There are two things in life that are difficult to ignore – world poverty and a chocolate doughnut. Of the two it’s a lot easier to ignore world poverty. Virtually everything in life is shouting ‘I am important, look at me’. The news thinks it’s terribly important which is why it has an important theme tune. But you can always ignore the news by saying ‘No, that’s not important to me’, and then you can hum a happy tune instead.
When something unusual happens the instinctive reaction is to gawp. For example everyone knows what a car crash looks like but most people find it absolutely imperative to stop and stare. Indeed, the sight of someone not gawping at a car crash is in many ways more remarkable than the crash itself. Very few things in life are impossible to ignore. You can actually ignore death itself, because once it succeeds in catching your eye, you’re generally in no fit state to pay much attention.
The difference between an unpleasant person and an unpleasant bill, is that the person will eventually go away if ignored. Ignoring people sounds rather passive but is actually the most violent way of treating someone short of actual confrontation. What you’re doing in effect is denying that they exist. It’s a polite form of murder.
People who are really thick skinned don’t have to bother ignoring stuff because they don’t notice it in the first place. It’s sensitive people who have to make an effort to ignore unpleasant things. Often this unpleasant thing is a thick skinned person. A great way of ignoring people is to unleash your inner call centre. You can then be permanently unavailable while giving the impression that you value people and will answer them shortly.
Ostriches are famous for burying their heads in the sand and hoping that predators will ignore them despite the fact that their colossal arse is sticking out. The human equivalent of this is binning your post and hoping that no-one will notice your massive overdraft.
The brain actually spends more energy ignoring what’s irrelevant than it does focusing on what’s relevant. That’s why people who live near railways soon stop noticing the trains. It’s a bit of a curse not to be able to ignore anything and this can give rise to severe mental illness or, in the case above, train-spotting.
Meditation is simply a process of ignoring everything that usually demands attention. Eventually you get a great sense of inner peace. It might be what they mean when they say ‘ignorance is bliss’. If it isn’t, just ignore them.