I recently saw a quote that got me thinking, but I haven’t figured out where to take it yet. It’s attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and he said:
There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.
I can see it going a few ways.
Knowing about the hardships of others and working to relieve them is a fantastic trait to have. However, if you were to be wise to all of the suffering across the entire globe, it could potentially be debilitating. Perhaps that’s where he was going?
Another angle could be a lack of focus. I’ve talked before about my use of Anki to help with my learning. If I wanted to learn everything I possibly could, I’d have millions of cards in the deck, never really learn any of them, and be chained to my phone all day long trying to work through them. It’d be miserable. Choosing to stay ignorant helps keep the list manageable.
In researching this quote, I found the second part of it that is often missed with the quote I shared. Here is the full quote:
There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant, and these are such. Shun them as you would the secrets of the undertaker and the butcher.
That points to a few other areas, both of which I’ve actively tried to avoid in my life. I appreciate both professions deeply, but I don’t wish to see behind the curtain of either.
What are other areas where it might be beneficial to remain ignorant?