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[The following passage is from the end of Hilaire Belloc’s essay, In Praise of Ignorance.]

. . . As is my most unfortunate foible in the discussion of any matter truly profound, I have allowed preliminaries to take up nearly all my space, and I have not as yet approached that chief spiritual attribute of Ignorance, which is its power to flood the mind with happiness. Ignorance is a very draught of beatitude. All the mystery and marvel of a wide champaign seen from a height at evening depends on our ignorance of the nasty people by which it is inhabited, their tortuous and sordid ways. All our loves, all our hero-worships, all our dreams of coming peace, all our visions of fortune, are the fruits of ignorance.

A man leaves a congenial company with whom he has held full communion. He goes off to take his train and thinks to have left behind him souls still vibrating in harmony with his own. They recollect him with a peaceful love. If they return to his name it is with murmurs of approbation. He rolls home satisfied. But the root of his happiness lies deep in ignorance, for hardly had he shut the door behind him when one of them said, “Does he still drink?” And another, “Yes, but he’s got to that stage when he doesn’t show it.” And a third, “That’s the most dangerous time!”

Nay, to conclude upon a note of grandeur, it is by Ignorance alone that we advance through the rough seas of this our mortal life. (The metaphor is not original; I do not claim it so: I copy it from others.) Were not men ignorant of what lay before them, no one would face the adventure. I knew one man, indeed, who was quite offensively stupid, dressed in a sort of purple-grey, and had himself so groomed and set up that he looked like the Successful Business Man of the Advertisements—which, indeed, he was. This man told me during a public luncheon that he had found life increasingly pleasant, and that in every fresh stage of it he discovered a further satisfaction. Now, I am glad to say that within twenty-four hours he was shot out of his motor-car and broke upon the sacred flints of England that prominent jaw which he had so abominably abused. Never more would he boast; or at lest, not without a horrid mumbling.

In consideration of all this, I thank God for my own Ignorance, and though it is unfortunately less than that of most people, I flatter myself it will serve.

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