“If ignorance is bliss, there should be more happy people” (Victor Cousin)
Haven’t we all at some stage in our life, wanted to experience complete ignorance to what’s going on around us, and be able to live life on our own terms. A number of years ago, I was working with a man on a building site in Perth, he lived in Golden Bay, which is an outlying suburb near the beach. A fiery debate was going on in the lunch shed. We were trying to sort out the worlds problems in our half hour break. Looking for back up, I turned to this man, whom I had never spoken to before. “What do you think, this can’t be right, surely there must be another way of looking at this problem”? “Frankly I don’t give a shit about anyone’s problems, only my own”
“It’s better than listening to you lot, going on about something that you can’t fix anyway” He had our attention now, maybe he had discovered a magic formula that we were unaware of. “Look don’t get me wrong, I know it sounds like ignorance, but it’s a conscious decision I have made. I really have no idea what you are talking about. I live on my own over the road from the ocean, I love fishing, hence the book I’m reading now. After I get home from work, I take my small boat out, usually I catch a feed of fish and I barbeque that, with herbs from my garden. I listen to some music if I feel like it, and tinker around in my shed. There always seems to be something to keep me busy, I don’t have a radio or television and I don’t read newspapers anymore”
Ignorance….”Living is easy with eyes closed” (John Lennon)
As it turned out, he had been through a bitter divorce and had lost custody of his children in the process. For him, ignorance was the answer, so knowledge outside of his world, was useless to him. He wasn’t a recluse though, as he was still operating within mainstream society every day. I had to admire him for that, but at the same time, I knew that he was in the minority, and probably, that was a good thing. Being able to say you don’t know, is better than being armed with a small amount of knowledge. Then using that knowledge in an authoritative way to create your own version of the truth, this is ignorance.
Now we have so many half truths, floating around in the chatter of the media. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know what is truth anymore, and if there is such a thing in the first place. I think we are all aware that our knowledge base is compromised, and has to be for society to function. The academic view, which I’m inclined to agree with, is that every decision we make should be a knowledge gathering exercise. Comparing and contrasting every piece of information we find, then making a decision that hopefully, is the right one. In the real world of course, this doesn’t work, as we would never get anything done. We would be constantly surrounded, with what if’s and possible maybe’s.
Ignorance….Between a rock and a hard place.
Knowledge can be paralyzing, the more we know, the harder it is to take decisive action. Nothing is as clear as it first appears, as we start seeing shades of grey everywhere. As individuals we may believe that knowledge is fixed, and there is only one way, to approach a problem or an opportunity. In doing this we adhere to dogmas, that are often outdated. We may take a flexible approach and believe, that different opinions are justified. Being willing to consider alternative perspectives, but still holding on to our desired position. We can also assess all views as equal. But still believe, that one position is clearly justified based on statutory, ethical or humanistic considerations.
My own use of the knowledge available, has often been selective to my own point of view. A tunnel vision mode, on a particular subject, taking only the knowledge that justifies my position. While rejecting the rest quickly or completely ignoring it, losing any remnants of common sense in the process. Wanting whatever it is, and somehow, I’m going to get it, no matter what the costs are. The jury is still out on the success or failure of that position. If I can write these things down now, I know that I have gained enough knowledge to realize, that it’s been a problem in the past.
Ignorance is many things.
“Frankly I don’t give a shit” was my work colleagues stance, when questioned. I can see now that my tunnel vision could be considered another version of that, but it’s been helpful in many ways. I did two years of night school to gain an entrance to part time university. At the beginning of the semester, the classes at night school would start with around forty five students, but by the end, only three, or less remained. I left school at fifteen years old, so I had to relearn the basic concepts again. My tunnel vision has at times though, been detrimental to myself and the people close to me.
If there is knowledge available, we shouldn’t reject it, in fact, it’s our obligation to realize our full potential. In doing this we may be able to help move the world forward, in the best way possible. Ignorance isn’t bliss after all, it causes far more problems than it solves. I have tried to Straighten him out, but there’s only so much you can do for a person who thinks Auschwitz is a brand of beer. ( David Sedaris)