, usable “information” and “data” and “challenge.”

There is plenty of encouragement and motivation on the Web for us to make our lives better. To change the world for the better. To protect ourselves and others. To treat one another more humanely and charitably. Just look at SpokaneFāVS, which has been doing that very thing since its inception.

But do we do those things? Or can we even hope to do them? Do we use the Web or this site in particular to find the motivation and encouragement we need? Or do we deceive ourselves by thinking that reading about improving the world is the same as actually doing it?

I’m not trying to start the new year off with a bummer but there is a simple answer to those questions: Too much of the time we just don’t give a damn.

This is not some cheap personal opinion. It’s actually a theory of behavior called “rational ignorance,” a term coined by Anthony Downs in his 1957 book “An Economic Theory of Democracy,” which is still used in universities.

Rational ignorance is defined as someone’s conscious, willful choice to not seek truth because the effort outweighs the perceived benefit. It is a form of heuristics, a term in psychology that refers to shortcuts we use when making decisions by focusing on certain aspects of a complex problem while ignoring others.

As for that cell-phone story, the immediate cost of protesting the hazards of our cell phones is too great so we ignore the problem, despite the risks.

One of the primary reasons I confess faith in Jesus Christ is because he alone can get us to stop this insidious willful behavior. But in order for him to do so he must have our permission.

And that’s when rational ignorance kicks into overdrive. That’s when we make the conscious, willful choice to ignore Jesus’ truth because the cost of heeding it via the restriction of our free will outweighs the perceived benefit.

Humanity largely rejects the “benefit” of doing things God’s way because it means we must accept the humility that goes along with it — the humility of admitting that only God looks at the whole picture. That only God doesn’t take shortcuts. That God’s ways are therefore best, even when they don’t initially sound that way to us.

But when I look at it rationally I must confess that humanity’s free will has led us into the mess(es) we now face. And how can the same free will that got us into all this trouble now get us out of it?

It hasn’t. It can’t. And it never will.

The only rational conclusion I can draw is that it is better to surrender my blundering free will to a loving God and ask that he take over. I have seen him use my surrender to bring goodness into my life and the lives of others, and the more he does so, the more I surrender.

For too long I have been part of the problems our world faces. I would like to become part of the solution, which is God’s desire for me.

Would you?

All God’s blessings – Mark

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About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara
Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and a non-denominational prayer community and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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