I don’t like being wrong. I guess that’s something you and I have in common. In fact, very few people like it (the ones they like it, they are usually funny). Mistakes are the fuel that brings our minds closer to the truth, but they hurt really bad, so we try to avoid them. Some chosen ones find in mistakes something beautiful, and it is when they can use them as raw material for jokes. But if you are just a regular person like me, funny only when there is an eclipse, you will appreciate what I have to tell you.
The truth is only a concept, and it is different for each one of us. We tend to think that there is only one possibility, but life has plenty of meanings depending on which glasses you use to look at it. We could say that our truth is a bunch of beliefs that we have and we do not question, at least not often. And it is this group of beliefs to which we compare any new information that we get. But what happens when we get proof that one of those beliefs is mistaken? That’s when we go through the “experience of error”.
“We can be wrong or we can know it, but we can’t do both at the same time.”
— Heisenberg Uncertianty Principle of Error —
Think about the last time that you realised you were mistaken. Think about that piece of information that turned out to be an error in your beliefs. And now, think about how you tried to avoid reality.
I am particularly good at that. I have a lot of imagination, so I am really good at finding excuses to argument my mistakes. Nevertheless, we all humans have a common set of strategies to do so. We usually start denying whatever is in from of us. “These trousers have shrunk. I did not put four kilos in a couple of weeks. I am not eating like a pig every two hours. I am not…” It is so easy to deny the reality that half America voted for Trump and most of them still support them.
“Our capacity to tolerate error depends on our capacity to tolerate emotion”
— Irna Gadd —
When denying it is not enough, we start to be angry at those who show proof of our errors. We see people with different opinions as to our enemies. They are threatening our beliefs, after all. In this case, it is easy to see then as ignorants. You can see yourself thinking about it sometimes. I am sure you have a colleage at work that seems a complete idiot just because he usually has a different opinion than you. He might be an idiot, but he might also be someone who can show you the truth that you are struggling to see. This denying behaviour is widespread between religious people who often think that those who do not follow their beliefs require education or are just plain evil.
It is very dangerous to drive this road. If you dismiss other people’s ideas only because they might hurt your set of beliefs, you can make even more mistakes, and some might have great consequences.
“When the facts change, I change my mind . What do you do, sir?
— John Maynard Keyne —
When we don’t want to accept our mistakes still noticing their bad smell; we tend to justify ourselves with all kinds of arguments. Usually, we start undermining the consequences. “It is not as bad as it looks. It could have been worse. If I had it done right I could have happened the same…” If that doesn’t convince us, maybe because someone gave us an irrefutable proof, then we start blaming others. “I didn’t know because someone told me wrong. I was almost right, and if it wasn’t because of that little detail, I would be right. It is not my fault that things are not the way they should be.” You name it. We find excuses for anything and the most impressive thing of all is that they are always the same: I don’t want to admit my mistake.
But then, it finally comes: the moment we realise we were mistaken. It is beautiful and horrifying at the same time. You get a new belief that brings you closer to the truth, closer to see the reality the way it actually is. And it does it throwing you in a pool of embarrassment and self-pity. No wonder why we don’t like it. And it is also why it is so difficult to be funny. You really need to be aware of this and be able to take all that crap that seems to overflow that pool and make gold out of it. But when you do. Oh, when you do. You actually learn. You find lessons in those bad moments. And at some point, after eating a lot of shit, you end up looking at error as a tool to improve your life and not as a punishment for being yourself. Because that’s the problem nowadays. We search for error to make people feel worse when it is ourselves that we don’t feel good enough. And it comes all down to the fact that we don’t accept our own errors.
“No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance”
— Robert Holden —
Accepting our fallibility is what allows us to learn and improve as human beings. No one is born perfect, and no one has learned everything that there is to learn. That is why error is so important in our lives; it challenges our beliefs and shows us our own path. If we think that we can’t make mistakes, we will never get better and if we are scare of mistakes, we will never take risks that can potentially be very beneficial to us. It is understandable to be attached to our beliefs, but we should also understand that they are subject to being wrong. That doesn’t mean that we are bad people or that we are broken. It means that we have yet a lot to learn, which is not only natural but exciting.
“The root of suffering is attachment”
— The Buddha —
Let’s look at it from a nicer perspective. When we go on a trip to a new country, we know that there will be plenty of new stuff that we don’t know about. We read about the history of the place or the gastronomy, but we are still aware that everything will be new to us. Yet we don’t know exactly how new and different it will be. But we don’t really care because that’s the purpose of travelling: learning new things and getting to know new cultures. Now let’s think about it changing the new country for a new person with different beliefs. You don’t need to like the whole thing. Maybe some beliefs don’t make sense to you. But we all should keep our minds open to realise that someone else’s beliefs might be better or righter than our own. It is only this way that we get to experience being wrong as excitement. Similarly, we don’t see the error as suffering because we can easily let go of those old beliefs and make space for new ones. So, open up your mind and error as much as you like.
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