We are all familiar with the concept that “ignorance is bliss.” I started by wondering if this could be true. I have known people that identified themselves as “dumb,” and not in a blissful way. So I determined that, if ignorance is ever bliss, it must be so comprehensive as to include ignorance of the fact of ones own ignorance. That is to say, ignorance may be bliss, as long as you don’t know you are ignorant.
Then I got to thinking about this kid I knew in high school named Bob. He was the sweetest, nicest, funniest, friendliest, happiest guy I have ever known. Was he at risk of acing an IQ test and being secreted away to some government island to have his brain probed? Not likely. But that certainly didn’t bother him. He was completely comfortable, even delighted, with himself. Completely unaware that there would ever be any reason to be anything other than exactly who he was. And I admired, even envied, that.
I have known other people, not nearly as nice as Bob: beautiful face, great body, not much going on upstairs. Some of them were just fine with that arrangement and some of them were not. These were all attractive people, so people were attracted to them. Physically. For some of them, this was the attention they desired, so they were content. But others wanted to be desired for their brains or, at the very least, for their looks and brains. To be liked for “who they [were].” To be taken seriously. Sadly, this was just never going to happen. So, it seems, if people are attractive and superficial, then they can find bliss. But if they are attractive and want to be liked for something other than being physically, but not intellectually, attractive, they are out of luck in the bliss department.
Finally, you have the intellectually brilliant but physically unattractive. Some of these people seem content, and some seem bitter and angry. Take Nietzsche, for example. No one would contest that he was extremely intelligent, perhaps even a genius. But he was also an angry, bitter misogynist, with the craziest eyebrows I have ever seen. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe he, like those in the previous example, craved the attention that did not come naturally. Maybe, at least to some extent, we all always want what we can’t have.
Which brings me back to my originial premise: do we pity the fool? I guess that depends on what is important to us. Intelligence and being considered intelligent has always been important to me. I spent a good portion of the first couple decades of my life thinking I was just about the smartest person around. Now, through life experiences, I have come to see that this is not even close to true. And I am okay with that.
I also used to think that I was pretty hot. And…well…I still think I’m pretty hot. Deal with it.
Maybe bliss comes with a healthy understanding of who we are and who we are not. Not that we aren’t always learning, growing, developing, improving. Not that we should give up or be defeatists. But Chuck Norris would always be a better bodyguard than I could ever be (not that I am a sissy), and Bob would probably always be a better motivational speaker (not that I don’t have a healthy, happy outlook on life).
I think everyone would agree that you don’t have to be a genius to be a model. But I sure think intelligence is sexy.
So do we pity the fool? Should we? Or should the fool be pitying us?
(DISCLAIMER: I do not now consider, nor have I ever considered, Mr. T to be a fool. I just know that he, like me, is in the habit of pitying fools. So I thought his likeness would be a welcome addition to this discussion).