Is it always better to know the truth, even when it hurts? Or is ignorance bliss? Or are they both true some of the time?
I’d like to answer this question by referencing the brilliant work The Giver by Lois Lowry. If you’ve never read it, the main character is named Jonas. He’s a twelve-year old in a thriving Community. There are no choices, no free will, no indivituality. Jobs are picked for you, as are houses, spouses, and children. Music and color are gone. The environment is controlled to take away those pesky factors like rain and the seasons. History is forgotten, and the people live in the very definition of “ignorant bliss”.
Jonas is selected as The Giver. His job to serve his Community? To bear the weight of the memories of the past, the outside world, the previous Communities. He must learn to remember war, love, family, peace, lust, hate, contentment, birth and death. Every experience is thrust upon him, so that his people may continue to live in their bliss.
As he learns, however, to embrace these new memories, ideas, and morals, a dilema presents itself. All his friends have been given the same placid jobs as everyone else- Caretaker, Bike Mechanic, Engineer, Teacher, etc. They continue to live normally, unaware of how their very existance is devoid of everything emotional.
He must decide whether the truth is worth hurting so many people. The memories of war, of death, of pain? Unknown to them. Jonas is alone in his struggle, but none of his friends understand.
In the end, he tries to tell them of everything they’re missing–but the decision is moot, because they won’t listen. They ignore his ramblings and offer psychological help.
So he runs away, no longer able to take the pressure of living in such a mindless happy-bliss society when the weight of the world rests on his shoulders.
This leads me to my conclusion drawn from the book. In the end, does it matter? If a human being does not want to believe something is true, they won’t believe it. Quite simple. Ignorance is indeed bliss, and we as a race are all about bliss. We will choose the easy way out, no matter the cost in integrity or truth.
Those of you who are familiar with my writing know that I’m not actually a very optimistic person. Unfortunately I seem to see the worst in people (and society). I can’t say I’m not jaded, and I can’t say that we’re totally condemned, either. I suppose I’m just tired of all the gloss of the media and of our own hearts. We’re creatures that will, by nature, spend all our money on clothes and technology while other humans lay dying and starving just miles away. I’m guilty of just as much.
Ignorance is bliss. The world is more of a Community than we’d like to think. If it hurts, we pretend it doesn’t exist.
As a human being, I would say that being uninformed is the easiest path (NOT the best, just the easiest). As a pessimistic, world-weary observer? Well, we need to expose our faults and correct them. Being ignorant is the easiest path, but it leads to our utter destruction in the end.
Who knows? Maybe we can wake from this ignorant stupor. Maybe it’s a time for miracles. Maybe we can escape this mindless society and realize how we’ve been going through the motions since the beginning of time.