On Being Wrong and the Path of Love

Posted: 2011/04/27 in Politics
Tags: , , , ,

Last week, a friend referred me to a TED talk by Kathryn Schulz, “On Being Wrong.”

The talk is only 18 minutes long and I found it worth a listen. She points out that being wrong feels just like being right until we find out that we’re wrong. Then it feels awful. So we avoid checking to see whether we’re wrong—a bad local optimization if there ever was one.

If we really are in the Time of Icarus, a lot of us have been wrong about a lot of things. I can’t find the source, but, “There is no such thing as a crisis, only the end of an illusion.” But the way we’re handling it is circling the wagons, tightening our grip on Ours, and blaming Them.

Good luck with that.To paraphrase  Kathryn Schulz,

“If you feel your beliefs purely reflect reality, how do you explain those people who disagree? They must be ignorant, so we share information (or ram it down their throats). If that doesn’t work, they must be idiots.  But if other evidence indicates that they’re not idiots, then they must be evil.”

So we mock the idiots and restrain the evil ones. (Deep down we’d like to eliminate them, but that’s locally and momentarily out of fashion; let’s see just how soluble that sensibility is in the increasing heat and pressure).

Mockery and power-plays create an environment in which the already difficult process of realizing I’m wrong and admitting I’m wrong becomes emotionally insurmountable for all but a few. To continue with Kathryn Schulz,

“This is a catastrophe. It prevents us from avoiding mistakes when we must. It causes us to treat other people badly.”

Here’s where the Path of Love comes in. Can I be convinced that you have been, and continue to be, totally and utterly Wrong, with painful consequences not only for you but for me, and still seek your good? Seeking your good includes trying to change your mind and actions—if I am really seeking your good, how can I be indifferent if your wrongness is going to hurt you?—but if I’m really seeking your good, I’m not going to try to do so in ways that make it harder for you to change, no matter how good they might make me feel. I may seek to restrain you in order to prevent you from harming others, whom I also love, but I’m not going to feel very good about having to do that.

Not only do I believe that the Path of Love is fundamentally right, I also believe that it’s essential if we are to avoid “destroying the village in order to save it,” and, in the end, probably not even saving it.

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