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Arguably one of the most famous quotes attributed to Socrates is “The unexamined life is not worth living”. It is the type of quote we have grown to expect from such as deep and contemplative thinker. Is this truly the best advice for the average person? Not that I would ever veer into the territory of philistinism, but is every aspect of life worth examining? Better yet, are such intellectual endeavors even productive for the average person?  I would argue no. Not because I seek to celebrate ignorance, nor do I lack faith in the intellectual capacity of my friends and neighbors. Sometimes knowledge is more trouble than it is worth. Everyone is familiar with the colloquialism “curiosity killed the cat”. As simplistic and folksy as that old saying might be. It does contain a grain of truth. In the pursuit of knowledge, we risk becoming jaded and overwhelmed by some of the more unpleasant aspects of reality.

Do you remember the disappointment you felt we discovered Santa Clause wasn’t real? Even worse, your parents’ marriage was nothing more than a sham? These examples may seem trivial but applied to grander questions they can make someone very skeptical. Skeptical to such an extent it brings them to the brink of an existential crisis. If you have devoted your life to political activism and you come across a few Public Choice articles regarding voting, you will grapple with your sense of identity. Being told that your vote carrying any weight is nothing more than an illusion is difficult to pill to swallow. Especially much of your sense of self and principles are derived from believing you have sway over political issues. Therefore, it isn’t necessarily prudent to want to dissect all of the mysteries of the universe. Even if it is a lie, sometimes that one lie is what helps people cope with the difficulties of life.

Looking too deeply into an issue is generally counterproductive at most jobs. The ability to extrapolated basic logic is generally rewarded. To overthink an issue, will cost your employer and customer time and money. Utilizing reason to more efficiently perform a task is conducive to being a “good employee”. Pondering the large philosophical questions at work eats into productivity. Also, getting so philosophical that you question the entire veracity of the enterprise of your employer’s goals or metrics will not win you any friends. Overtly questioning your superior’s decisions in Socratic prose will award you with some unfortunate adversaries. Speaking of friends, you will not be making very many. Most of your co-workers will think you are weird for not accepting the prima facie assumptions of our world. In most cases, avoid you like the plague. For all the philosophy majors currently working retail, at call centers, offices, etc. I feel for you. Your love of wisdom and truth can effectively alienates you from your peers.

Outside of the pursuit of knowledge destroying your coveted illusions and making you something of a misfit, is another issue, you can never put the genie back in the bottle. Once you have seen the truth, it might be enlightening, but you never look at the world the same way again. I do not personally subscribe to the new-age movement, but many who do talking about opening their third-eye. In most instances, these individuals will tell you don’t open your third-eye if you like your life the way it is. Why?  Once you have become enlightened, it is a point of no return. You can’t unlearn the secrets of the universe. You will never enjoy the pleasures of binge-watching reality television after a bad day at work if you have learned it is nothing more than a farce. Speaking of your job, the stable nine to five, you might want to quit your job because you figure out it is pointless. Decided to take on the risk of becoming an entrepreneur in an attempt to find a meaningful vocation. This is a lot of disruption for one person, especially if they are more than content with keeping the status quo intact.

I have never attempted to open my third-eye. However, I love to study philosophy and political economy. Once you have opened Pandora’s box of uncommon knowledge you will begin to crave it. Much like tapping into a deeper sense of consciousness, you can never see the world the same way again. Leading to some conflicts. I find it more and more difficult to care about my day job. I am a proponent of capitalism and all, however, I know there are better ways to make a living. I will never have the same work ethic I had before my independent study of the large questions. It was much easier to keep my nose down and get my job done back when I was ignorant. Demonstrating that it can be maladaptive for some people to reflect upon vast questions such as the quiddity of existence.

The process of seeking wisdom is never easy. Whether the actual pursuit is what makes a man weary or it’s the consequence of not being able to cherry-pick the pleasant truths from the unpleasant ones. This is why it can sometimes be a lonely path. For those who are inclined to take up the challenge, it is the only path. Despite the downsides of pursuing truth, knowledge, and wisdom in an imprudent world, for some, this is their only true calling. They are the ones who seek daylight when everyone else opts to remain in the cave. It is important to remember that pursuing truth does have its pitfall beyond misconstruing it. One excerpt from Plato’s Republic that encapsulates this point beautifully. It was about Socrates’ telling of the Allegory of the Cave in the book:  

            Therefore, even if a person should compel him to look to the light

            Itself, would he not have the pain in his eyes and shun it, and then,

            turning what he really could behold, reckon these as really more clear

            than what had been previously pointed out? (p.235).

That is it. The truth can be inconvenient. The truth could even unravel the very fabric of our being. Especially if it is predicated upon a false sense of identity or a flimsy house of cards built upon numerous lies. Much like almost all of the other cave dwellers in Socratic allegory chose to ignore the truth. Most of society elects to do the same. Similar to the discomfort experienced when our eyes adjust to direct sunlight, it can also be uncomfortable to be confronted with the unadulterated truth.

10 thoughts on “Sometimes It Is Easier to Be Ignorant

  1. Excellent essay. You’ve clearly shown why ignorance is bliss and why those who eschew ignorance often feel both pity and envy for the apathetic masses, comfortable in their illusions. What is real is often unexpectedly messy and difficult, both inherently and for its effect on those who discover it. Each nugget of truth both enlightens and burdens those who carry them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this is what Nietzsche and other new age philosophers call the achievement of “HIGHER consciousness” ; which, according to some psychoanalysts, is the consequence of an ever-growing rational world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nietzsche and the New Agers were talking about the same phenomenon , just using different vocabulary for it.

      I suppose that much of the talk about expanding consciousness (regardless of what philosophical that is discussing the matter) much of it is about dissolving boundaries.

      Breaking away from consensus reality (perceptually and psychologically) Breaking away from orthodox routines. Actually, breaking away from orthodoxy as a whole.

      That is truly a radical transformation. This probably explains the shift in culture around the late-1960s. Many of the Babyboomers grew up in the luxury of prim-and- proper 1950s suburbia. Nothing wrong with that. After going discovering the cylindrical religions of the east and powerful psychedelic substances. Experiencing such realities that are wildly different than the staid and buttoned-down reality, that is unquestionably paradigm shifting.

      I say this with no value judgement. If you see another layer of consciousness that is contrary to the perceptual consensus. Even if it doesn’t shatter your world view. You surely will never forget it. It will remain in your repertoire of possible sensory experiences.

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  3. Interesting. It’s clear that various thinkers have used different vocabulary in their attempts to define the same thing. This fact partly explains why, in some instances, the interpretation of philosophy can be very difficult. If I were to try to generate an approximate description of higher/expanding consciousness, I would say it is : a disposition characterized by a relentless yearning to immerse oneself in the unexplored domains of reality. Remaining orthodox in thinking might be thought of as fixing one’s consciousness in a comfortable yet dangerous state. It’s comforting for some to presume they know all there is to know, however, this illusion inevitably decays after enough exposure to anomalies (which can be very painful either existentially or psychologically).

    This discussion reminded me of Carl Jung’s “rebirth” concept, developed more understandably in Jordan Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning (which you should definitely read if you haven’t already). If my mind isn’t deceiving me, he builds on the idea that there are three levels of consciousness : adolescent, group, and individual. Transition from one state to the next involves a descent and rebirth of consciousness. But I’ll stop myself since I do not wish to spoil it contents for you.

    Good point on the psychedelic substances. I would also say the counter-culture of the 60’s was a widespread rebellion against traditional values. It seems the migration of New Age German ideas reached the States about that time, arguably undermining the whole culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You certainly have some excellent points regarding the various domains of consciousness. It is interesting how usefully Jungian psychology is.

      I majored in Psychology in College. The program had more of a scientific focus. Meaning the psychoanalytical thinkers of old Vienna were discredited as being unscientific and unevolved.

      However, first saw the utility in Jung’s thinking when I took a course on mythology. I had a large research paper for my final. I cited primary texts from Jung. It ended up being an excellent paper. For me, Jung was the forbidden fruit of my college years.

      Liked by 1 person

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