Ignorance is bliss. At least that’s what we’ve all heard a number of times. I’m not sure any of us would mistake ignorance for a state of sublime happiness…but there is something envious about that childlike innocence of not having to be aware of something, of not being accountable for some knowledge.
This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated.
On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.
In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity pp. 164-165.)
Becoming more aware and learning principles of happiness and love unfortunately also means discovering there are rats in the cellar. You’re going to become much more attentive to all the unproductive and dysfunctional behaviors and reactions that just seem so hard-wired…and that can be a little daunting.
The good news is, while it may be frustrating to realize just how deep a problem goes, this newfound awareness is powerful. It is this awareness that lets you begin to focus on a negative behavior or pattern with greater attention and deliberateness. It is this specific knowledge that lets you finally seek out a remedy, to focus on the root of a problem instead of just the symptoms.
The alternative would be to ignorantly insist that the only time you have a problem is when there is sudden provocation, so it isn’t really a problem. But that isn’t really an alternative…it’s just ignorance masquerading as bliss.
(Cool pattern above by Suzanne Antonelli.)
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