Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lessons Learned (4): On Being Wrong


I am wrong. On a regular basis. Like everyone else.

It still amuses me to see how difficult it is for some people to admit that they are wrong. I guess it's just a fact of human nature. To uphold a specific choice, to articulate a particular belief, to lay one's ego on the table and declare to the world “this is right because I say it is right,” are all variations of one of the most fundamental expressions of the human condition: the need to reinforce one's world view in the face of another.

I don't think I have this problem. At least not anymore. In my personal life I do my best to keep an open mind and to admit when long-held views are no longer sound. I am convinced that this attitude has facilitated my embrace of voluntary simplicity as a lifestyle. I also believe it has also helped me remain even-handed when it comes to drafting, editing, maintaining, and managing this blog. But nobody is perfect. Looking back, there are definitely things that I wish I had done differently.

The following are instances in which I was just plain wrong. Would love to hear your thoughts on these and any others you can scrounge up:

*People's Values Matter: In retrospect, you could see it coming a mile away. At the time, I thought that sharing my thoughts on burning my law school diploma would be as simple as holding a camera and uploading a video on YouTube. I thought the message was clear: “this piece of paper, indeed, any piece of paper is, ultimately, meaningless; it is so meaningless that I can live my life without it.” I was wrong. I failed to see that, for certain people, burning a diploma appeared to be a rejection of education itself. If I had to do it over again, I would have flushed out my post further to include a more thorough discussion of my motivations. Better yet, maybe I should have burned that fucker and have never told anyone in the first place.

*Family Stuff Can Be Heavy: When I drafted a literary piece regarding my relationship with my mother people had all sorts of opinions. Some people felt the subject and the content was inappropriate for the blog. Others seemed to relish the opportunity to share their own horror stories involving members of their family. And then it got a little weird. More than a few people actually thought that I hated my mother with venomous rage and seemed to pass over that first “Rational Jack” section. These people seemed to have never been experienced (let alone expressed) anger at anyone in their family. More than a few failed to understand the literary bent of the piece. Looking back, I was wrong in that I did not include an introductory section explaining the purpose and underlying structure of the piece.

*Sexism Can Be Fun: Something similar happened with the “On Sexism: Women Should Know Their Place” post. Most people totally “got” that the cover photo and the title of the blog were efforts at tongue-in-cheek satire and appreciated the opportunity to express their views on the issue of sexism as it pertained to the blog. But there was definitely a segment of people who were outright upset and offended by the post. Some, I fear, would have been offended, regardless of the content of the post. Others, I think, recognized a fundamental problem with the post itself: the juxtaposition of the issue of political correctness (and corresponding sexist jokes) in a post purporting to be about sexism. I was wrong because I should have either (1) flushed out my thoughts regarding political correctness in some fashion, thereby providing a more solid introduction to the corny jokes at the end; or (2) not have included the jokes at all and left the issue of political correctness for the comments section or a separate post.

*Pictures of Hot Chicks Make People Angry: Or better yet, being frivolous with language and imagery is a recipe for misunderstanding. A good example of this was the “Girls Riding Mechanical Bulls are Hot” post. As some of the comments pointed out, the photos and some of the language used was overly provocative. Looking back, I still stand by my blog comments and would not change the overall presentation of that post. But I recognize that I was wrong in one respect: I should have limited the number of photos and should not have included the sentence “Seriously, my dear reader, can life get any simpler?” The multiple photos and that sentence in particular were unnecessary and trivialized the larger point I was trying to convey: Jack had a fun night in Memphis and it involved half-naked women riding a mechanical bull.

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