I know I may think too much about things, but the purpose of this blog is for me to express such thoughts and prevent me ruminating on them. So here we go with another ramble about such thoughts.
In thinking about ignorance I have considered there are situations where I actually do think it is bliss, others where I’m not sure and times when I know it is not; but even those times have consequences. The only way to explain this is to consider some hypothetical and not so hypothetical situations.
Consider being in love, that first few weeks of adventure and excitement as you gradually find more out about each other. To me at that moment in time ignorance can be bliss, not knowing the annoying habits or differing views that can lead to realisation and push you apart. Love itself protects us from seeing such failings; that is if you believe that love is blind? I do, I look back on some relationships and think what was it I saw in that person? Does love protect us from absorbing that which we do not want to know? The beginning of a relationship is arguably when we are selective with what knowledge we consciously accept about the subject of our infatuation. As eloquently said by Alain De Botton (2006), “Every fall into love involves the triumph of hope over self knowledge”. Our desire for love is greater than our desire to know the facts, the real details about the person we love. But I do believe the beginning of a relationship is blissful and exciting, I also acknowledge that one which grows into something more than this and last is far more powerful, and as if you grow closer it is the knowledge of one another that bonds you. I guess the summary of the answer to my question in this instance is ignorance is bliss for a while, but then it is the make or break of an enduring relationship.
Another context where ignorance could be considered is in the media. I remember (and am a little ashamed of) the times when I believed what I read in the press. I was naive enough to think that stories were researched and facts reported. At that point in my life reading the paper was informative and enjoyable. Now I know better. I can’t even read a newspaper anymore for the fear of poor reporting and only knowing one side of the story due to some political or sales related agenda. I am well aware that I should (and now do) search for the true facts of any news story I am interested in, but honestly, I don’t have the time to find all the information I need. So I now find myself avoiding the media. I am intentionally being blissfully, well not so blissfully ignorant. Yet, this leaves me uncomfortable, I want to be more aware of current issues than I am, and like many of us, I now rely on the internet and some very intelligent bloggers who work relentlessly to find and report the holes in the mass media stories, in order to give us the facts (or their version of them). I am in a way jealous of readers of the tabloids who don’t even consider such issues; things are simple and easy, yet, I am also painfully aware of the social effects of such newspapers on the views of others, the ignorance they create is not something to envy.
“Knowledge is power.” (Sir Francis Bacon, 1597).
I almost quoted Spiderman there! I remember when I used to work in a large department store, I quite enjoyed it, and it was at times hard work. I came home from work tired and then tried to spend my time off having fun. Things were simple (don’t get me wrong I am not being negative about shop work at all, it is a perfectly respectable job). But I found I wanted more, I went to college and university, then back to shop work having not found a career, and finally back to university to train in my current profession, mental health nursing. Things are different now, I love my job but it has great responsibility and some emotional baggage (I know some people say you should leave work at work and be detached etc, but this is not always possible when you work in such an emotional field). My thirst for knowledge has brought me consequences which can, and have in the past affected me in a negative way. I am sure there are many careers do this, as you rise in a profession gaining more knowledge there will inevitably be more responsibility, which leads to more stress (for most). Even in my current career I have found this to be the case. As a nurse I had quite a lot of knowledge about the medications used in mental health and used it effectively to help my patients understand what they had been prescribed (if I was unsure I sought the facts on their behalf, I don’t know everything and am not afraid to tell patients this). But recently I qualified as a non medical prescriber, in doing so I learned a lot more about medication and prescribing issues. I can now empower my patients which is great. But, there is always a but; I now have increased responsibility (again good) and on some days worries about the impact of medication on my patient’s lives. Was I blissfully unaware of such issues? Was I a good nurse before this additional qualification? Yes, I like to think I was, but now I do occasionally envy my colleagues who do their jobs brilliantly but they get to call on someone else for the information, someone else with the responsibility of giving accurate and appropriate information to the patients. In one sense I am saying ignorance is bliss because it makes life simpler. Yet I am well aware that in this case knowledge is power and responsibility, and something which I accepted when doing the qualifications, I asked for it, I want to empower patients; and I accept the consequences fully, for the most part having this knowledge is wonderful and rewarding (although not financially, I do work for the NHS).
I can only think of one scenario where I truly think ignorance is bliss and without negative consequence, it is morbid too. I don’t want to know when I am going to die. That is unless there is something I can do to prolong my life. Of course I would want to know about a diagnosis of an illness which can be treated. But if it were a case in which nothing could be done, I personally, would rather blissfully get on with my life without the thought of impending death hanging over me. There is not a way I could know that I would be hit by a bus tomorrow and die, but if there were, I would not want it. I blissfully live not knowing when it will end. I do believe that we all should be aware of our mortality, but only in the sense that we should aspire to live our lives to the full where ever and whenever we can.
The point to this ramble, and I think there is a vague point, is that ignorance can be bliss but only until we realise the way in which knowledge can empower us. I occasionally do miss the times when my life was simpler and I was ignorant of so much, yet I would not change what I have learned. But don’t you miss being a child without a care in the world; believing that people are basically good and life is all about the moment? I think I will aim to have a few more moments like this if or when I can.