Rolling on in the series, “STUFF I’VE PICKED UP ALONG THE WAY.” This one comes from a car ride with my dad when I was about 5 years old.
STUFF #5 – Could you be wrong?
Back in the day when I was about 5 (probably one of my earliest ‘learning memories’ that I can pinpoint from the wayback machine,) my dad & I were driving towards home. At the time we lived on Upson Lane, & I distinctly remember we were cruising around Dartmouth Dr. (there is still a beautiful pond there,) & we had the front windows down for some 1970’s era 2-30 air conditioning. (You know, roll down the 2 windows & drive 30 mph to cool down ?)
Anyway, as we approached the curves on Dartmouth, (right at the ponds), a piece of paper (don’t remember exactly what it was, only that it was a full size, 8 1/2″ x 11″) was flapping on the dashboard in the little crevice between the dash & the windshield.
Though the paper was flapping pretty good, in my expert & very professional opinion, it wasn’t in any danger of flying out of the car. We weren’t going fast. The paper was secure. And yet…
My dad said, ‘Would you take the paper off the dashboard, please? I don’t want it to fly out the window & get lost.”
I looked at the paper again, looked back at him, & replied, “Nah, it’s ok. It’s not going anywhere.”
To which my dad asked, “Louie, could you be wrong?”
I distinctly remember the thoughts running through my head at that precise moment. Could I be wrong? No! No way I could be wrong. The paper was barely flapping & was tucked securely between the dash & windshield. I was absolutely, positively, certain that it wasn’t going ANYWHERE. So I said, with all the conviction I could muster: “No. No I couldn’t be wrong.”
The words were scarcely out of my mouth when all of the sudden a gust of wind blew through the car & the piece of paper in question blew right out my window, to settle in an unknown & forever lost place.
I couldn’t believe it. There was NO WAY that this paper could have blown away, no way I could have been wrong about it. And yet I was.
What I remember the most about those ensuing moments follows:
- My dad’s belly laugh – I’d just learned a lesson that would stick with me for life, & it didn’t even come with a spanking.
- Even though I had been 100%, absolutely sure that there was NO WAY that paper was going anywhere, it did. And I was most definitely wrong.
- I was quiet the rest of the way home ( a whopping 2 blocks).
40+ years later, I still think about THAT precise moment when the thing I was SURE couldn’t, wouldn’t, wasn’t able to happen, did, in fact happen. And I was profoundly impacted by that experience – & I know I learned, from that moment on, no matter how SURE I felt about something, anything… there was always the possibility that I could, somehow, someway, be wrong. And it weighed on me – with a positive, encouraging, & humbling kind of weight.
Over the years, I’ve found that any pressure I feel about being ALWAYS right & NEVER wrong is rooted in a bad & dark place – in pride, in ego, in arrogance. To be able to embrace, with humility, that in spite of all the positive feelings & beliefs I might have about a particular thing being RIGHT, there was always the possibility that I could be wrong.
It is a freeing thing to know that you know that you know that even when one feels 99 44/100% sure about something, it is a wise person that leaves the possibility open that somehow, someway, that person could also be wrong about that very thing.