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If Only I had Known!: It Pays To Be Ignorant

06/09/10 7:55AM By Bill Mares
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(HOST) Every year we invite commentators to write on the same theme and share their essays at a brunch. This year the topic was "If Only I Had Known." And today, we learn from writer and former teacher Bill Mares that, sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

(MARES) I’m going to be a curmudgeon here.      

Like most imperfect people, I’ve made countless stupid mistakes or otherwise embarrassed myself because I didn’t know what was coming.  However, the phrase, "If I had only known," connotes regrets. It suggests that, through the rear-view mirror, knowledge is power, or enlightenment.

Conventional wisdom on this matter is contradictory:  "Look before you leap!"  warns one cliche,  while another whispers "He who hesitates is lost."

There’s another perspective from which to view  the many moments that are the fruits of impulse  or come unbidden or unexpected.  This is what I’d call "intelligent ignorance."  Because it's what you do with those surprises  that makes life more interesting, challenging..and rewarding.

My own particular inverse square law posits that the more time I spend deciding something important the worse the final decision is.  My first three professional choices, which bore the stretch marks of months of cogitation, were total failures.   Then I fell into journalism by chance.         

Now I admit it IS easier to contemplate the flame-outs of long-past failures than to stare at the smoking wreakage of recent crashes.       More times than perhaps I deserve, snap judgments have  changed my life for the better.      

The best of them was falling in love with my wife in a Chicago elevator 41 years ago. 38 years ago, on a lark, I took up beekeeping.  It has been a lifelong passion.           

In 5 seconds, I agreed to join the greatest physical adventure of my life, a 1200 mile trek by camel across Saudi Arabia.        

I was lucky as a kid that my parents urged me to try all kinds of things.  When my dad said   "Get lost!" he meant go explore, not get out of his sight!      "Problems are opportunities in workclothes," he liked to say.

"If I had only known," life would have been a tamer, duller beast.     I can’t resist bringing up a radio show of my youth called "It Pays to be Ignorant,"  which parodied high IQ  shows like "Quiz Kids," with "a panel of experts  who are dumber than you are, and can prove it."  The theme song went like this:    

It pays to be ignorant,
To be dumb,
to be dense,
To be ignorant.
It pays to be ignorant,
Just like me.

Check out the "If Only I Had Known!" series page


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