Mother's Day 2012: Eleven Selected Links
Being Wrong, Part 4: How is it that sometimes we choose the wrong answer?

Being Wrong, Post #3: When you're just plain wrong.

Over a year ago I wrote two posts on the subject of "Being Wrong" inspired by a book titled "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" by Kathryn Schulz. I said that I would write more on the subject of being wrong but till now, I hadn't written another word. However, I continue to think about the subject a lot.

I hadn't written more since then for several reasons. One was that I felt that the topic was so important that I felt overwhelmed by it, afraid that I wouldn't be able to express my thoughts well enough to give it justice. I have been so busy with the usual sorts of things that go into living a life that I haven't felt as though I had the time to sit down, look through the book again, gather the threads of my thoughts on the subject, and put it all together in a coherent post. I've been so busy that when I had down time, I didn't want to spend it on putting together my thoughts on why that book had impressed me so much. Impressed is not the right word but it is the best one that I can come up with at this moment. I have thought about the subject of "being wrong" again and again. Things that happen in my life remind me of what I read in this book. The things that I see myself and other people doing remind me of this book.

Late last year for example I began hearing about the movie Hugo. I heard about the plot line and I thought that it was odd that nowhere was it mentioned that there had been an animated movie that was based on the very same plot line. That seemed unfair. Every time I heard about the movie Hugo, I had these images in my head from the animated movie. I could see the scenes, remember what the characters looked like. I could remember what they did and said. I thought it was outrageous that no one was mentioning that fantastic animated movie. I spoke about it with my husband and he said that he remembered the movie too. Although he might have recalled seeing the movie after I had kept talking about it for a while. He did not remember the movie's name or where we had seen it.

I thought that Scorsese had ripped off the plot lines, character and story of the animated movie that I remembered and I was so puzzled that no one else was mentioning this obvious ripoff. I did online searches for the animation version and could not find it. It was such a cool movie that I couldn't imagine that it wouldn't be in the online databases of movies.

Then I had an epiphany! It was not a movie that I had seen. Even though I remembered the scenes of the animation vividly in my mind, it was not a movie that I was remembering! It was the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret that I had read and was remembering as though it was an animated movie! There had never been an animated movie that existed before the movie Hugo! My memory was entirely incorrect! I had seen the book on which the movie was based before the movie was made. That person who had the book had recommended it to me and had lent it to me. I had read it and returned the book to them. All the pictures in the book and the story line had combined together in my memory so that I was remembering it as a movie!

I was stunned to realize how deceived I had been by my memory. Not only stunned by that but also stunned to realize that my own account of having seen a movie that didn't exist had influenced my husband to believe that he had seen the movie too! He hadn't even read the book!

It was a perfect example of feeling "right" but being wrong about something. Absolutely unarguably wrong. Both of us were wrong. When I recognized the untruthfulness of my memory, I thought back on Schulz's book, Being Wrong, and how this experience of remembering something that had never happened fit so perfectly with what is talked about in the book. People do this all the time. They believe that they are right even when they are absolutely wrong. It happens all the time. We don't like to think that we are capable of being 100% wrong but sometimes we are, no matter how much we'd like think that it doesn't happen.

I've been collecting examples of that experience in my own life. There are a lot more than one. It teaches me humility among other things. It teaches me how others can do the same things as I do. That book talks about these kinds of experiences.

Generally we don't go around thinking about the times that we are wrong, whether we are wrong now, whether we've been wrong in the past, why we are sometimes so wrong, and what might we do so that we can be less wrong.

Why is it important to know if we are right or wrong? Why give the subject any space in our minds? I know I am stating the obvious when I say that being right or wrong can have serious consequences in our personal lives and in our culture. If the worst thing that I've ever been wrong about was whether I'd seen a movie or not, I'd be fortunate. More serious consequences involve decisions that we make in our lives regarding relationships, politics, guilt or innocence, issues of fairness, whether our decisions and acts are perpetrating good or evil. It is entirely possible to be on the wrong side of a line while believing that we are entirely in the right. It is possible to commit abuse and believe that we are doing the right thing. That is what struck me about the writings in that book. How abuse is committed in the name of doing the right thing.

I will write more on this subject and I promise that I won't procrastinate for over a year before writing that next post. I have too many thoughts on the subject of Being Wrong to express them in two or three posts. I intend to write another post on the subject within the next week. Stating a timeline might help me to get this next post written.

Wishing you all less of being wrong and more of being right and if you've made errors, please know that we all make them!

Ginny