Ignorance a Survival Instinct?

Last week I was sitting in my car waiting for someone and I noticed five men on the roof of a house across the street. They were tearing up the existing shingles on the roof. One of the men was standing with his back to the ground, his heels resting precariously on the eaves trough. Another man was sitting on the edge of the roof with both legs hanging off the edge. All of the men were moving about on the roof as comfortably as if they weren’t two stories up, and none of them had any safety harnesses of any kind. It got me thinking about our mental condition as human beings.

I can understand that while doing a job like roofing you would develop a certain level of comfort about your work (“I’ve never fallen before? Why would I fall today?”), but what is it about us that allows us to reach that place? I think that it is ignorance, and my theory is that we have ignorance ingrained into our DNA as a survival instinct. I think that if we didn’t have the ability to see danger, and subconsciously choose to ignore it, we’d never have done any of the amazing things we’ve done in our history. We probably would have been too afraid to do anything, and we would have become extinct as a species long ago.

I’m not talking about ignorance in terms of the negative connotation that most people give it. I’m talking about ignorance as a necessary part of survival. The reason it inevitably gets a negative connotation is because we don’t use it exclusively to accomplish “good” things. Take drug addicts, for example. Everyone knows that certain drugs (Heroin, Crystal Meth, etc) are incredibly dangerous and damaging to your health, but they do it anyway. Why? Sure, everyone has their reasons for doing drugs: “I hate my parents”, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”, “My life is boring”, etc. But regardless of their justification, they are choosing to ignore that it can kill them.

I have a friend that is a fishing guide at a lodge in Northern Saskatchewan. This is a lodge that can only be reached by airplane (it lands on the lake) and would classify as “adventure tourism”. My friend says that at least twice each season he will be having “shore lunch” with his customers and a bear will show up. My friend is 6’4″ tall, and he says that these bears are so immense that it is like facing off with a living, hairy truck. He is not allowed to carry a gun for protection because it is federally protected land. The only thing he can do to protect himself and his customers is get the hell away. Whenever in this situation, he will send his customers directly back to the boat (facing the bear, backing up slowly), and he will stand between them, trying to make himself “look big”. Once they are in the boat, he will slowly back up and get into it. Then he will get away as fast as humanly possible.

He tells me that he’s been six feet away from the biggest bear you can possibly imagine, had the bear roaring at his face, thought to himself, “This is it”. He’s survived this, and he’s gone back again, and again, and again. To a place where the rules of our society to not apply. Where things are truly “wild”. A place where ignorance is an absolutely necessary part of survival.

Can you imagine?