Blissful Ignorance

Pandora's Veil of Ignorance and a planksip Möbius Maker.

Pandora's Veil of Ignorance

Sophia's laughter was often considered out of place amidst the somber stone walls of the ancient library where she worked. It was an edifice where silence was more than a requirement; it was a tradition, a heritage almost as old as the texts it housed. Yet, there she was, a single figure seated at a mahogany desk, her cheerfulness illuminating the dusty rays of light that filtered through the high windows like an intellectual sunbeam. Her colleagues often remarked that her happiness was infectious, her buoyancy in the face of ancient tragedies and philosophies a refreshing anomaly.

The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.
—Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

Her laughter on this particular day was inspired by a peculiar discovery. In a margin of a parchment that spoke of Pandora and the evils of the world, a forgotten scholar had doodled a tiny, but unmistakably cheerful face. Sophia imagined the scholar, surrounded by the weight of human folly, choosing to sketch joy. It wasn't just the audacity but the wisdom of it that tickled her.

In her musings, she often walked the paths just outside the library, where nature and history existed side by side, a juxtaposition as stark as the content of the texts she curated and the laughter she couldn't contain. Alexander, the town's mathematician, would sometimes join her. He was a man whose life was ruled by precision and who found a kindred spirit in Sophia’s unexpected joy.

One evening, as the sun stretched their shadows across the pathway, they debated the properties of straight lines and parabolas, of rules that governed even the flight of an arrow or the arc of a planet. Alexander, with his usual array of string and stakes, attempted to demonstrate a principle, his brows furrowed in concentration.

Hence no force, however great, can stretch a cord, however fine, into a horizontal line which is accurately straight: there will always be a bending downwards.
— William Whewell (1794-1866)

Sophia watched as his latest attempt to prove this theory in the physical world succumbed to the inevitability of sagging. She erupted into laughter, not at the futility of his efforts, but at the sheer delight of such human endeavors to understand and explain the world. Alexander couldn’t help but join in, his laughter a deep rumble that echoed off the library walls.

Their camaraderie was not just built on intellectual pursuits but on a shared understanding of the absurdity that often accompanied the human condition. Sophia’s work had shown her that wisdom lay not just in the accumulation of knowledge, but in the ability to face the inscrutabilities of life with a light heart. Alexander’s company only reinforced this belief, providing a living example that even in precision, there was room for the unpredictable joy of existence.

Their town was small, a close-knit community where everyone knew each other's business, and the local lawyer was no exception. He was a man who held an air of importance around him, with a sharp suit that seemed to repel any speck of dust or fun. He walked through life with the seriousness of a judge and the grace of a cat always landing on its feet. It was a common joke among townsfolk that he could trip over a law book and argue his way out of gravity.

Lawyers are the only persons in whom ignorance of the law is not punished.
— Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)

Sophia found it amusing that the lawyer, with his self-assured expertise in the labyrinth of legalese, could not for the life of him untangle the simplest knots of common sense. It was at the town's annual fair, amidst laughter and candied apples, that she witnessed the lawyer's comical battle with a child's puzzle. The sight of his bewildered expression, juxtaposed with his usually stern features, was a delight that Sophia relished with a warmth in her heart.

The fair was a spectacle of successes and failures, of strongmen who couldn't lift their spirits and jugglers who dropped balls but never smiles. Alexander, who had once tried and failed to win at the ring toss, found himself chuckling beside Sophia as they watched individuals more suited to logic and philosophy than carnival games.

Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in.
— Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

Yet, there was no humiliation in their laughter, no sting of defeat. There was only the acknowledgment that success in such frivolous endeavors required a different kind of wisdom, perhaps the wisdom to know that not all enterprises needed to be won.

Sophia and Alexander found a bench from which to observe the world, a bubble of mirth in a tapestry of earnest effort. They spoke of everything and nothing, of Montaigne and Whewell, of Bentham and Flaubert, and of the simple wisdom found in cheerfulness amidst the seriousness of life's pursuits

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