I was much darker back then. One of my closest friends had just died. He left me a commentary on society. The novel featured a mysterious being conversing with different people. I showed the novel to Howard who readily absorbed the words. He had just turned 20 and his life revolved around collecting and reading as many poems and books as he could. He loved science and with it the explanations on the natural world. In his youth he wished to be one of the ‘men of science’ unfortunately his studies proved otherwise. Out of school he was at a loss on what to do with his life. With no idea on how to live his life he stuck to what he had always done. Read.
Howard sought to collect information about the world through his books. He wanted to uncover the world’s secrets through literature. I sat him down and used a phrase coined by a long dead acquaintance.
“Ignorance is bliss. Howard, we live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
The young man would not listen to my warnings stating that it was our duty to reveal the truths of the world.
“The curiosity of man has allowed us to create the means for such travel.”
I decided to tell him of my own experiences with knowing too much and the obsession that comes along with it. I sat down and typed onto his typewriter.
The Dangers of Knowledge
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. - Ecclesiastes 1:18
There will a point in time when you will amass a wealth of knowledge. In the beginning the information will allow you make informed judgments. You will know what is bad and what is good. There will then come a time in which your knowledge will cause you to optimize your actions. You will be able to do action 1 but not without action 2 and you must avoid doing action 3 lest the product will be influenced. You will seek the best of outcomes and as such you will expect the best of outcomes.
Finally there will be a tipping point in that your own knowledge will begin to contradict the knowledge of the masses. If you are to do action 1 you will receive product 1, if you are to do action 2 you will receive product 2, if you are to do both action 1 and action 2 you will receive neither product 1 or product 2. The ultimatum of this choice should inform you that you cannot have both products. You may come across a method where you manage to produce both products at some cost. You find this method to be wonderful and perfect so you feel the need to spread it to the rest of the population. The downfall in these events will be in your interaction with others.
Ignaz was doctor who specialized in helping women give birth. In the hospital he worked at people could choose to go to either the doctor’s ward or the midwife’s ward. In his observations he noticed that the infant mortality rate was 3 times higher in the doctor’s ward. He experimented with many of the midwife’s procedures and concluded that washing your hands before handling the newly born would decrease their chance of death. He wrote that there must have been something on the doctor’s hands that was killing the infants.
His writings conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of his time. So despite there being many reports of infant mortality falling below 1%, his ideas were discredited as he had no explanation as to what made the doctor’s hands dirty. Many of the medical community were also offended by Ignaz’s comment that they should wash their hands. He was later fired from his position.
Ignaz spent the rest of his life trying to convince others of his theories. As he grew old his family thought him to have become a lunatic and so they sent him to an insane asylum. There he was beaten, placed in a straitjacket, and locked in a confined room. He suffered at the hands of the asylum’s guards and after two weeks he died from a gangrenous wound caused from one of beatings.
Only a few people attended his funeral and there was no mention of his death at the Association of Physicians and Natural Scientists that he was once a part of. A successor was appointed at the hospital he once worked at and immediately the mortality rates jumped six fold to 6%. There were no inquiries and no protests. There was no one who was willing to acknowledge Ignaz's life and work.
Howard, you will seek to inform others of your knowledge, but not everyone will accept it as truth. Ignaz’s case is merely one example of such an event. Luckily later there were ‘men of science’ that created a contraption that allowed them to see the things Ignaz warned them about. Now doctors know to wash their hands and Ignaz is highly recognized. However Ignaz was mocked while he lived and died knowing that the masses thought he was wrong. There is no guarantee that people will ever recognize you for your findings or ideas. The past is fraught with such people that history does not acknowledge.
Are you willing to sacrifice your life to become one of the forgotten?
I left my paper on his desk next to the writings of various authors. I hoped that I would not have to bear witness to another great mind broken by a society that would not accept change. Over the course of many years I corresponded with Howard over many topics that at the time I felt were my truth. I would say the greatest influence onto him were my talks of Chaos.
I’ve encountered a very small amount of beings with powers possibly equal to you. Even Death itself was created by me and refers itself as my child and I its father. Sin while also created by me prefers to call itself my lover. We hold no influence over you. Do the others like yourself matter to you? I have always wished to know the relations between the old ones.
What would this knowledge do to me?
Hi, so I learned that I could not write about Lovecraft's themes in just one chapter. So I will be using the next couple of chapters to address some of the themes while also talking about the other beings. Yup Chaos is sentient and very powerful. I would like the readers to note that in this time the Devil is very different in that he is even talking about restraint in knowledge. He's very jaded by this time and it will affect how he acts for this century.
Also the long dead acquaintance is Thomas Grey. He was an English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar and professor. He came up with "Ignorance is bliss" in a poem. The latter half, "we live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far” is a Lovecraft quote.
Ignaz is Ignaz Semmelweis, who was an actual doctor who recommended that fellow doctors should wash their hands. I really recommend looking him up.
Thank you for reading.