If Self Correction Were Ubiquitous

One of my fundamental paradigms is the idea that we all ought to correct ourselves when we see that we are in the wrong.  I believe that we have a rightful duty for such, and that our fundamental downfall as a species is that we generally fail to do so in some areas.

Interestingly, though, we all find that some self correction is quite worth the effort.  To give a humorous example, imagine Billy frantically in search of a bathroom.  “Ah, there it is!” he thinks to himself, as he spots a closed door down the hallway.  But he is mistaken; it is a linen closet.  Even though Billy is disappointed and aggravated to discover that he has been wrong, we see him continue to search for which room really is the bathroom.  And for this, we can all thank Billy later.

But Billy is not so diligent in other matters.  He still says “hot water heater” even though his friend Jack has corrected him several times, patiently explaining that the machine heats cold water.  And he still calls the North American tribes “Indians” even though he has been repeatedly instructed that they are not from India.  And he still drinks too much liquor, even though he himself recognizes the troubles this causes him.

So I thought I’d invest a few minutes this morning making an impromptu list of things that would probably quit happening on the face of the earth if everyone practiced self correction as a rule in all areas of human endeavor.  This is by no means a complete list, but simply an exercise of what all I can think of in just a few minutes.

And before I get started, let me state for the record that I am NOT a Utopianist.  I believe, however, that there is a great gap between our society and the unattainable ideal of perfection.  I further believe that we do not err when we encroach upon that gap in a deliberate effort to improve ourselves.

So here’s my Monday morning list.

If People Always Practiced Self Correction…

These things would virtually disappear from the planet:

  1. Entering through the exit or exiting through the entrance.
  2. Parking too close to (or over) the lines.
  3. Driving the wrong way down one-way streets or parking lanes.
  4. Addicts still using whatever substances they were addicted to.
  5. Obesity.
  6. Crime.
  7. Public corruption.
  8. Inaccurate criticisms and prejudices.
  9. Illogical argumentation.
  10. “Twisted” and “spun” news and commentary.
  11. Inaccurate history.
  12. False advertising.
  13. Deficit spending.
  14. Violations of the Constitution.
  15. Shortcomings in the Constitution.  (They would have been fixed by amendment.)
  16. War.
  17. Persistent mispronunciation of words.  (Like nuclear, fiscal, realtor, etc.)
  18. Lazy mindedness.  (Cognitive miserliness)
  19. Littering.
  20. Pollution.

Now remember, I’m not talking about us all becoming superhuman, but simply becoming super humans.  Billy already goes the “extra mile” as it were, to locate the real bathroom.  Thus does he demonstrate that he could drive one more lane over in the parking lot to find a lane that is designated for the direction he wishes to travel.  And we can further reason that Billy most certainly can take a moment to pick up the piece of paper that fell from his car door when he opened it.

It’s All About Effort

It’s all about the effort, and whether it’s “worth it”.  For whatever reasons, Billy was willing to “push through” in order to find the correct room, but Billy doesn’t think it would be “worthy it” to beat his alcohol addiction.  Even though his addiction hurts a lot of people in various ways, not the least of which is Billy himself, somehow he feels justified in not dealing with it.  And interestingly, most people who know Billy feel justified in not attempting to help him with his problem.  But that’s another topic: correcting others.

So here we all sit, suffering from the ill effects of Billy’s paradigm, under which he grants himself the freedom to persist in his errors.  Wouldn’t it be great if Billy would change?  This is what we think from time to time, if we are optimistic.  Yet we ourselves may well have error that is going uncorrected.

It’s a Big Playing Field!

Life is a big playing field!  It’s a lot of keep track of all at once.  It’s like juggling lots of balls at once, or like keeping lots of plates spinning at once.  As a result, it’s very easy, if not downright inevitable, that we’re going to get off track in some areas from time to time.  Consider what all a diligent person might wish to do well in.  In no particular order, here are some ideas:

  • Physical fitness
  • Food
  • Medicine
  • Reading/Learning
  • Family/Parenting
  • Friendships
  • Politics/Society
  • Religion
  • Finances
  • Goals/Dreams
  • Psychological health
  • Being a rational (reality-based) thinker
  • The arts
  • Sports
  • Entertainment

To make matters even more discouraging, most of the things on this list are top level items with an unmanageable number of sub-items.  So even if you’re pretty motivated at say, politics, chances are that you don’t take the time to vet everything you read before you start repeating it as fact.  Or better yet and more to my present point, chances are good that when you hear a criticism of your favorite political position, you don’t thoroughly vet it in order to determine whether you need to correct yourself or not.

I am definitely more heavily invested in some areas on this list than in others.  And I struggle with being too far behind on some of them, too.  In reality, it seems to come down to the old adage: “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.”  When some neglected area starts causing more harm than can be tolerated, that’s when it can no longer be ignored.

So how do we choose what to correct?  And how ought we to choose?  I suppose I could make a book out of investigating those two questions, but for now, I’ll take a conscientious stab at it:  If it hurts other people, it should probably be higher on the list for self correction.  So what may seem like a light-weight matter to some, such as pushing a full grocery cart out the entrance (and not the exit), takes on a new light when one measures just how many other people had to stop and wait for the unruly person to clear the way.  In this case, if the needs of the others and the general good order of the world are valued, the extra two seconds it took to exit through the exit door make for a good investment of time and mental effort.

What Happens To Us When We Try

Even if a person cannot achieve all 1,000 items on his self correction to-do list, I believe that some good things happen to us when we are in the business of trying to correct ourselves.   And that is a list I don’t have time to build right now.  But if you think about it, I’ll bet you can relate already.


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