Knowledge, ah knowledge. How often overpraised. We have our little civic homilies, our belief in discovery and understanding. Knowledge doesn't care about us, the "truth" is indifferent to our hopes. Easy to ignore that bit of understanding.
Because what do you do when you learn something that you immediately wish you had never known?
You have a job you like, you believe that you're doing something of value for your customers and that you work for and with good people. You pop in to a manager's office after they've left one night, just to grab a stapler, only because you remembered you needed one just as you passed by and saw it sitting there. On the desk, just by chance, you see a memo printed out that talks about some illegal or dishonest action being taken and how to handle it with the least suspicion. If you hadn't just happened to walk past, if they hadn't just happened to leave early, you'd never have seen it. You know the chances are good that they will NOT arouse suspicion, and that you would never have known about this.
You've been seeing someone for a few months and you are beginning to allow yourself to believe that, finally, this is real. Maybe you've even spoken with them on the phone that day and you're thinking about them right now. You're walking down the street grinning because the billboards are absurd and the people are so predictable and you love it all. You'd usually be on the bus heading up a completely different street but you got off because you felt like breathing the evening air. You walk past a cafe you would almost never normally pass. As you go past, you glance in. The person you've been seeing is sitting at a table there with someone else. They're holding hands, they're laughing, and just as you see them one leans over to kiss the other. They don't see you and you keep walking.
You've been working on political campaigns on and off for some years but this time you not only believe that the person you're working for is worthwhile but more astoundingly, might *win*. This is a long-sought but unexpected bonus. You're working at a campaign office late one night - not headquarters, just a suburban operation - and you have to go to the bathroom. Hardly anyone is there. As you're sitting in the stall, you hear the voices of people entering and you realize that the candidate has dropped by, which comes as a complete surprise. As they stand at the urinals, you hear the candidate talking to one of his staff about your district, making a series of incredibly rude and racist remarks, followed by speculations about the sexual availability of some of the women in your local office. They leave before you emerge, of course, and no one was paying enough attention to you to ever know you were there.
What do you do? How do you handle learning something that seems to only have the function of destroying a part of your life that you cherish? Of course these are exaggerated examples. But things like this happen, certainly on a smaller scale. What do you do?
Denial is so tempting, seems so easy. In the aftermath of an air strike of truth you can start to see small signs that you'd been denying all along, quite comfortably. Why not just go on? Is it that important? After all, sure, maybe the managers are jerks, but does that change the value of your own work? Sure that looked like one involved couple but is it something starting or something ending, and need it affect the two of you at all? Sure you might not want to hang out with this guy personally, but is he so much worse than the alternative? Drip, drip, drip, the mind works away.
And yet. Maybe some people are better at that sort of denial. I'm not. I can't stop thinking about the implications of what I know. I might not act immediately, might not act at all. But once that first crack in the value appears, it stretches and branches until only fragments remain.
The worst part is, naturally, that you could so EASILY have not known. At the same time that you mourn that lost ignorance, you imagine what you would have been doing had you not known, watching yourself in your mind from the cold window of understanding. It begins to seem absurd, or pitiable. Poor schmuck, hasn't got a clue. You develop a loathing for deception, in any form, but everywhere you turn it seems not only prudent but needed, not just needed but demanded.
The truth is that we aren't that fond of the truth, I think. I can't particularly say that this is right or wrong. There are so many damn details to get through every day, life is already problematic enough. Illusion is a coating of grease around your brain, it helps you slip through situations untouched and unimpaired. I can understand it. Oh joy that brings me.
Yet if I could bring myself to, I would rather say; if I could bring others to, I would rather hear. I have no doubt that most illusion covers unpleasantness at best. But I am truly tired of DISillusion - more, of the wasted time spent believing.
I still want to believe, you see. But I want to be right when I do. Maybe that's the little bit of truth I'm denying most, that no one ever is or can be. I don't want to know.