A wise man once said, ignorance is bliss. (Which is ironic because only a ‘wise’ man would know this. An ignorant man would be too busy hunting for food to sit and ponder life’s happiness). That wise man, also known as Copernicus or Romulus or somethingelse-us, was totally right.
I mean, true, people argue that learning could be fun. “Check out all the cool stuff you can learn,” people would say to me as they finished their Cosmic Cantina burritos. And I would say to people, “What do you mean, give me an example.” And then people would say, “Well take this burrito for example. I learned in my organic chemistry class that these tomatoes in my burrito give me Vitamin B12—which is important for eyesight.” And then I would say to people, “That’s not true! You totally made that up.” And people and I would laugh because we know you don’t learn anything useful in organic chemistry.
But the point is, knowing that there’s a vitamin in my burrito that gives me superpowers like seeing through clothing and predicting a C-1, isn’t needed. In fact, I’d rather just sit back and munch on my burrito without the knowledge that I’m gaining 3.4 million calories and 2.9 of them are going straight to my jugular vein in an attempt to suffocate my brain. Some things I’d rather not know. So why is it we can’t just enjoy life? Why must we always be aware of the horrors of the world?
If I lived on a farm in Wisconsin, without a newspaper or a TV, with just my wife, two and a half kids, a dog, three cows, a tractor, some chickens and other assorted farm paraphernalia, I think I’d be pretty content. Unlike the entire United States that felt incredibly saddened and shocked and angered after Sept. 11, I wouldn’t have been affected. Imagine never knowing that an atrocity like that had occurred. Would you feel cheated? Or do you think, maybe life would be better, just not knowing. I would still grow the same tomato (without knowing it has B12) and still be able to feed my family. I’d live a pretty darn good life.
But doesn’t learning make life better? Maybe. But it seems that students these days are so set on knowing the answer to ALL their questions, they ignore what is most important to them. Back in the day, people used to just learn one trade and stick to it. You wanna be a jester in the king’s court? You don’t need to know how to do differential calculus. (You do, on the other hand, need to buy a crazy hat from Osh Kosh B’Gosh). While knowing lots of stuff is fine, spreading yourself thin and never really learning anything because you know a little bit about everything is a waste.
I’m not saying to drop out of college and open up a beaded necklace stand in southwestern Jamaica. All I’m saying is that there are lots of things in the world you should just leave unlearned. Our Duke curriculum makes us become liberal minded people with a breadth of knowledge, but don’t stress out because you don’t understand market fluctuations and equilibriums. Life goes on without you knowing that.
For that matter, life goes on without you understanding the geometry of pi, or every international affair. Why free trade is good, and war, not so good. Why blue and yellow paint make green paint, but if you mix too much of any color, you always get this same disgusting looking brown. (And why Crayola seems to think that if you add glitter to a crayon, it’s a new color. It’s the same color, people! Just with glitter.) It’s okay not to know, because someone out there does know the answers to these questions and will probably handle things fine without your worrying.
So maybe rework the theory. Ignorance isn’t bliss. But… find something you like, and do it. If you succeed at that, not only will you be happy, you’ll have the money to pay people to do all those things you don’t like to do. (And isn’t that just as important as happiness?)
Yoni Riemer is a Trinity sophomore. His column appears on Tuesdays.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.