In our society, the term “stupid” carries with it a significant negative judgement, so much so that it is typically used as an insult. It is therefore not commonly considered that stupidity, and its cohort, ignorance, could actually bring with them a great increase of happiness. With no need to learn anything beyond the skills needed to survive, those who elect to remain in intellectual darkness are left with many years of unused life, life that could be spent falling in love, or serving a prison sentence. In contrast, those who feel that continued education is necessary spend many years of their limited lifespan learning, leaving precious little time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. We often observe that “simple pleasures” can be the most gratifying of all, and it cannot be denied that simple people experience more simple pleasures. In fact, many activities that may be negative for an educated person can be enjoyed by one who cares less for information; without any feelings of obligation toward societal progress, the ignorant can do as they please with limited guilt. Such ignorance inevitably leads to, as the tried-and-true idiom predicts, a state of bliss.
As a member of what many consider to be the intellectual elite, i.e. those who are pursuing knowledge, I can definitively say that continued education has resulted only in an ever-increasing feeling of despair and guilt. More information has inevitably led me to feel a greater obligation toward mankind to use such information for the common good, and in the face of this looming responsibility, I have postponed my societal purpose and continued my education. In addition to creating unhappiness, this guilt is also entirely unproductive. It is not as if I have actually acted upon these feelings of responsibility and attempted to affect change in the world. If I had instead chosen to forego further education and spent my time freely and without obligation, it is almost guaranteed that I would be a happier person today.
Literacy is a perfect case-in-point. If I had spent more of my early childhood relaxing and enjoying the simple pleasures of life, such as sleeping and eating, those years of my life would undoubtedly have been happier. Instead, I chose to put those fulfilling activities aside for many minutes per day in order to learn one of the most basic skills: reading the written word. Every day since I learned to read has been less enjoyable than those which preceded them, as I have spent countless unnecessary seconds reading words that have no meaning to me. Proponents of reading will argue that great works of literature can be sources of pleasure. In such cases, however, these people have clearly never spent half an hour simply staring out a window. Such a wonderful experience puts a half-hour of reading to shame; with no focus requirements, the mind is free to wander and contemplate such simple thoughts as, “what should I eat next?” and “was that a bird?” Answering these gloriously simple questions is time better spent than doing something so mundane as reading.
In the vein of simple questions, we can also observe simple pleasures. These wonderful occurrences, when a domestic event brings you unexpected joy, are a staple of a blissful existence. While we in the educated population may think that we experience enough simple pleasures, we are failing to consider the vast expanse of possible pleasures that we are unable to enjoy due to our own knowledge. For instance, a string of abnormally sunny days could be a source of joy. However, for those who are aware of the world around them, a string of sunny days simply serves as a reminder of the terrible harm that mankind continues to cause, heating the entire planet with greenhouse gas emissions. An ignorant person has no need to consider such global issues; as far as they are concerned, a warm day is just a pleasant gift that should be enjoyed to the fullest. While the day of an educated person is marred by thoughts of increasing global temperatures and the political gridlock that is failing to address the problem of climate change, an ignorant person can walk out of their home, feel the sun shining on their skin, and feel happy that whatever magic controls the weather has blessed them with a pleasant day.
This ignorance of societal problems is an important factor in increasing happiness in and of itself. Members of society who are aware of the difficulties facing our world feel an increased sense of obligation to fix these problems, and can become caught-up in this need to assist the progress of mankind. While a choice few may actually improve the world as a whole, the vast majority of the people who feel this sense of obligation make no real contributions; they simply go through life feeling guilty and wishing that they could do more. This state of being is counterproductive and can easily be replaced by blissful ignorance of global issues.
Let us examine the life of a public servant. Such a person may be devoted to the idea of advancing the public good, and they are characterized by the unfortunate delusion that their minute contributions to society can induce a positive change. Those who fall into this category may well have been brought into this mindset by the words of Gandhi, who famously proclaimed that one must “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi, who was speaking from personal experience, was an exception to the rule. Unfortunately for those who follow his ideals, not every person can be as exceptional as the man who uttered those unhelpful words. The false sense of meaning that people derive from this grand delusion is extremely counterproductive for society as a whole. Many dreamers, all seeking to be the next exception to the rule, fail to enjoy their lives as much as possible.
The immediate counterargument to this audacious claim is that if nobody attempts to be exceptional, we will never again find true difference-makers. I contend that the truly exceptional people, that is to say those who would succeed in changing the world, will still be able to affect change. If it is to be believed that these people are exceptions to the rules governing change, then adding a new rule simply means that they will exceed another constraint. Thus, there will be no loss from this change, only gain. The truly exceptional will continue to change the world, and those who had no chance of affecting change from the beginning will instead be able to enjoy their own lives, without worrying about their own significance.
With only happiness to be gained and no societal progress to lose, the respect of ignorance is an excellent and obvious change to make. Exceptional people will continue to change the world in spite of the newly free population, and the masses will be able to enjoy their lives to a degree that was previously unheard of. Ignorance is a beautiful and freeing condition, and with greater societal acceptance, more people will be able to enjoy a complete lack of accountability. This new population will be able to spend their lives enjoying as many simple pleasures as possible, and will be led into a brighter, more irresponsible future by the select few who still pursue change. World problems will be addressed by the dreamers, and these same problems will be ignored and assumed to be fixed by the general population. The masses would not have been able to help solve the problems in the first place, so forcing them to worry about such great issues is unnecessary. Embracing ignorance is therefore superior to our current practice of encouraging awareness and education, as it allows greater happiness with no cost.