Sunday, May 26, 2019

Hating and Loving Correction

Good point from a reader re: yesterday's posting, "The Nightmare Fuel of Naomi Wolf's Hilariously Ruined Book", which included this:
I live in terror of hitting the "publish" button, because I know I'm capable of putting something obviously, flagrantly stooooopid out there. I'm always waiting for someone to kindly tap my shoulder and say "Um, Jim, I'm really sorry but that's just absolutely flat wrong". It hasn't happened more than a few times here, but the potential's always present.
The reader presented it very politely, but, for clarity's sake, I'll fire the guns all the way:
Hold on. I thought you're the guy who's always saying how you love being shown you're wrong; how you find correction preferable to operating under false assumptions.
I do love being shown I’m wrong...because I want desperately to be as annoyingly right as possible. Most people would much rather feel right than be right, which shows that they don't want it badly enough. The really super vain approach isn't to stick bandaids over one's gaps and pose as flawless, but to thirst for constant correction in order to eventually enjoy life as an unbearable preening know-it-all (of course, it's asymptotic - you never actually arrive - but, after a while, the sandblasting feels cleansing and welcome in its own right).

But not like this! To have it happen live on the radio in front of everyone, days before your book publishes and invalidating years of effort...that's my worst nightmare. I want to notice my wrongness before I’ve built an ambitious structure on shaky ground. The point of my relentless self-questioning is to avoid precisely that fate! This is the result I'm desperately trying to avoid!

However, I do acknowledge my inner contradiction. I'm mortified about being wrong yet love correction. I fear the tap on the shoulder, yet welcome it. I pride myself on having built ideas, brick by brick, for fifty years, subjecting each nugget to skeptical examination, and I both love and hate the idea of being forced to throw big chunks away.

What's more, I hadn't quite noticed this ambivalence until right now. And, sure enough, I'm grateful that it was pointed out. I'm happy for the extra clarity. I don't feel consternation or embarrassment. But isn't that the nature of fear? Aren't feared things always surprisingly endurable in the actual happening?

Hey, look at that! An interesting little insight/connection popped out! Can you see why I like having my inner contradictions revealed? There's always a cookie!

I welcome correction because I fear wrongness. Correction removes wrongness, even as it exposes the thing I most fear. Thankfully, I fear it so much that I'm willing to withstand its exposure to avoid its exposure!

It's a bit daft, yes, but I think we can all relate to this observation in some aspect of our lives: "I fear it but don't dislike it when it happens." Also: the observation that cleaning is the dirtiest work of all is a fundamental observation; number one on the list of paradoxes that must be embraced.


Display Name said...

I like this: But isn't that the nature of fear? Aren't feared things always surprisingly endurable in the actual happening? My beloved grandmother was dying of cancer and my grandfather adored her as did everyone. There were surgeries and some hope. My grandfather didn't eat much and was very thin at this time. The day he was told there was no hope it was like his whole body had been clenched which I didn't noticed until he seemed to relax. There was a big home cooked family dinner the night he got the news. He ate a full plate. He was heartbroken and died six months after his wife but he regained all the weight he had lost and spent a lot of time telling me family stories.

Jim Leff said...

Life's only frightful in the inner narrative.

In the actual happening, nothing can touch you....unless you endlessly ruminate over it with...yes, your inner narrative.

The inner narrative is a fake parallel reality; a commentary track on the actual action. It's never real, and it never helps. The drama we concoct there (and reinforce via brooding and self-story-telling) is how we make ourselves miserable. (

In the actual happening, it's all just stuff happening. Happening around you, not to you. It's light and delightful, and it's exactly what you asked for. (

trampdad said...

In my experience you savagely smack down dissenting voices as unworthy, thoughtless and lazy. No, we’re not all New York intellectuals such as yourself therefore I guess we deserve it.

Jim Leff said...

I love to be proven wrong. "Dissenting voices" posting anonymous dripping poison with anti-semitic subtext I don't love as much. Glad to clarify that for you.

Also, thanks for the compliment. Elitist jew intellectual is a big step up from shiftless trombonist. I've made it!

trampdad said...

Anti-Semitic? Wow.

Jim Leff said...

Own it like a man and be proud. I do admire you for going old school rather than trotting out the corny "globalist". The kids these days don't know how to slur.

Anyway, thanks for reading faithfully. There's an awful lot of writing on the web, yet you come here, so I recognize that this is your very special way of giving back to them big city intellectuals you secretly admire.

trampdad said...

Well thanks, I guess, for proving my point. And missing mine, entirely.

Jim Leff said...

You need to check your email.

Anonymous coward said...

When I was anti-vax I wanted to be proven wrong. Yet, it took so long for someone to finally prove me wrong that I was angry. I was mad at all the people who failed to prove me wrong before. I was enraged at all the time I went in the wrong direction and nobody stopped me. If I was anti-vax for a month or less, it might have been laughable. Now I can only estimate the damage I did to myself and others. If only someone had corrected me sooner.

In brief, what I think both of us fear is not correction, but late correction. After committing copious time and effort into a project or ideology to then be proven wrong is like finding a flaw in the foundation of a building after the building was completed yet, the flaw was there all along. If only the flaw in the foundation was found right away. What you love is instant correction.

I also think there is a sunk cost fallacy in this. On some level humans want to continue after committing a lot of resources to a task.

"Logical Form:

X has already been invested in project Y.

Z more investment would be needed to complete project Y, otherwise X will be lost.

Therefore, Z is justified."

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