Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ignorance is bliss, indeed

Knowledge and wisdom are two traits that are always seen as admirable, favorable, and things we should aspire to attain.  So one should ponder why the phrase "ignorance is bliss" even exists, if "knowing" and becoming wise are characteristics are held in such esteem.

Ernest Hemingway once said “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” 

Maybe the disconnect here is separating knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence.  All three overlap in some way and obviously are synonymous, yet each have very distinct characteristics that will set them apart from one another. Rather than debating on the semantics of those three words, I chose rather to focus on the previously mentioned phrase of...."ignorance is bliss."

When we're young we're in such a hurry to grow up.  We're in such a hurry to get freedom and have responsibility.  Then when that transition happens, unknowingly, we gain knowledge and lose happiness.

Our day used to be, waking up on Saturday morning to watch cartoons, then head into the yard to play with our favorite action figure or ride bikes all day.  Eventually those things give way to new "activities" we learn about, and yearn for.  Like chasing girls, which comes with problems that Snake Eyes or He-Man never ever remotely offered up.

Or trying to fit in with a certain "group", for the simple sake of wanting acknowledgment of our own existence, and to avoid the end of the world.  I mean after all, if we aren't accepted in with a certain group, certainly the apocalypse would get triggered.  That's what we were doing all of our teenage years.  Trying to save the world from eternal damnation via fitting in.

We find weights for similar reasons.  To get the girl, or to feel more empowered.  To hide behind a shell because the person we are isn't enough.  You know why?  Because we find out through experience, through gaining knowledge, through "wisdom", that we don't measure up in some way.

Not knowing this, we were often left not wanting in life.  G.I. Joe and Barbie was enough.  Or whatever "meek" existence we had before knowing, seemed to make us happy.

Not knowing, was indeed blissful.  Before the world introduced herself to us, we never knew how slow we ran.  We just knew that running felt good, and was fun.

We had no idea we couldn't run quite fast enough, or that we were gangly and terribly uncoordinated.  We just knew that traversing across that log over the creek was incredibly difficult, or that walking with a full glass of water seemed impossible to do without spilling it everywhere.

Our lack of knowledge kept us from knowing how ugly we were.  Mom always said we were the most handsome, or the prettiest.  It wasn't until later that we learned that we had a big nose, or that our shoes were the "cheap kind".

We came to understand what we really were.  Right?  Because we really had to know we were poor, and be made to feel awful about that.  Or that our zit infested face was really fucking hideous.  Like we already didn't feel bad enough about that as is.

If it weren't for those knowledge bombs, life maybe might not have been so dreadful or painful during those times.  The lack of knowing those things seemed to make us happier.  The gaining of knowledge brought with it pain.

Knowledge seemed pretty on the surface.  It helped us get better grades.  It helps us become better lifters.  It allows us to drive a car.

It helps better us in many areas, but it's also the messenger that delivers the ribbon wrapped scroll that screams so loudly to us that in some way, shape, or form, we aren't as good as someone else.  Some of us "learn" faster than others.  Through older siblings or relatives that feel the need to "educate" us in very harsh ways.

Others are lucky enough to not get educated on such matters until later.  When peers drive home the notion in repetitive ways that our flaws and shortcomings are that which need to be made fun of on a constant basis. We survive this onslaught, but not without the new understanding and awareness that we aren't quite as lovable as we thought we were.  We're not as perfect as we had imagined, or that mom had told us we were.

So then the need for that gnaws at us incessantly.  The need to NOT know.  To be without the knowledge that we aren't good enough, fast enough, strong enough.  We need to know that we are.  The absence of one creates the presence of the other.

I lose the knowledge that I am small, and weak.  I gain the knowledge that I am strong, powerful....worthy.

You see we don't often find ourselves venturing down a path or on a conquest of some sort for virtually no reason.  We usually do so to replace one kind of knowledge, with a new kind.  Often, it is replacing something we feel is unbecoming with something that makes us feel worthy.  We need acknowledgement that we aren't so lacking.  That who we are is indeed good enough.  Because we can't find a way to be happy with ourselves.  

That's because someone told us that.  Someone gave us that "knowledge".  Someone said we didn't measure up, or that we weren't good enough in some way.  Not popular enough, not strong enough, not good looking enough, not wealthy enough.

Not knowing these things may mean we were less aware, or weren't as wise about the existence of it, but before we knew it, we were happier with who we were.

Every day I see "progress" pics from fitness women on the net who need 1,000 "likes" of their ass pic.  And a million comments about how hot she is.  This repeats itself daily, because affirmation isn't a one time deal.  It has to be repeated on a daily and weekly basis lest one forget just how "good" they are.

But wouldn't forgetting be better?

Or maybe better yet, we should learn how to reject knowledge that is only intended to tear us down, and make us feel less.

Often our lives drown in depression because we become enveloped in all the things we remind our self that we aren't and forget all of the things we are.  We remind ourselves of this daily and then wonder why it is that we can't simply be happy.  Why is it that joy is so hard to come by?

It's very possible that joy cannot attained until some knowledge is lost.  Maybe being ignorant is the best course of action at times to find confidence again.


  1. Sounds like a lot of Bruce Lee's writings, about shedding external habits, accumulated 'armour' and just experiencing things afresh, like a newborn. A difficult thing to do.

  2. Paul you nailed this one on the head! Lately I have been thinking a lot about how things were so simple when I was younger. This read will definitely help me apply these thoughts to the weight room and life in general. Anyway, thanks for making me think harder than my classes will today.

  3. It is interesting, how different people approach the same issue. What makes us unhappy?

    Paul seems to saying it is our preoccupation with knowledge. This preoccupation has a way of dismantling our ego and making us feel less valuable in life, and thus unhappy.

    In Buddhist thought, it is not the preoccupation with knowledge making us unhappy. Rather, it is the preoccupation with ego. When we learn we are not as beautiful or strong as we once thought, the ego takes a hit, and it hurts. This pain we feel is the pain of attachment. When we become attached to something, it invariably causes pain (suffering), because we come to realize it's impermanence. Every time we learn something which seeks to tear us down, we realize the impermanence of our ego.

    Perhaps the solution to bringing joy back into your life is not to "lose knowledge," but to sacrifice some of your self-centrism. I think people who ignore knowledge have a tendency to become narcissistic, cutting everything and everyone out of their life who doesn't agree with their idea of how awesome they are. It is a way of "avoiding the pain you know to be true" instead of "addressing the pain at the source."

    Just some thoughts.

  4. "Not knowing, was indeed blissful. Before the world introduced herself to us, we never knew how slow we ran. We just knew that running felt good, and was fun."

    Wow. That one really hit home for me. Thanks for so eloquently putting into words what I've been feeling for the last 8 months.