Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
[b]Only a few...
Only a view, a mere handful at best, in any generation anywhere on the face of this green earth prefer the pain of knowing to the pleasures of ignorance, the risk of being right to every temporal security of being wrong. In what context? In virtually all facets of daily life, in confronting ultimate human realit Thoughts?
Wait, why are you only focusing on cases where pain attends knowledge and/or pleasure attends ignorance? There should be many more cases to consider given that there are at least 3 different dimensions: one is the conative attitude one has toward some proposition; another is the cognitive attitude one has toward the same proposition; a third is (in the case of belief one way or the other) whether that person is correct or mistaken regarding the proposition. There are cases where one could be blissfully knowledgeable, just as there are cases where one could be blissfully ignorant; there are cases where one could be ambivalent regardless if he is knowledgeable or ignorant; there are cases where one could feel a sense of urgency about his being ignorant, just as he could feel a sense of urgency about his being knowledgeable; etc. So I am confused why you restrict attention to only a couple possibilities, almost like you are setting up some sort of false dichotomy.
The other thing I would point out is that even in cases where one has knowledge of some unpleasant or sinister aspect of the world, it doesn't follow that he must stand in constant pain for this. Suppose one would prefer that P not be the case (on some hypothetical all-else-equal preference construal); but nevertheless believes that P is the case; and is in fact correct in that belief. Then this is an example where there is some dissonance between the way the world is and presents to us and the way one would prefer the world to be. This touches on a major source of existential conflict and suffering: craving for the world to be something other than what one takes it to be. In that case, I see no easy cookie-cutter solutions, but there are ways to alleviate the suffering. Some such points of dissonance are within our control to at least some extent, and we can endeavor to conform them. For those beyond our control, it is best to come to understand them for what they are; come to healthy acceptance of them; and let the cravings lose their grip through ego dissolution. Again, I do not see any easy answers here, but (as one example) this is something toward which some forms of dharma practice are oriented. In contrast, sticking your proverbial head in the sand or feigning ignorance would not seem too effective (nor preferable) to me.
My other comment would be that I find it ironic that so many offer up "faith" as a solution to this sort of existential hardship (which is a separate issue from what I think of faith in epistemic terms, where yet again I cannot find much to recommend faith). I think faith is (or at least many forms of it are) typically counteractive in this regard because it tends to promote ego strengthening coupled with hope, both of which can present major obstacles in my opinion. I like the cautionary words of Thich Nhat Hanh (Peace is Every Step
) on the subject of hope:
Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us - to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace, or the Kingdom of God. Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here.
Enlightenment, peace, and joy will not be granted by someone else. The well is within us, and if we dig deeply in the present moment, the water will spring forth. We must go back to the present moment in order to be really alive....
Western civilization places so much emphasis on the idea of hope that we sacrifice the present moment. Hope is for the future. It cannot help us discover joy, peace, or enlightenment in the present moment. Many religions are based on the notion of hope, and this teaching about refraining from hope may create a strong reaction. But the shock can bring about something important. I do not mean that you should not have hope, but that hope is not enough. Hope can create an obstacle for you, and if you dwell in the energy of hope, you will not bring yourself back entirely into the present moment. If you re-channel those energies into being aware of what is going on in the present moment, you will be able to make a breakthrough and discover joy and peace right in the present moment, inside of yourself and all around you.