Willful Ignorance In The Information Age

Aug 10, 2018

 


Opportunities vary, but never has so much information been accessible to so many. Still, otherwise hardworking adults shrink from seeking treasures of knowledge within their grasp. “Just tell me what I need to know for my job,” they say. Natural curiosity burns from birth, but do we extinguish it? 

 


 

In Thomas Gray’s famous “Elegy on a Country Churchyard,” the speaker wonders about anonymous graves where rustics lie. The fate of 18th-Century peasants in England was hard labor, illiteracy, and obscurity. Their low birth barred them from the benefits of books. 

 

Had circumstances differed, they might have risen to fame and achieved worldly wonders. The speaker tells us that poverty “froze the genial current of the soul” and “Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen, / And waste its sweetness on the desert air.” We mustn’t allow our attitudes and culture to be like the poem’s desert air. We should provide fertile ground for curiosity to flower. 

 

We climb mountains because they are there. The Everest of knowledge and opportunity might not always remain if our age neglects to climb it. 

Thomas Gray’s rustics were innocent because of their powerlessness—but also because they couldn’t commit acts of great destruction. But do we want to be peasants, intellectually and philosophically? Are we supposed to aspire narrowly and comfortably, denigrating those who dare increase their knowledge and expand their experiences? I don’t think so. To whom much is given, of them much is required. 

 

I'm Bill Gahan and that's my perspective.