(This originally appeared in Brutarian Quarterly #53; for a while I wrote a column there about ignorance in general and my ignorance in specific. It was a lot of fun and I figure I’ll post them here now and again.)
Episode Seven: Monetizing Ignorance
Use As Instructed.
FRIENDS, lord knows there are plenty of things I wish I could forget. Like the time in High School when I got really drunk and. . .well, actually, that covers most of High School, so it might be best to delete those seven years entirely. Or the time in college when I got really drunk and. . .well, actually, those are eight sloshy years that are best forgotten altogether as well, filled with bitterness and heartache, unrequited love and poor diet choices.
The point is, there’s plenty of terrible, hurtful memories I’d like to get rid of, most of which involve large groups of people laughing and pointing while I weep. This is where you realize that ignorance, often relegated to insult-comedy and character assassination, can actually have a beneficial affect on your life. Ignorance is not always a Bad Thing, in other words. Properly channeled, it could be one of the greatest medical advances ever.
Consider, if you will, the debilitating effect knowledge has on all of us. Terrible knowledge. Knowledge of pain and suffering, of humiliations and consequences, of evil and of pain. It’s a wonder any of us attempt anything after the age of twenty-five. The fact that any adult is in any way functional I put down to the glory of alcohol abuse, although I freely admit the negative affects of such a lifestyle often cancel out whatever false courage The Drink gives you. If we could simply delete unwanted memories whenever we liked, think of how much extra courage you would have on a daily basis? I mean, I wonder to myself what kind of superman would I be if I didn’t have this memory of being promoted to Senior Patrol Leader of my Boy Scout Troop when I was fourteen and entering into a six month slide of Epic Fail that resulted in me shying away from any hint of authority or responsibility ever since. Man, if I didn’t have that terrible memory—which involved the scorn and derisive humor of not only the former SPL whose position I inherited, but of the adult Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters as well—I might have actually become ambitious in my life. I’d probably already be ruling the world, except for that panic-inducing experience.
Now, because of my ill-fated attempt to be a teenaged authority figure, I flee any sort of responsibility, and I live in Hoboken with four cats instead of in some secret underground base with an army of mercenaries ready to die for my cause.
Imagine, though, if I could erase that memory and start fresh. Wake up tomorrow and no longer have any idea that taking on a leadership position might lead to humiliation and horror! Sort of like in that movie The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, except instead of erasing bad relationships, erasing any kind of bad experience that now makes you think twice before doing something. In other words, not so much erasing a memory as inserting ignorance. Ignorance which then acts to protect you from fear.
After all, why do most of us refuse to do things—say, mainline heroin, or jump out of a plane without a parachute? Simple: We know the consequences and choose to avoid them. But what if we didn’t know the consequences? That’s right: We’d be superman. And, yes, most likely dead within a very short period of time. But like the Replicants in Blade Runner, we’d be gods for that very short period of time, wouldn’t we? Unstoppable, completely without any common sense or fear of dismemberment.
Of course, I am old and dissipated by Drink. The world has likely passed me by, and it’s too late to save me—besides, my list of humiliations which have scarred me into terminal passivity is far too long. You’d pretty much have to delete my personality entirely and reboot me as a thirty-seven year-old infant. Which no one wants. So I must instead bend my intelligence and severe lack of restraint on helping the world altruistically, using my immense fortune and bottomless resources to invent The Inner Swine Bad Memory Redactor.
THE INNER SWINE BAD MEMORY REDACTOR (BMR)
The design of the Implement is, of course, pretty simple, and some might say that I’ll never get a patent as there is ubiquitous prior art. That doesn’t matter—the important part about the Bad Memory Redactor is in its proper use. If you learn where to apply the BMR and with what amount of force, you can surgically remove specific memories with complete accuracy and almost no negative side effects. For the purposes of this essay we are not counting the memory loss as a negative side effect, of course.
The procedure is simple: Based on detailed phrenologic diagrams supplied wit the the BMR, you simply select the spot on the head which will delete the appropriate memory. Then have your subject concentrate on that memory until it is all they are thinking of, filling all of their thoughts. Then you rear back and give an accurate but forceful smack with the implement. Like magic, the memory is deleted.
Think about what you could do if you didn’t know everything you know! Have trust issues? Burn out a few traumatic experiences from your childhood and ta-da! You’ll be a trusting, secure person. Fall out of a tree when you were five and get the heebies every time you’re up high? One expert swing of the BMR and you might realize your secret dream of being an acrobat. Haunted by dreams of being naked in front of crowds? One quick, slightly excruciating application of the BMR in expert hands and you’ll be break-dancing on stage in front of thousands in no time.
Ignorance does not have to be solely an affliction—it can be used as a tool as well, the same way debilitating alcohol consumption can help you through trauma even as it rots your brain and destroys your liver. Certainly you don’t want to be deleting every single bad memory you have—aside from making you incredibly dull and probably doomed to an early death due to your complete and impenetrable ignorance, the repeated head traumas would probably result in some semiserious and somewhat permanent brain damage. But for dealing with the occasional phobia-inducing searing hell of a memory, it’s genius. I’ll start the rates at $1500 per treatment, medical bills not included, though I will throw in a free ride-and-dump to the local Emergency Room if you fail to regain consciousness within an hour. Which hardly ever happens, trust me.