What you don’t know is what makes you happy

Abraham Villarreal
3 min readJul 4, 2024


Someone, some time ago, wrote that ignorance is bliss. I think it was a seventeenth-century poet. It must have been. It sounds like something a poet would write. Today, we say things like “he doesn’t know the half of it.” I like the older version better.

There’s a 12-year-old boy named Axel that has a brain tumor. He knows he has it and he knows he has to go to the doctor to get it “fixed.” He’s lost weight, and he looks younger than his age. He sells snacks at the plaza in the evening and likes to hang around the card table with the older guys to shoot the breeze.

We all ask Axel how he is feeling and how he is coming along. He nods his head and says he’s doing fine. In a few days he’ll be traveling out of town to his next doctor visit. It’s a six hour bus ride. He knows that they will put him to sleep and will get some kind of medicine in him.

Each time Axel leaves our table, the rest of us talk to each other and wonder how scary it must be to live with brain tumors. To see yourself changing at 12 years of age and to keep on going. To keep on selling snacks and to keep on waiting for the next doctor’s visit.

Axel doesn’t know what the tumors are doing to him and he may be better off because of it. Because he doesn’t know the half of it. Because he can keep a certain level of bliss.

The more educated we get, the more we feel we should know the answer to everything. We know we are smart enough to figure anything out. Nothing is left to the unknown, the mysterious.

There is no wonder anymore. No accepting that some things are too big for us, too out there, too wonderful to accept.

Axel doesn’t have much. Someone gifted him new shoes just two days ago. He showed them off with a smile. He accepts that most things in life are black and white. People are good or bad. Rich or poor. Healthy or sick. Axel is sick right now and he’s accepted it.

I told him we would have a big party for him at the plaza in July when he turns 13. We’re bringing in cake and a piñata. He said he was too old for a piñata and I told him he wasn’t. No one is.

I don’t want Axel to turn 13. I don’t want him to not like piñatas anymore. I don’t want him to know all the things that we know. How much life hurts. How he’s going to hurt from time to time.

Most of us, if we are honest, don’t know the half of it. Most of us have a certain level of ignorance. It keeps us sane. We know what we know and we don’t know what we don’t know.

Axel doesn’t know all that we know yet. He doesn’t know the medical odds of his condition. He doesn’t know that if he makes it, there will be more bumps to climb over later in life. He does know that he is going to wake up tomorrow and that he’s going to be on summer vacation.

He knows that he’ll be at the plaza in the afternoon and that when he gets done selling his snacks that he’ll be visiting with us at the card table. Shooting the breeze. Living his life without too much to worry about like most 12-year-olds.

Sometimes what you don’t know is what gives you the greatest happiness.



Abraham Villarreal

People are interesting. I write about them and what makes them interesting.