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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Pransky

What’s This All About

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

The familiar phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes from a 1742 poem by Thomas Gray. The text reads, “Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.”

I didn’t think much about the meaning of this line until I learned of an even older version of the adage from Ecclesiastes, which presents it from a different point of view. (I attended a private Jewish day school for 7th-12th grade, at which Bible was a regular class.) It is written in Ecclesiastes, “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” In my head, I use the shorthand: “Knowledge is pain.”

When given the simple option of bliss or pain, the choice is obvious -- bliss. When given the above context, I choose pain every time, if it means I am less ignorant.

It’s tough to watch the news, read the paper, or scroll through social media and see the wide array of tragedies, injustices, and criminal acts. The knowledge of these current events inspires grief, sorrow, and pain. We already have personal problems; why deliberately add weight to our daily struggles?

The answer lies in the bigger picture. We should work towards making everyone happier, healthier, and safer. Ultimately, we can achieve peace of mind, which is much more fulfilling than the bliss of ignorance. If we acknowledge each other’s suffering and take some small actions to ease it, we can all lead richer lives and create a better world for those who come after us. (I’m rolling my eyes at this idealism, but I believe it is possible.)

I choose to continually expand my knowledge of what is happening in America, and King Solomon (or whoever wrote Ecclesiastes) was right -- by doing so, my sorrow has increased. I wake up every morning thinking about the injustices people face, and I always go to sleep convinced that I haven’t done enough to help. That’s not a peaceful existence.

This is why I’m involved with this group, Creatives 4 Democracy (C4D). I don’t know how far our reach will be, I don’t know how much positive change we will create, and I don’t know how long we will exist because this organization is a lot of work. BUT, let me share what I do know. Every time I talk to a C4D team member, see the work we do or notice that we gained a follower, I feel better. This group makes me hopeful, a little more at peace.

We started with the Bible and 18th Century poetry, so why not end with 1989 pop culture?! In the movie Road House, Dalton (played by Patrick Swayze) says, “Pain don’t hurt.” That’s what I tell myself when the sorrow of knowledge starts to take over my thoughts, and then I sit at my desk for 2 hours on a Sunday to write about it. Tomorrow, I’ll try to do more.


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