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Ignorance is bliss, isn't it?

What if someone told you at this very moment, that the COVID vaccine will be out by next month? How would you feel about that?

I don’t know why I chose this specific example to make my point, but I guess that life post-COVID has gotten so secluded that even the slightest amount of vindictive pleasure is too tempting to pass on!

So, no! To be very honest and direct, I don’t know if the actual vaccine is going to be out within a month or two. Hell, I don’t even know if the new Playstation 5 is going to release in India before the year ends! But one does hope. And therein lies the issue.

HOLD ON though… let’s not discuss the answer before we understand the question.

When someone coined the term ‘ignorance is bliss’, were they deliberately trying to be lazy? It is like saying Valar Morghulis is the answer to all of life’s problems when in reality, that is just a sexist remark that completely disregards the female race all together! Whoever proclaimed ignorance to be blissful, conveniently forgot that the property of being blissful is dependent on the state of mind of the individual subjected to the ignorance. That is just a fancy way of saying that for someone who suffers from a case of serial FOMO, ignorance is NEVER bliss!

By the way, here, I have been a different KIND of lazy by not researching into the origin of this phrase in the first place. However, I never questioned it as a kid, and I am not about to start doubting my childhood foundations, now, especially when the COVID vaccine is only two months away! Gosh, I need to stop joking about that.

Consider the COVID vaccine example for a minute. No jokes, I promise.

I am sure that there are at least two camps among people based on their response to that sort of news –

A. The sceptics who believe that any ‘true’ vaccine is probably years away and this is nothing but a wild rumour

B. The optimists who believe that this news instils a renewed hope amongst their kind (people who already have a half a leg over the balcony railing, obviously metaphorically!)

The sceptics would never be affected because they would never really accept the premise! You can’t be mad at a rumour or get fidgety because of it, and hence for this particular group of people, ignorance is neither bliss nor torment. It’s just ‘meh’!

However, the optimists invest their heart and soul into such news. Some of them will start preparing in anticipation. Others will start pushing things around so that they can be in town for the big launch of the vaccine! And irrespective of whether the news is true or false, they will suffer! If it’s true, then they will have spent every living moment of those two months in the fervent hope of a cure without thinking of delays, protocols, processes, queues or lottery systems! If it turns out to be false, then it’s only a matter of time before a few of them throw the other leg off the railing as well!

Ouch. That turned dark quite quickly. I am not even sure if a joke at this point will reflect good taste. But then, you could look at the bright side of that dark comment – the balcony could be at ground level! Nope… bad taste… I agree.

So reverting to the ridiculous example at hand, which questions the effectiveness of knowing something vs enjoying ignorance, one might say that the problem isn’t the piece of information itself, but our reaction to it! More decidedly, it is the way that we perceive our expectations, or what we commonly refer to as ‘hope’. That’s the problem.

“Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.”– The Architect in ‘The Matrix Reloaded’

The movie is a sci-fi ruckus of magnanimous proportions, but that one line, from among many such quotes, does ring true in real life. We hope to change things for the better or to prevent things from getting worse, and which is why we react to specific news so differently. For instance, if a friend is drifting away from me gradually, I’d want to know because I think I could change the end outcome. On the other hand, if I am about to get bad news that I cannot affect in any way, ignorance would be my preferred mode of existence. Simple enough? Perhaps not.

I dug a bit deeper into this issue and came across a very peculiar realization.

Only a bit deeper, because there is a fine line that divides the ‘exploration of the human psyche’, from ‘psyching out the humans around you’, limited as the said humans are in the current scenario!

So here’s the realization.

Someone who is inherently optimistic and hopeful would never conceive of being ignorant. Because no matter whether the news is good or bad, and whether it is ex-ante or ex-post, they’d have a compulsive need to do something about it or at least mull over it! On the other hand, someone who takes facts at face value would consider ignorance to be an actual walk in heaven in any situation! If it’s bad news and they didn’t know, then GOOD! If it’s good news and they didn’t know, then ‘meh’!

But the above argument still does not definitively answer whether ignorance is, in fact, bliss. So, here’s my solution – ask yourself this – if you woke up tomorrow morning to realize that the vaccine is out, but you have been ignorant of the developments so far, how would that make you feel?

Well, let me tell you how I’d feel. I’d definitely be pissed off after reading an entire blog post, only to realize that the proposed solution is a twisted form of the question that was posed in the first sentence.

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