Friday, January 22, 2010

It pays to be stupid/naive/ignorant

I claim that it pays to be stupid, naive, and/or ignorant- that there's something to the "ignorance is bliss" maxim. I don't claim that the net consequence bundle (adding up all the teleological costs and benefits) is positive, but I do claim the existence of significant benefits. Two illustrations:

Illustration one: missionary A and missionary B. A and B arrived in the same mission on the same day, and six months into their service served together for two transfers. Both are obligated to be obedient, as that duty accompanies the role of a missionary. A is very bright, perceptive, thoughtful, and wields an impressive memory. B is well below average in these same categories. Missionary A senses the importance and primacy of obeying his mission president, who pronounces throughout the missionaries' two years in the field countless dozens of 1) rules and 2) guiding principles to direct the missionaries' conduct 24/7. Missionary A, the intelligent one, invests in retaining in remembrance what the mission president teaches, listens carefully to him at all zone conferences, and makes a substantial and effective effort to live in harmony with the mission president's teachings. Missionary B remembers every few months something the mission president says, but hasn't figured out the whole "intentional" thing or setting and achieving goals and pretty much just goes with the flow. A substantial proportion of missionary A's conscious focus, energy, and time is spent on the burdensome task of obedience. (Mere compliance with the objective, unforgiving daily schedule every day is itself an Atlas-level task). He knows he will be judged *according to the light he has received (more on this below) and earnestly strives to live in harmony with the principles and rules his mission president and other church authorities teach. Missionary A's dedication (some would say, mistaken dedication) to obedience becomes a hindrance to his effectiveness, as he is too preoccupied and distracted with trying to maximize his obedience to feel and heed the gentle promptings of the Spirit and sense and respond to the subtle cues that would whisper the needs of investigators to him. Conscious of the gap between his feelings/conduct and the role-imposed expectations of the same (and aware of God's awareness of his every thought and decision), his "obedience burden" exceeds by far that felt by missionary B. Thus, it pays for missionary B to be stupid/naive/ignorant because 1) he is less distracted than A and 2) he is accountable for and experiences far less burden and pressure to perform than does missionary A.

Illustration two: Michael and Jennifer have been dating. In addition to the euphoric neurochemical highs they've been receiving in their romantic love phase (which usually lasts about six months and plays out in the currency of dopamine, vasopressin, and oxytocin, among other potent chemicals- see Fisher's "Why we love: the nature and chemistry of romantic love"), they're also receiving powerful positive reinforcement from their culture and society, which valorizes marriage-bound courtship. If Michael and Jennifer have yet to question their zeitgeist (culture of their place and time), proposals, ring exchanges, and wedding planning will bring additional highs from social approbation. If, however, Michael or Jennifer or both have questioned norms (such as purchasing at great expense a diamond engagement ring) and have found some of those norms arbitrary and merit-poor, the social rewards of cultural compliance are diminished. E.g. if Jennifer thinks it makes more sense for Michael to exercise his creativity in making a creative, personalized marriage proposal rather than dropping a couple grand during a time of financial stress (family, school, and housing burdens are either there or right around the corner) on a small rock in unimaginative imitation of what everyone else does, the utility of the engagement ring ritual nose dives.

*According to the light he has received:
Alma 12: 14 For our awords will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the bmountains to fall upon us to chide us from his presence.

LDS members and indeed, all of God's children, may be condemned for what Orwell's 1984 terms "thought crimes." There is in fact a thought police "whose job it is to uncover and punish thoughtcrime. The Thought Police use psychology and omnipresent surveillance to find and eliminate members of society who are capable of the mere thought of..." - and that thought police is apparently God, whose omnipresent surveillance ensures the accurate recording of every thought you have. There is absolutely no privacy of thought- in fact, it could be successfully argued that every being who attains to the level of omniscience like God has access to every thought, feeling, impulse, and decision you've ever done or felt.

Mosiah 4:30 But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not awatch yourselves, and your bthoughts, and your cwords, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and dcontinue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.
Those who find the world of Orwell's 1984 a true dystopia would likely agree that our world, in some ways, is very much that dystopia in that it shares some elements, such as a system of thought "crime and punishment." True, such a reality manifests a hellish hue- and, presuming the veracity of such a reality, the absence of that hue resulting from naïveté is one more argument for ignorance.
1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the ahidden things of darkness, and will make bmanifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
"But I was surprised to find that one golden thread of singular importance ran through this study. It was the belief that one day each of us would have to account for our actions to the Lord. Many believed that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” 12 - James E. Faust, “Who Do You Think You Are?,” New Era, Mar 2001, 4

D & C 93: 31 Behold, here is the aagency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is bplainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.

32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the alight is under condemnation.

The light will illumine the gap between your progress and where you should be. Not just the unavoidable gap between you and perfection: rather, the gap between your present conduct and feelings in a given moment and the superior feelings and conduct you should be choosing in that moment. If your intellectual advancement allows you to circumscribe the construct, it's hard to argue the absence of a gap between most any choice you make and any one of the hundreds of superior uses of your time and focus and volition realistically within your reach in the context of a given choice.
D&C 82: 3 For of him unto whom amuch is bgiven much is crequired; and he who dsins against the greater elight shall freceive the greater gcondemnation.
Rom. 4: 15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no alaw is, there is no btransgression.
Rom. 5: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but asin is not imputed when there is no blaw.
2 Ne. 9: 25 Wherefore, he has given a alaw; and where there is bno claw given there is no dpunishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is nocondemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him.
D&C 45: 54 And then shall the aheathen nations be bredeemed, and they that cknew no dlaw shall have part in the efirst fresurrection; and it shall be gtolerable for them.
But for the plain manifestation of light to every man and the resulting condemnation for failing to receive ("every man whose spirit receiveth not the alight is under condemnation"), according to these scriptures it'd be better to be ignorant of the law (live in a heathen nation) and thereby be redeemed without risk of condemnation.
Learning and Wisdom are more likely to prevent than facilitate salvation: 2 Nephi 9: 28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the cfoolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

Moro. 8: 22 For behold that all little children are aalive in Christ, and also all they that are without the blaw. For the power of credemption cometh on all them that have dno law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—
Rom. 2: 12 For as many as have sinned without alaw shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

Children (who are unquestionably ignorant and naive) who die before 8 get 1) instant access to celestial glory, which I've heard is a pretty nice condition, and 2) lack of Satanic temptation, (which I've heard sucks): D & C 29: 46 But behold, I say unto you, that little achildren are bredeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten; 47 Wherefore, they cannot asin, for power is not given unto Satan to btempt little children, until they cbegin to become daccountable before me; . Also D&C 45: 58 And the aearth shall be given unto them for an binheritance; and they shall cmultiply and wax strong, and their dchildren shall egrow up without fsin unto gsalvation. Or D & C 137: 10 And I also beheld that all achildren who die before they arrive at the byears of accountability are csaved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.
And last, the poetry of the lost bliss of ignorance: Rom. 7: 8-9 ... For without the alaw sin was dead.

9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

Because concepts of culpability contain a heavy teleological component (a guilty or felonious mind, did you "mean" to do it, to what degree did you intend the harm, what were the motivations- malice, self-interest?).  Thus, the more apperceptive and intentional you are, the more condemnable you are when you sin.  For instance, you could commit the same physical act (say, ignoring the Holy Ghost's prompting to volunteer at a local nursing home) and be more guilty than another who committed the same omission because you calculated what other evil you could accomplish in that time and hoped that your lack of volunteering would result in the elderly residents' misery.  Second example: you're part of a sabbath-breaking culture.  You buy some needed food at the store just like most people, but because you are always very intentional with your acts, it is because you knew there were more productive uses of your last few hours Saturday night and purposefully put off until Sunday.  The less intentional person does the same thing, but wasn't intentional enough to put off the purchase Saturday night- she just didn't think of it then.  Thus, it seems choosing an intentional lifestyle exposes one to greater culpability than choosing a more thoughtless, go-with-the-flow approach. 

See also my intention/faith/net consequence bundles blog.

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