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Some think ignorance is bliss, others claim knowledge is power. So which is the most appropriate outlook on life? Should we live according to only one of these two mentalities or can they perfectly co-exist? If so, then how do you find an adequate balance between knowledge and ignorance and why is it important to find that balance?
When something is unknown to us, it rarely makes us feel comfortable. We prefer to surround ourselves with things we know enough about to understand their functioning or purpose. For instance, people are currently worried about the so-called Islamisation of the West. Western people generally know very little about Islam and when Muslims take their traditions that are unknown to us over to ‘our’ world, we see it as a threat to our own culture. Ignorance scares us, although we cannot possibly avoid it, since ignorance is infinite.
‘I know one thing: that I know nothing’, with these words the Greek philosopher Socrates acknowledged that infinity of ignorance. He was the first to realise that even if you think you know everything about a certain matter, that knowledge remains incredibly limited. It is impossible to know everything, whether we’re talking about all things in general or one hing in particular. After all, new information can be discovered at all times that could complement the knowledge you already have, or it could even nullify said knowledge. But the same can be said about that newly obtained information: that could also turn out to be incomplete or just plain wrong.
Sometimes we hold on to the reassurance knowledge gives us so tightly, that we forget the virtue of ignorance. For example, food from fast-food chains tastes good to whomever doesn’t know what has been processed in its ‘meat’, while those who do know are more likely to reject such a meal, regardless of whether they like the food or not. Another example is finding out that your significant other is cheating on you. It might feel good finally knowing the truth, but if you had a good relationship with that person besides the cheating part, then you were probably happier before you found out the truth. Knowledge usually gives us a feeling of certainty and safety, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes us happier.
Being ignorant has its downsides, too. In some cases it can even be life-threatening. If you don’t know the risks of excessive use of alcohol or drugs, the consequences for you and people in your environment can be fatal. People affected with an STD without realising it or without knowing how the disease spreads are also a danger to themselves as well as to others. Moreover, if you don’t know what too much chocolate can do to a dog, you can arrange a cute little funeral in your backyard after you’ve discovered how poisonous that snack is to your pet.
To conclude, ignorance is inevitable, but indispensable as well. Being too ignorant is not good either, though, since it can lead to some pretty unpleasant situations. That’s why it is necessary to find a balance between ignorance and knowledge. You can only find out for yourself how to find that balance. Some people find certainty and reassurance in knowledge, because of which they prefer to be informed on as many things as possible. Others value the comfort of ignorance, which is why ignorance will weigh more heavily than knowledge on their balance. It’s just important not to think too black and white. Knowledge can’t exist without ignorance and vice versa. It’s no use trying to live a life in which you want to know truly everything or absolutely nothing. The same goes for how you see other people: someone who isn’t very knowledgeable on a topic that’s important to you is not someone you should judge or consider to be stupid merely for his lack of knowledge. After all, it is most likely that that person knows more about other stuff than you do.