May 30, 2017

“Ignorance is bliss” – except when it’s not…

Thomas Gray, poet-8x6

“Where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”

       Thomas Gray (1716-1771) 
       English poet
       From the last two lines of his poem “On a Distant Prospect of Eton College.”
       This is the origin of the proverbial phrase “ignorance is bliss.” In the poem, it referred to young people who are happily oblivious to the difficulties they will face as adults — and to the ultimate, inescapable fate of death.
       “Ignorance is bliss” is now more widely used in one of two ways: to suggest that it is sometimes better not to be aware of something that might make a person unhappy; or, as a satirical remark about people who try to ignore issues they should be concerned about and dealing with. 

William C. Dudley

“Ignorance is bliss. Without sufficient appreciation of our own ignorance, we cease to be curious, we cease to be receptive to new ideas and we cease to be respectful of other people. Awareness of our own ignorance is a virtue: knowing that we do not know everything makes us humble, patient, open to compromise and collaboration. You may have noticed that these qualities are in short supply. Embracing your ignorance is good for you and it’s good for the world.”
       William C. Dudley
       President of Washington and Lee University
       In his commencement speech to graduating students on May 25, 2017

chris rock & robin williams

“Comedians can be a sad bunch, you know. You know what’s the saying? Ignorance is bliss. So if ignorance is bliss, what’s the opposite of ignorance? Must not be bliss. And your job as a comedian, you know, is basically to notice everything. And the better the comedian, the more aware he or she is of the world around them. So you know, it can be not a happy place. Sometimes you can have too much information. Sometimes you can know too much.”

       Chris Rock
       American comedian and actor
       His response in an August 12, 2014 interview about the death by suicide of his friend Robin Williams

Stephen Fry on QI-8x6

“If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t there more happy people in the world?”
       Stephen Fry
       British actor, author and wit
       On the BBC comedy panel game show QI (short for “Quite Interesting”)


“When it comes to anything found on the shelves of the feminine hygiene aisle, ignorance is bliss.”
       Daniel M. Cruse
       American author and contributor
       In his post about “Air Intake Systems”

STD poster-8x6           

“When it comes to communicable diseases, ignorance is not bliss.”
       Kay Robertson           
       Communicable disease expert
       At a recent public hearing in Helena, Montana

Party Girl-8x6

DERRICK (actor John Cameron Mitchell): “O’Neal, settle a bet. Is ignorance bliss?”
O’NEAL: (actor Matthew Borlenghi): “I don’t know. I just wanna be happy!”
       In the TV series Party Girl (1996)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading and viewing...

May 7, 2017

“Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Anna Karenina quote, Leo Tolstoy (1878) 02a


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
       Russian novelist, playwright and essayist
first line of Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina (1878)
       This sentence—one of the most famous opening lines in literature—is also sometimes translated as “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
       The character Anna Karenina is an aristocratic Russian woman who leaves her husband for a rich count named Alexei Vronsky. Their affair has tragic consequences for Anna. In a contrasting subplot, a country landowner named Konstantin Levin finds happiness in his marriage to Kitty, the sister-in-law of Anna’s brother.
       Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina during a period when his own life with his long-suffering
wife Sophia (who he nicknamed Sonya) was becoming increasingly unhappy for both of them. The story was initially published in installments in the journal Russkii Vestrik (The Russian Herald, a.k.a. The Russian Messenger) from January 1875 to April 1877. The first complete book version, in Russian, was published in 1878. The first English translation was published in 1918. Since then, Anna Karenina has often been cited as one of the greatest novels of all time, though some modern readers find it a bit boring (in its own classic way). 
       Nearly twenty film and TV adaptations of the novel have been made. Actresses who have played Anna Karenina in those adaptations include Great Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Nicola Paget, Jacqueline Bissett, Sophie Marceau, Helen McCrory and Keira Knightley.
       I'm hoping Carol Peletier from The Walking Dead TV series will play Anna in the zombie adaptation, which is bound to come sooner or later.

Vladimir Nabokov


“All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike.”
       Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
       Russian-born American novelist and entomologist 
       His response to Tolstoy’s famous line in the novel Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969)

Robert Fulford photo-8x6


“It may be the silliest damn sentence ever set down by a great author, Leo Tolstoy’s opening of Anna Karenina...He got things backwards. Experience and literature both demonstrate that happy families come in all shapes and sizes, but the burdens of unhappy families (emotional indifference, poverty, alcoholism, irresponsibility) are painfully predictable.”
Robert Fulford
       Canadian journalist, broadcaster and editor
Comment in his weekly column for The National Post, August 2, 2005

John Pitcher

“To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy musicians are all the same. For the Taylor Swifts of this world, life is one big frosted cupcake. Wretched artists, however, are godforsaken each in their own way.”
       John Pitcher
       American classical music and dance critic
a 2013 article about the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in on



“To paraphrase the great fashion critic Leo Tolstoy, each of the terrible red carpet looks from the 2012 Grammy Awards were terrible in their own way. Sacrilegiously terrible: Nicki Minaj, who showed up in a blood red wimple and studded cloak with her own personal confessor. Turns out that was just a prelude to her performance art piece later in the night, ‘The Exorcism of Roman.’”
       Vicki Hyman
       American celebrity news journalist
a post in her column on the The Star-Ledger website

Molly Ball-8x6


“All winning campaigns are brilliant in hindsight — it’s Tolstoy’s First Rule of Politics (corollary: every losing campaign is dysfunctional in its own way).”
       Molly Ball 
       American journalist who writes regularly for The Atlantic and  
       Her astute observation in
a February 1, 2012 post on The Atlantic website about the Presidential primary election



“I believe it was Tolstoy who once wrote, ‘Tasty fast food items are all alike; every crappy fast food item is crappy in its own way.’ To this principle I must add a corollary which shall forevermore be known as the Stuffed Breadsticks Corollary: …but some crappy fast food items are crappy IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE.” 
“Jasper,” the online fast food critic and impulse buy reviewer 
       In his
April 11, 2011 review of the Dunkin’ Donuts Stuffed Breadsticks (Pepperoni & Cheese and Cheeseburger) on The Impulsive Buy website (known for “Putting the ‘ew’ in product reviews”)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading and viewing…

Copyrights, Disclaimers & Privacy Policy

Creative Commons License
Copyright © Subtropic Productions LLC

The Quote/Counterquote blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Any duplicative or remixed use of the original text written for this blog and any exact duplications the specific sets of quotations collected for the posts shown here must include an attribution to and, if online, a link to

To the best of our knowledge, the non-original content posted here is used in a way that is allowed under the fair use doctrine. If you own the copyright to something we've posted and think we may have violated fair use standards, please let me know.

Subtropic Productions LLC and are committed to protecting your privacy. We will not sell your email address, etc. For more details, read this blog's full Privacy Policy.