Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is Ignorance really Bliss?

Poster of the boxer movie "Rocky"
Painting of young Russian woman
Mostly when we talk about ignorance, it has a negative connotation. Despite the saying that “ignorance is bliss,” in the end, what we are alluding to is a kind of concealment or indifference. It is a person who does not pay attention to what goes on around them or in the world and, as such, leads lives within an illusory protective shell. Ignorance can be equated with a lack of knowledge and is in direct juxtaposition to the other saying that “knowledge is power.”

It is interesting to consider the verb “to ignore” here. In this case, the person becomes more active and basically chooses not to see or refuses to take into account certain facts or people. However, the original meaning of ignore was more closely related to the French understanding of the word. In French “ignorer” means the absence of information, not knowing or being unaware, and is less willful and directive as in the English sense of the same verb.

But how does ignorance influence one's life, and is it a recommended action to undertake? Ignorance does definitely limit one's options. When we have knowledge, we are aware of alternate plans and decisions, but not knowing about them means those other viable options are out of our sight and, as a result, do not exist. 

Yet the problem goes much deeper and is much more complex than that. There are many educated people who in my mind are actually ignorant. Knowledge does give you an edge over others, but when it comes to problem-solving, we have to be able to use it wisely. 

Certain models can assist us and help us out. By that I include using religious figures or even certain fictional situations to base our own actions on. The famous phrase of “What would Jesus do” implies a certain knowledge of his life, teaching and philosophy, which could be applied creatively to one's present problem.

In fact, the more we read the more access we have to possible modes of action. This is the moment when we can draw on literary figures, and we can act, or, in some cases, choose not to act like them. We can avoid the mistakes and pitfalls of Anna Karenina and be able to dodge many problems, or we can choose the path of David Copperfield in life overcoming misery and working hard to fulfill our dreams. 

Even Hillary Clinton could not refrain from using the all-known example of Rocky when describing her feisty campaign. And everyone understood what she meant, as Rocky has become a symbol for the underdog as well as the never-tiring fighter. All those fictional characters can serve as a moral lesson and can help or inspire us in times of pain and distress.

I do believe that in our scientific world we have neglected many social, psychological, and interpersonal aspects of life. It is good to have technical, mathematical, legal, or medical knowledge, yet Arts and Humanities should not be undervalued and should be appreciated for the knowledge and foundation they provide to each individual's life.

If we feed and fill our soul or mind with knowledge and models to follow, then our world becomes vaster. Ignorance is not an excuse anymore. Everyone has access to knowledge and information one way or another. 

The Internet is a useful tool to learn about issues, to provide us with knowledge and possible solutions. Dusty and neglected books on your shelves and in your library are waiting to share their precious experiences with you. And one thing we can be sure of: Ignorance is deceptive and, in fact, the exact opposite of bliss.


Nomad said...

This is exactly the kind of blog I enjoy reading. No kidding. Ideas without an agenda and clean design.
Good luck with the writing and hope to see more of it!

tracifish said...

Sometimes I think people want to be ignorant.

See All Evil said...

By definition "ignorance is bliss"
in that 'what you don't know can't hurt you'. By ignoring:

the news
your own neighborhood
anything not having to do with you

you are insulating yourself from anything unpleasant. You watch tee-vee, you are happy. You 'see no evil'.

Lily Arbee said...

I just discovered your blog today through Entrecard blog of today. I do enjoy reading your interesting articles and there are very nice images displayed as well.

"Is Ignorance really Bliss?"

This is a good topic to ponder.
I think there are people who simply choose to be ignorance about certain things because they prefer not to know to safeguard their own benefit and selfishness, for example there are some pet owners who couldn't care less to know that to spay/neuter their pets help stop animal suffering, since no more kittens or puppies to be abandoned if they cannot cope with situation. They simply choose not to know, because they do not care or love enough for their animals. A very good example here in my place, most people tend to choose not to know and simply throw their kittens anywhere they feel like it because I believe they do not even heard or know that they could just spay/neuter their animals to stop the reproduction of more unwanted kittens. These group of people are so irresponsible and prefer to pass their burden to others by throwing their unwanted kittens.

Shame on them!!!

By doing this, they are to be blamed for animal sufferings in this corner of the world! If they are not punished now, they will be punished later on in the hereafter!

Mark T. Market said...

Prayers As Medicine

Would we excuse this couple's willful ignorance of basic medicine that led to their kid's death?

Alara said...

Blankshooting: love your point there.

Tracifish: Ignorance is easy. You don't have to think, to care, to act. Intelligence requires acting to keep up to date, thinking to comprehend, talking and discussing to share. If you show you are intelligent and chat with people, you might accidentally offend someone with a different opinion or view. And the reason I've had long periods of voluntary ignorance (of news, usually) in my life: knowledge can overwhelm, smother, and drown you. Knowing the news, being aware of the world around you can bring things into perspective: you can realize how bad things are in many places, how big the world is, and how very, very small and insignificant you are.