Monday, May 4, 2015

Being Wrong by Kathryn Schultz

Schultz' review of H is for Hawk in the New Yorker magazine this spring really made me take notice not only of Macdonald's book but also of the art of reviewing. Schultz's review was as gorgeous and thoughtful as Macdonald's book. I set out to see what else Schultz wrote.

I really like Schultz' premise on this one: we feel badly when we make mistakes, but everyone does it. As Schultz points out, before Descartes ("I think, therefore I am") was St. Augustine ("I err, therefore I am" or "To err is human"). The thing is, while some errors are small ones, or funny ones (and Schultz gives examples)some folks make big ones (like Bush and his weapons of mass destruction or putting the wrong man in jail for life).

What is clear from our own experience is that being wrong is so painful that we often just carry on as though we were right after all. We stick to our guns, as they say, and harden our position. Schultz points out that only with long experience in living do we come to the "wisdom" phase..."no one can be right all the time," so we should embrace error as the path to perfectibility.

This discursive work is filled with anecdotes and case studies, experiments and examples. I think it is for this reason that I leapfrogged through it. Wrong of me, no doubt. I had to go back now and again to pick out useful pieces that encapsulated her thoughts. And this is where I found the problem, at least for me: I like examples pointing to conclusions, but the conclusions were less finely drawn than I would like and the examples perhaps too many and divergent. But we do get conclusions at the end, and it brings to mind Shambhala studies and democracy.
"Here, then, are some ways we can try to prevent mistakes. We can foster the ability to listen to one another and the freedom to speak our minds. We can create open and transparent environments instead of cultures of secrecy and concealment. And we can permit and encourage everyone, not just a powerful inner circle, to speak up when they see the potential for error."

Kathryn Schultz gave two TED talks to great acclaim after the book was published. Of the two of these, I vastly prefer the one on Regrets. That hit a chord, or played me a symphony, more like.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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