Monday, October 25, 2010

In Praise of Folly

"Where ignorance is bliss; 'tis folly to be wise."
Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College
     I can't decide whether Mr. Gray has hit the nail on the head, or if he's a hopeless fool himself.  Despite suffering brought about by an awareness of the world's harsh realities, is ignorance really the best way to live?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I go back and forth.
      Mr. Gray seems to think that wisdom comes precisely from becoming aware that the world ain't all sunshine and rainbows.  After a long melancholy poem, his ending quip throws its hands up, and says that if ignorance makes you happy, well then, screw the world and be ignorant.  I just can't seem to agree with that defeatist attitude, but something tells me that there's more to the poem than that.
     For lack of time, here are more questions/concerns I have with Mr. Gray -
1. Is it a bad thing to be a fool?
2. What do you mean exactly by wisdom?
3. How are you defining bliss?
4. Are we to assume that bliss is to be sought after?
5. Are we talking about deliberate ignorance?

1 comment:

  1. I think Socrates would have a thing or two to say to Mr. Gray, and would probably delight in thoroughly humiliating him. I suppose Mr. Gray might be correct in the everyday sense - if you never see the cockroaches under your cupboard, you will not lie awake at night imagining them scuttling over your pots and pans. (Ew.) But in the larger sense, I think ignorance is laziness, not bliss, and therefore the "bliss" it brings is in a way merely hedonistic and therefore short-lived and unfulfilling. Thoughts?