Few people have ever heard of Thomas Gray, let alone heard of his work, yet one of his coined phrases is as common as cars are on the street. In his “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,” This 1700s poet was responsible for the phrase “ignorance is bliss.” More correctly, in his ode, it reads, “Where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.” Simply translated; if someone is happy not knowing the truth, it would be foolish to tell them the truth and burden them with the knowledge. As an example; If I see someone, a child perhaps, caught up in joy and happiness, is it wise I tell them their pet died? Eventually, yes, though I dare not inform them at that moment, for fear of ruining their bliss.
Though grateful for the knowledge I’ve acquired throughout the years, I sometimes wonder would I have been better off not knowing some things? The angst I’ve experienced leading up to certain events was often worse than the event itself. In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have known about some misfortunes that lay ahead. Instead, I would have rather dealt with it when it unfolded. Of course, this is not true for all events. It is often prudent to know of certain things, before they happen, so one can better prepare. Ahh, but there in lies the paradox. One can get caught in the mire of analysis over something that is supposed to be fun and relaxing. This analysis paralysis can lead to paranoia and take the joy out of what was supposed to fun and now plagued it with uncertainties and doubts.
The survival community runs rampant with such dire thinking. Everything is beholden to a mentality of ill repercussions if not properly prepared. No longer is it just a hike along the trail, or a walk in the park. One can not just do for the sake of enjoying the moment and taking in the smells. Every outing turns into a full blown exercise of preparing for the inconceivable. Every movement is calculated and weighed. Is this truly a way to live; with doom and gloom always at the forefront of your approach?
On more than one occasion I’ve run into postings from people asking how to know when they are ready to go into the wilderness alone? These questions, all too often, are met with a barrage of answers ranging from the simple all the way up to the downright ludicrous. In all cases, the simple fact the question was asked on a survival forum or directed at a survival instructor, one gets a biased answer, further filling the would be adventurer with more doubts and concerns than were ever warranted. So caught up in their ideologies, these paranoid preppers can not discern life from fantasy, let alone be depended on to give an answer void of gloom.
To you who ask the question of how do you know when you’re ready to go into the wilderness alone? The answer is simple; don’t over think it. You don’t need to know anything about plants, or how to use a ferro rod. You don’t need to know how to hunt, trap, or fish. You don’t need to carry an axe or know how to whittle a stick. I suggest you look to your youth when none of those things mattered and you just got out there, did it and had fun—a time when ignorance was bliss.