Saturday, December 24, 2011

Is Ignorance bliss?

Is there truth in the expression Ignorance is bliss?

There will be some instances where you are better to not know certain things. Where people have said or written things about you that are not flattering nor have any value in building you up. Snide commentaries intended to be hurtful and not instructive. Even in this type of scenario there is something to be said about knowing what was said. First off even if the comments are intended to be harmful you might actually learn something about yourself in hearing them. There may be some truth behind their wrath. Secondly, even with no redeeming quality to their commentary it is good to know the character of this person. So as to not put yourself in a vulnerable position with this person and not to pour too much of yourself out to them.

Anybody that knows me very well will know certain things about my character. I'm pretty open with who I am and who I used to be. I'm truthful about my life but am very good at keeping other peoples stuff to myself. I'm also curious about others. Even to the point of wanting to know the things that people say about me, even if they are unkind. Some I will take with a grain of salt and move on but others I can learn from. I'm forever trying to improve and accept I have flaws. I can't see my blind spots but others can. Even comments borne out of contempt can be beneficial.

In a court of law ignorance is not an excuse. This exchange is unlikely at best: Defendant:I'm sorry your Honour but I didn't know you couldn't pull a u-turn there. Judge:Oh, you didn't know. Well that changes everything. Your fine has been waived and you are free to go. No, that won't occur. The judge will ignore your plea and rule against you. Recently I was at a friends house and parked right in front of a fire hydrant. I didn't see it though it was pretty obvious but my mind was elsewhere when I parked and was totally oblivious. When I came back to my car several hours later I was shocked at where I had parked. Fortunately my car wasn't ticketed but if it had been I would have been okay with it. Not happy but okay since it was my fault.

A couple of years back I can think of a pretty harmless example of where ignorance lacked bliss and even any benefit of the doubt. I was at a shopping mall with my Mum. She is elderly and has a handicapped decal that hangs on the mirror. I had dropped her off at the door of the store and then went to park in a handicapped spot since when we were leaving she would have to walk to the car. I saw someone watching me as I parked my car. He had that look of judgement when I got out. He was drinking a coffee a few spots from where I was. I didn't say anything to him as I don't think I have to legitimize every little thing in life to total strangers. I joined my Mum and helped her do what she needed to do. Upon returning to the car there was a sticky substance on the driver door and a coffee cup on the ground near by. In this case ignorance was not bliss. It was harmful. Ignorance had assumed the worst. Not only was he wrong to pour the coffee on my car but to top it off he littered too. Ignorance was not bliss.

There are a lot of everyday situations where ignorance is not bliss. When you blurt out something about someone in a sarcastic way. You are cutting them down. You do it with little forethought and don't mean any harm but in a small way you attack their character. You at the very least reinforce a negative character trait to others and possibly change their perception of this person. When you do anything with little eye to the ramifications it causes. The expression painting yourself into a corner comes to mind. Sometimes you have to think of what you are doing while you are doing it. At my work I see it everyday. Where people throw garbage on the ground instead of using the garbage can 5 feet away. Someone has to pick it up. That's a case of ignorance and laziness. It could also cause a tripping hazard for you or others. Again ignorance is not bliss.

Ignorance means lack of knowledge. Bliss means extreme happiness or joy. I gotta say "ignorance is bliss" is much more catchy than "lack of knowledge leads to extreme happiness" which sounds like a saying from an Orwell novel. Now the particular quote Ignorance is bliss dates back to 1742 and a poem by Thomas Gray. I would say the sentiment goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. Before Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil ignorance truly was bliss. The original sin opened this can of worms. Then the blame game started and oh what a web of deceit and deception we have spun since then.

I don't need to know everything. For example if someone wants to air all their dirty laundry just for the sake of doing it. Bragging about some time of debauchery I can do without. I don't want that info and would rather be ignorant of that unless someone is desiring to change and is telling in the context of how can I change or where do I go for help with this.

So at the end of the day this I know. With very few exceptions ignorance is not bliss. Amen.

Merry Christmas, may the spirit of God descend on you in power and with majesty!

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