‘Ignorance is bliss.’

I’ve heard the phrase a thousand times but I’ve never stopped to consider the truth behind it. Is ignorance really bliss? Is it truly better to be happy by lacking the knowledge of a darker reality?

I suppose the answer would depend on how you define ignorance. Ignorance, at its most basic definition, is the lack of knowledge or information. Throughout history, humans have had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding. We want to know how things happen and why things happen and we want to develop. So why is it suggested that defying our basic human nature would make us happier?

Neuroscientists have recently proposed that the reason humans take pleasure from grasping new knowledge is due to a release of a natural opium-like substance in the brain. Simply put: understanding something new makes the brain feel good. So surely ignorance would be an unfavourable outcome?

Or is the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’, referring only to the lack of awareness for negative situations? Whether you are conscious of the detrimental aspects of your life or not does not change the fact that those detrimental aspects exist. Is it better to be oblivious to something that could cause you emotional or physical pain, or is it better to be mindful of problem so you can work for a solution? For example, if you’re asleep in a burning building, is it better to stay asleep, and perish none-the-wiser, or is it better to wake up and fight for a way out?

However, ignorance does unburden you from the stress and worry that can be triggered when you discover something unfavourable. Ignorance can save you from that horrible sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you hear those words you just don’t want to hear, those words that cannot be unheard.

As such, small amounts of ignorance can provide happiness on a short-term scale.

Overall, ignorance can save you from immediate pain or upset and can therefore provide a sort of bliss. But in this case, bliss is not necessarily the best thing. Being unaware of a problem does not mean the problem does not exist, and only after discovering and understanding a situation can you work for a solution. People have an incredible ability to thrive despite adverse circumstances.

Ignorance can provide bliss, but true and complete bliss can only come from being fully aware.