Ignorance is Bliss

Last night I watched the film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. For those who haven’t seen it (spoiler alert), after a bad breakup, a girl undergoes a medical procedure to have her memories of the romance removed. On finding this out, the man does the same. The core of the film takes place in the man’s head as the procedure is taking place. Meandering through his memories, he realises that he doesn’t want to forget what they had. He desperately tries to resist the erasing process, trying to lay deep associations so that he can remember when he wakes up.

The film spun out of an Alexander Pope extract that is quoted by the technician doing the erasing;

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

Reading a little bit about the poem, it is about a man who becomes a monk to escape his feelings of anguish in the world. The point is that you eventually forget the real world, and the real world in turn forgets you, leaving you angst free. Withdraw yourself from society and you are left with nothing but eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.

Of course, the point of the film is that this is a bad idea. Life is all about the full smorgasbord of pleasure and pain, this is what makes us human. The idea that “ignorance is bliss” is a flawed premise at the ultimate level of understanding ourselves. We have to embrace it all.

I think this is an interesting theme to open for discussion. Have you come across this in any songs? Or other films, books or quotes? How much do you value the painful experiences in your mind, or would you pay for them to all be removed? Would a life of ignorance be really that sunny, or are we striving for a deeper sense of fulfilment?

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Great discussion topic!

I mean first thing that comes to mind in terms of movies that “ignorance is bliss” is The Matrix. Being truly alive is a lot harder and scarier than being a cog in a machine. And given the option some would choose to stay a cog if it mean’t an automatic life. Same sort of thing in the movie “The Island” a bunch of clones just existing when one starts to realise that things don’t seem right in a manufactured existence.

I had written a bit about a song however upon reflection it didn’t match the topic.

As for ignorance is bliss I must say I am guilty of this. I don’t watch/read the news because from my little plot of land in the centre of Victoria if anything were to be effecting me directly I would be aware of it. Having said this, I have no idea whats going on with covid, or the war in ukraine and I understand both are terrible things going on but knowing either in great detail is just anxiety hits.

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The first three songs that popped in my head were “Montauk” by Bayside (for obvious reasons) and “Can’t remember to forget you” by Shakira, and “Veronica” by Elvis Costello! Ha. They are all a little different, but have a “forgetting” theme.

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