An Outdoor View: The joys of not knowing

While wondering what I was going to write about this week, I got to thinking about ignorance.

Ignorance has a bad rap, and it’s undeserved. It’s not all bad, or it wouldn’t be so prevalent. Like halitosis, ignorance flourishes upon the earth. Also like halitosis, some of us have more of it than others.

You won’t hear this often, but ignorance can be a good thing. It’s a sure way to avoid grief, fear, guilt, shame, and other feelings that aren’t as much fun as fishing or watching TV. Think about this: You weren’t sad that grandma died until you read about it in the paper. Something else to blame on the media.

Ignorant people make us feel superior. No one is so ignorant that they can’t find someone who makes them feel superior.

Another good thing about ignorant people is that so many of them will do jobs that smart people won’t do. What’s more, they’ll work for almost nothing.

Being ignorant allows us to enjoy things that we’ve been told aren’t good for our health. Who can forget waking up and reaching for a Camel, and that rapturous feeling of throat and lungs filling with non-filtered smoke?

If I could bottle ignorance, I could make a fortune. Come to think of it, I guess someone thought of that a long time ago.

When we’re ignorant of the feelings of other people, we sometimes call them names. For example, we might call someone a liar. Then we might step things up a little by calling them a crook. Once they’re properly belittled and demonized, it seems somehow right to do pretty much anything to them. Demonizing others is a good way to get people to help you, whether it be in a bar fight or a war.

Ignorance has much to do with fishing. Let’s say the barn-door-size halibut on your line surfaces, and the skipper shoots it, as they are wont to do, but instead of being stunned, the big fish thrashes the water to a froth, tears the gaff from the mate’s hands and heads posthaste for the bottom, at which point you might say, “Wow! That really made him mad!”

Besides asking why that sentence is so long, you might ask why I used “him” when referring to the fish, and not “her?” After all, it’s a well-known fact that all barn-door halibut are females. Is it that we prefer to call something we intend to kill a “he,” even when we know it’s a “she?”

Another example: When your boat engine shows signs of needing an overhaul or replacement, you might say, “She needs either an overhaul or a new engine.” Why are boats and engines female?

I remain ignorant as to the why of this whole he-she deal. What’s more, I’d venture a guess that almost everyone is ignorant in this field of … whatever this field is called.

Ignorance can keep fishermen on the water long after everyone else has given up and gone home, after they’ve used every trick and tactic they can think of, after everyone in the boat has told every joke they know, when nothing is left but a couple of soggy potato chips and a thin thread of hope. And yet, as long as they remain ignorant of the fact that there are no fish in the water, some few will remain.

I sometimes long for the days when I didn’t know that fish required clean water and all the other things that make good habitat, when America was great and ignorance was bliss.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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