Ignorance, or a lack of knowledge, isn't usually viewed as a good thing. However, there may be situations when you're happier not knowing the truth. A common expression used to describe these situations is "ignorance is bliss."
Who wants to be viewed as a person with a lack of knowledge? Well, that's not the crux of the statement, as it is technically an idiom. Idioms are words or phrases that aren't meant to be taken literally. They make a striking point, but can't be interpreted as actual fact. Let's break things down with a closer look at a few examples of when ignorance is bliss.
Eighteenth century English poet Thomas Gray wrote a beautiful poem in 1742 titled "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College." In it, he wrote:
"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise."
You can see how this phrase isn't meant to be taken literally. Gray was a poet, classical scholar, and professor at Pembroke College in Cambridge. Surely, that's not a man opposed to knowledge.
Rather, he was waxing philosophical about a time when he was able to be ignorant -- in his childhood. Surely, children know less than adults and are, therefore, allowed to enjoy their days without the "weight of the world" on their shoulders. So, while ignorance isn't bliss exactly, it sure makes our days lighter and more carefree.
Is it dangerous territory to be lacking in knowledge? Or is it, sometimes, a blessing in disguise? Let's see for ourselves with some examples.
Since this all began with Gray's childhood, let's begin with childhood bliss. Ignorance is bliss for children who don't know how much a trip to Disneyland costs. Parents know they'll return home to a massive credit card bill, and this could detract from their enjoyment in the moment. On the other hand, the children can blissfully carry their memories back to their friends and classmates.
Ignorance may also be bliss for a person who usually watches what she eats but doesn't realize the cake she's about to bite into has 450 calories per serving. Her lack of knowledge makes it a guilt-free delight.
Parents might experience a sense of "ignorance is bliss" if they're unaware their daughter is sneaking out at night to date a boy they don't approve of. However, no one will be blissful when the "cat's out of the bag."
Ignorance is certainly bliss for a man who doesn't know his wife is stepping out on him with someone else. Of course, that bliss will be short-lived when he discovers the truth.
If a financially responsible man thinks his wife is also a penny pincher, he'd be living in a state of ignorant bliss… until he discovers she's squandering all his money on shoes and purses.
Ignorance is certainly bliss for a parent who thinks their child follows all the rules when, in reality, they're out every weekend misbehaving with friends.
Ignorance is bliss for someone who's trying to start a new business but is unaware of all the limitations to their strategy. That ignorance may be just the thing that propels them forward instead of seeing only obstacles.
After a playwright writes a new play, they might steer clear of all the critics' reviews, choosing to remain in a state of ignorant bliss, free from a world of judgment.
Ignorance may be bliss for people who refuse to turn on the news. They might not know that a robbery took place in their neighborhood last night and, therefore, be a little bit more carefree. However, is that type of ignorance actually bliss? They might need an extra lock on their doors at night.
Ignorance may be temporarily blissful for a wife and mother who thinks her entire family loves her cooking. Meanwhile, they all cringe at the thought of her next meal. At some point, though, the secret's going to get out.
If a woman who's afraid of spiders doesn't know there's one living under her bed, ignorance would be bliss for her. Let's just hope it never comes out to introduce itself.
Ignorance would certainly be blissful for someone who just purchased a haunted house, even though they're deathly afraid of ghosts.
Ignorance may also be bliss for someone shopping for a highly technical product. The customer who knows very little about cameras might buy one on sale and be perfectly (perhaps ignorantly) blissful about it. Meanwhile, another customer who's extremely knowledgeable might get bogged down on specifications, features, comparisons, and reviews.
Can ignorance really be bliss? Or should the truth always prevail? In most circumstances, it's better to have all the facts at your disposal. Yet, sometimes, it's nice to live in a world free from the strains of adulthood, similar to a fearless child.
Thomas Gray would've never touted an ignorant world as a blissful one. It's just nice to reminisce about childhood from time to time. To no surprise, Gray wasn't the only one to employ idioms in his writing. Check out these famous examples of idioms in literature.