Writing a good character arc involves carrying a protagonist through conflict and struggle, ultimately with the goal of learning something valuable by the end of the story. Most stories involves some form of growth. What I’d like to explore today is the philosophy of human acclimation to knowledge and the ways we fight against reality and truth.
They say ignorance is bliss. If that’s true, then knowledge is suffering. Knowledge is sacrifice. But once the wool is pulled from your eyes, you either allow yourself to be crushed under the burden of truth, or grow a suit of armor and with enough strength, wield knowledge as a tool at your bidding.
Following this thread, the acclimation to truth goes through four stages: Ignorance to Deception to Misery to Strength.
Ignorance is bliss on the doorstep of chaos. Sometimes ignorance can be maintained for a life time, but often ignorance accrues interest. That interest can spill into the bankruptcy of life.
Deep down we know this to be true. So for those who desire the appearance of intellect, to elevate themself from the masses, they seek out knowledge. But how many of those are prepared for the consequences that knowledge brings?
Have you ever had someone ask you for advice, only to completely disregard your recommendations? Why do we ask professionals for their opinion when we have no intention of changing our point of view or course of action based on that new piece of information?
That knowledge is the brittle armor of self-deception. Perhaps, you think, the bringer of truth is wrong, a false prophet, misunderstanding a key detail. You wonder why you bothered asking the “expert” in the first place. If they’re right, then my enthusiasm for this thing is misplaced, and that mean’s I am wrong. But I’m the expert on me and because I want it to be true, then true it is.
What we all try to avoid is stage three: Misery. To be crushed by knowledge without the strength to cope and handle what reality brings. Better to avoid it outright one might conclude. For some this is done by absolving oneself of curiosity. Satisfied with their station in life, why poke the hornet’s nest. Those are the ignorant.
For those who seek the appearance of being above the ignorant masses, they hang onto superficial knowledge, and compartmentalize the rest. Those are the deceivers.
Then come the miserable. They accept knowledge and truth but their arms are not yet strong enough to carry its burden. The miserable range from the sore, yet still out of shape, individuals wondering if they should stick out the new routine at the gym to the addict in rehab struggling with their withdrawal symptoms dreaming of another high.
Misery is the most precarious of stages. It’s the precipice of failure and success. What’s forgotten while miserable is that the strength that’s achieved in the next stage isn’t a clear path. It’s built on failure. It requires the willingness to fail, and actual failure, to construct the quiet strength necessary to carry the towering burden of knowledge and wield it to your bidding.
If someone has eschewed self-deception and waded through a sea of misery, they will find that knowledge becomes an armor made of hammered steel, forged at a thousand degrees. Willing to accept the suffering of reality and truth today, you avoid the worst pitfalls of deception: the squandered fortune, the ruined health, premature death. Success accrues to the strong, but not without the burden of knowledge, a massive weight they carry with courage. That weight punctuates their every movement, giving it a gravity it didn’t have before.
Once you stare down truth, what is left to fear?