Is Ignorance Truly Bliss?

Warning: This post results from an interesting conversation and an unnerving event, both of which happened after 9:30 pm. You’ve been warned.

Being the holiday season, I auditioned for Miracle on 34th Street at St. Petersburg City Theatre and was offered the part of Doris Walker. Our schedule is quite stacked because both Halloween and Thanksgiving fall within our rehearsal period—a combination that results in at least four nights at the theatre. With opening night little more than a month away, we’re trying to squeeze as much as we can into each rehearsal.

In an attempt to utilize our time on stage and finish blocking Act 1, the adult cast members decided to stay after the children were sent home last night.  We were all a bit tired, but thankful for the time to work out our blocking. I’m not going to sugar-coat it: I was beyond tired. My husband has said that I turn into a pumpkin at 10 pm. I don’t think it’s that bad, but I definitley do get a little loopy. “Loopy” in this sense means the production of certain reactions: giddiness, eloquent (or what I believe is eloquent at the time) realizations, lackadaisical involvement in activity, general hyperactivity, and pseudo-drunkenness complete with slurred speech and lack of balance. Last night was no exception.

Thankfully, I was lucky. This time my tiredness did not reduce me to a bumbling idiot, but resulted in a purely philosophical discussion in which I waxed eloquent… I think. Our Santa posed the question: “Would you want to know the date of your death?” to which I and another actor quickly responded, “No!” We then went on to discuss why not. Santa argued that if you knew the date you would leave this earth, you would live with the mindset of accomplishment, making sure to do what needed to be done before your impending demise. I suggested that this was how we should live, period. “Live like you were dying,” I said. Checking off a bucket list shouldn’t begin when your last day is approaching; rather, we should consistently seek out experiences, speak what we believe should be spoken, and accomplish that which makes us matter to this world.

I went on to make the analogy of sickness and the battlefield of the mind. The day before we found out my Dad had cancer, we were planning my trip to China, I was packing my suitcases, checking off my to do list, and getting ready for an international flight. We had no idea what the next day would hold. We were blissfully ignorant until we got the phone call. I often think about that day—the day that my world changed.

There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Is ignorance truly bliss?

After our deep discussion at the theatre, I drove home, started relaxing, turned on the tv, took a long shower, and studied my lines. I went about my night like normal, unwinding from the adrenaline of the stage. My husband came home from teaching his night class and we went to bed. Midnight rolled around and we were both startled by a persistent banging on our front door. Turns out one of our neighbors called the police because someone had been standing outside our window. How long this had been going on, we don’t know, but all I understood was the fact that my privacy had been violated without my knowledge. Again, ignorance.

I had no idea what was going on outside my own home. If my neighbor had never called, I would still be in the dark, totally ignorant to the loser standing outside my window. Before the police knocked at my door, it was a normal evening at home; afterwards, I was paranoid and restless, planning the triple-strength privacy curtains that will be purchased for every window in my apartment. One minute I was relaxed, the next I was wound like a spring. 

A Positive Nature of Ignorance

Ignorance is defined as the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc. Often it is used to describe those who are not “smart” or accomplished. Most of the quotes that I found about ignorance dwell on the negative side of the definition, rather than the positive. Honestly, I would much rather be ignorant of some things. I’d rather not understand what it means when a friend says they are starting chemo treatments. I’d be perfectly fine if I didn’t know that the hostel bathroom I spent three nights in while travelling in Beijing had six inch roaches. It would be ok with me if I didn’t know what cow brain jello and silk worm taste like. I wish I couldn’t empathize with those who have lost a parent.

But do I really? Do I really believe that ignorance is bliss?

If I hadn’t experienced the gut-wrenching phone call that informed me that my Dad had cancer, I would never have gone through a year and a half of growing closer to my family. I would have blissfully lived out my time, not caring about making memories or showing my affection. I wouldn’t have formed friendships out of “chance” encounters with strangers. Most importantly, I couldn’t offer the comfort of “been there, and survived.”

If I had never eaten cow brain jello (I’ll spare you the details), I never would have formed the relationship with my Chinese boss that led to an early dismissal from my job duties when my Dad was so sick. My boss wouldn’t have seen me eat her horribly gelatinous jello despite all common sense. She wouldn’t have seen respect, nor would she have returned that respect when I needed it.

So, all of this rambling to say, ignorance is bliss until you realize what you would never have accomplished without the jarring reality of truth.

I still don’t want to know the date of my demise, though…


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