Ignorance Is Bliss

An English poet, Thomas Grey, ended his 1742 poem, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, with what has become a well-known aphorism: “where ignorance is bliss, / ‘Tis folly to be wise.” The part that’s quoted most often is, “Ignorance is bliss.” Considering ignorance bliss has a long history. One of the central stories of both Judaism and Christianity is Eve’s being tempted by Satan to eat the fruit of knowledge and then persuading Adam to do the same.

The theme has been important to me for a long time. The title of my 1974 Ph.D. dissertation . . . → Read More: Ignorance Is Bliss

The Winter of Our Discontent

I owe the title of this blog entry to William Shakespeare, who put those words in the mouth of King Richard III. Richard’s words were a metaphor for difficult times under the previous king rather than commentary on a polar vortex of the sort we’ve been experiencing in much of the U.S. this winter. For many in the States, this has been the coldest winter with the most ice and snow that we’ve had for several years.

Meanwhile, Melbourne, Australia, has been so hot that those playing tennis in the Australian Open have been wilting in the heat, . . . → Read More: The Winter of Our Discontent

Selling Fear in the New Year

One of the things I’ve been paying increasing attention to (perhaps because of the ongoing political debate in the U.S.) is fear marketing. I find it amazing at how pervasive “fear appeals” are and the various ways they are used to sell “stuff,” including politicians and political “talking points.” The basic concept is that we really need to be afraid of X, and, if we want to be safe, we need to stock up on (or vote for) the anti-X.

The world has a lot of risky stuff in it, of course, and we are undoubtedly safer when we . . . → Read More: Selling Fear in the New Year

The Father of Lies

The Christian Bible says that Satan is the “Father of Lies.” The actual Father of Lies, however, is fear. Regardless of whether you believe that Satan is a metaphor for fear, you undoubtedly know that people lie when they are afraid. Everyone, George Washington included, has lied and will probably lie again. Lying is a normal part of human existence because humans experience fear. Think about the last time you told a lie, especially a significant one, and note that you felt fearful before uttering your lie. You can use knowing that fear is the “father” of lies to increase . . . → Read More: The Father of Lies

“What’s a Book, Daddy?”

As I am starting to write this electronic blog, one of the headlines for the day is that one of the principal bookstores in the U.S., Borders, is filing for bankruptcy. Electronic readers—e-readers—are gaining market share. In related stories, Amazon recently announced that Kindle e-book sales have surpassed sales of both hardcover and paperback books. For those of us who have spent a lifetime reading books, the move to “electronic literature” is a bit unsettling. I still have books on my shelves that I read as a college undergraduate. They have moved with me at least eight times and kept . . . → Read More: “What’s a Book, Daddy?”