Imagine that you step outside not in Chicago or Houston, but in someplace truly dark: the Himalayas, Patagonia, or the north rim of the Grand Canyon. If you look up in such a place, you will observe that the sky above you is vast and vaulted, its darkness pulled taut from horizon to horizon and perforated by innumberable stars. Stand there long enough and you’ll see this whole vault turning overhead, like the slowest tumblers in the most mysterious of locks. Stand there even longer and it will dawn on you that your own position in this spectacle is curiously central. The land you are standing on - land that is quite flat and unlike the stars quite stationary- stretches out in all directions from a midpoint that is you.
This is the view that species have been looking at for 73 million nighttimes. It is also, of course, an illusion: almost everything we see and feel out there on our imaginary Patagonian porch is misleading. The sky is neither vaulted nor revolving around us, the land is neither flat nor stationary, and, sad to say, we are not the center of the cosmos. These things are canonically wrong - a reminder of the sheer scope at which we can err. What is strange, and a little disconcerting, is that we can commit such fundamental mistakes by doing nothing more than stepping outside and looking up.
The contents of our minds can be as convincing as reality. Our tricky sense, our limited intellects, our fickle memories, the veil of emotions, the tug of allegiances, the complexity of the world around us: all of this conspires to ensure that we get things wrong again and again. Recognizing our mistakes can be shocking, confusing, funny, embarassing, traumatic, illuminating, and life-altering, sometimes for ill and sometimes for good. But embracing our fallibility not only lessens our likelihood of erring, but also helps us think more creatively, treat each other more thoughtfully, and construct freer and fairer societies.
See error as a gift in itself - a rich and irreplaceable source of humor, art, illumination, individuality, and change.
Being Wrong : Adventures in the Margin of Error - Kathryn Schulz