Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ignorance is not bliss

Let me first start with something I found rather interesting and somewhat quaint. When at the turn of the 1900 Century the highly radioactive element Radium was discovered by Marie Curie, the French public and the tabloid press were fascinated by it. Rather touchingly though no one had a clue what radioactivity really was assumed it must be wholesome and healthy. So all sorts of weird and wonderful uses for it began to hit the streets; Radium bath products, Radium eau de Cologne, Atomic perfume and Radium face cream that was supposed to enhance beauty through healthy skin. Here, perhaps Ignorance is truly bliss.

There are bumper stickers that claim, "Ignorance is NOT bliss" so it’s got to be asked; is ignorance really bliss? 

Thomas Gray’s “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” which was written in 1742, which introduces and concludes with the famed line “…where ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise.” This concept basically means that as long as one lacks knowledge, they are able to be carefree. Nostalgically reminisces about the bliss of youth with its carefree days of playfulness unmarred by the dark realities of adult life.  The poem reveals Gray's double perspective that not only is ignorance bliss but knowledge is misery.

So what of psychology and the apparent contrast?  It is a kind of splitting, in which we remember what we once had as better than it was and we relate to what we do have as worse than it is.  Is childhood really all that blissful?  And is adulthood really all that miserable?

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