by Warren Singh
It’s 10 am, and I’m fairly sure that I’m getting strange looks. It turns out that sitting by yourself and alternating pensive looks with hysterical laughter leads to sidelong glances, even if you have a book in front of you.
The book in question is If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren’t There More Happy People? by John Lloyd John Mitchinson, published by McGraw Hill. And the contents are just as amusing as its title, if not more so.
It’s a collection of quotations on various topics by a wide variety of people, from such people as Nobel Laureates Richard Feynman, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein, entertainment figures like Groucho Marx and Steve Martin, and even Al Capone and Miss Piggy.
Separated into sections by subjects (‘work’, ‘love’, ‘popes’, ‘potatoes’), quotes are placed in no particular ordering scheme, not alphabetically by subject, opening word, or author. Simply scanning the book leads one to believe that it’s not required, or even designed to be read in a linear fashion. For instance, I’ve been having great fun simply opening to a random page and reading whatever is there. Occasionally, this random ordering makes for a delightful incongruity: Samuel Goldwyn’s opinion that a hospital “is no place to be sick” is followed by Victor Hugo defining imagination as “intelligence with an erection.”
The book is like a party favor bag whose contents were provided by the most interesting people that you know. On one page you’ll see Joseph Heller on work: “While none of the work we do is very important, it is important that we do a great deal of it.” or Will Rogers on time: “Half our time is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” Turn a few dozen pages back and you’ll see H.L. Mencken on stupidity: “There is no idea so stupid that you can’t get some professor to believe it.”
It’s all quite a hodgepodge, and that’s what I find so charming about it. Collecting quotes is like meeting interesting people and only hearing the most amusing or insightful things that they have to say. It’s ambrosia for my brain. Before, I’ve only dabbled in quotations recreationally, but with the addition of this book, it’s developed into a full-blown habit. Someone call the paramedics, because this volume is getting mainlined.
The fact that there are contradictory quotes all over doesn’t bother me; two quotes on the same page might directly cancel each other out, and I still enjoy both of them. It’s probably because I just like having my think bone tickled, and this tome is quite the thwack. I’m laughing, thinking, and then laughing some more.
If any of this sounds appealing to you, the book comes highly recommended. Its segmented quality makes it easy to read it in bits and pieces, even if you won’t necessarily want to put it down right away.
Ignorance may not be the way to bliss, but if you’re looking to get some bliss in your life, the eponymously titled book is a great place to start.