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Ignorance And Dating And Dead Cats

Most of you have heard of Schrodinger and his cat, but let me summarize (my apologies to all the physics majors who have to read this). He put a cat in a box with a container of poisonous gas that had a 50/50 chance of escaping and killing the cat. He said that before we look in to see if the cat is dead or not, it’s both dead and alive. He says that until we open the box, no definite event has happened. It’s our curiosity that actually makes one of the events happen. He used this theoretical experiment to develop a theory on metaphysics (which is way above my paygrade).

I think Schrodinger was on to something though. We always want to know more than we need to know, and more than we want to know. By that, I don’t mean knowledge. I fully agree with Francis Bacon’s “knowledge is power.” Rather, I’m talking about information more specifically about other people, or even us. Is our curiosity a liability or an asset? I’m sure many people take Bacon to the next level and try to know the most they can—only then do they feel like their life is a genuine one, devoid of lies. But I don’t think that’s true. If I may borrow from Thomas Grey, “Ignorance is bliss.”

I indebt this article to The Fountain Hopper, a group of Stanford students who found out how to legally retrieve everything your college’s admissions department ever wrote about you. This created a pretty big fuss, and everyone was trying to find out what was said about him or her. I myself got excited, and followed the steps listed on their website. But I didn’t go through with it. Why would anyone want to know what the people in Devlin wrote about you? Spoiler: You got in. At best, you find that your essays were “very well written” and your recommendations were “impressive.” At worst, you find you were accepted because of something beyond your credentials: race, income, legacy, etc. Why open that box? Can you really say you’d be happier having that box opened? I don’t. Without opening that box, I’m just someone who got in. And I’m fine with that.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. Rather, I want to talk about something that reaches a great deal of us: dating. And I don’t mean relationships, just the casual dating scene. Although I know it is “nonexistent” here at Boston College, dating is one of the best representations of the power of ignorance. Do you really want to know about the other people he or she is going on dates with? Or do you want to know about whom he or she hooked up with in a Mod last night? When asked, many will be categorical and say that they would always rather know. Chances are I’m describing you right now. It makes a lot of sense, not wanting to be kept in the dark. But I don’t feel that way.

Imagine that in your box stands the other people involved with who you’re involved. You must ask yourself: do you want to open the box, and do you need to open the box? The first question is easy. You don’t want there to be other people. Sadness, jealousy, and anger surely will follow. But do you need to open that box? That question decides whether or not ignorance is bliss in this situation. And I think you don’t need to open the box. I don’t think you need to do anything at all. Put the box away, and open it if you actually end up in a relationship.

There is a distinction that needs to be made though, a distinction between ignorance and denial: If there’s a funny smell coming from Schrodinger’s box, a smell that resembles more or less that of a dead cat, does the paradox still hold? Of course not. There’s now a strong suspicion that the cat is dead, and to ignore it is simply denial, not ignorance. If you have a reasonable suspicion that your significant other isn’t being faithful, the last thing you should do is do nothing and convince yourself that it’s for the best. Again, that’s not ignorance, and surely that’s not healthy either.

Taken in its lightest form, I really do believe “ignorance is bliss.” We need to quit obsessing over what we don’t know, and be content with what we do know, no matter how cheesy that sounds.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic


February 1, 2015