Accidental Theologist’s book of the moment (and possibly of the year):  ‘Being Wrong‘ by Kathryn Schulz, who irresistibly claims the title of ‘wrongologist’ (a word that has to be right since Word insists, with its adamant wavy red underlining on my draft of this post, that it’s wrong).

The idea of error as bad, Schulz argues, “is our meta-mistake:  we are wrong about what it means to be wrong.  Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition.  Far from being a moral flaw, it is inextricable from some of our most humane and honorable qualities:  empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage.”

Brava!  Consider this book a brilliant stand against dogmatism.  Schultz brings wit, depth and style to exploring the multiple ways we experience, deny, and occasionally (too occasionally) revel in being wrong, doing full justice to the epigraph at the front of the book, from Ben Franklin:

Perhaps the history of the errors of mankind, all things considered, is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries. Truth is uniform and narrow; it constantly exists, and does not seem to require so much an active energy, as a passive aptitude of the soul in order to encounter it. But error is endlessly diversified; it has no reality, but is the pure and simple creation of the mind that invents it. In this field the soul has room enough to expand herself, to display all her boundless faculties, and all her beautiful and interesting extravagancies and absurdities.

Be prepared:  though beautifully and compellingly written, this is no page-turner, despite a Publishers Weekly review claiming it is.  It’s a book to be savored, to be digested in bites rather than in a gulp.  You need time to absorb everything Schultz is saying as she ranges through philosophy, psychology, science, and politics, showing that to err is indeed to be fully human — alternately blindly, creatively, pathetically, bumblingly, tragically, and courageously, but always fascinatingly.

One final quote, and then I’ll leave it to you to explore this wonderful book and, I hope, get back to me on it:

“To err is to wander [as in ‘knight errant’], and wandering is the way we discover the world… Being right may be gratifying, but in the end it is static, a mere statement.   Being wrong is hard and humbling, and sometimes even dangerous, but in the end it is a journey, and a story…   To fuck up is to find adventure.”


6 Responses

  1. This makes me feel so relieved, since it’s quite true that all my adventures haven’t necessarily been borne from success. To fuck up truly is to find adventure (more often than not) and I am feeling as if I’ve just now been granted permission. To be fair, and quite related: I’m equally if not more pleased to have been granted second chances. Am adding this book to the queue.

    By the way, I visited my father for Father’s Day and he could not stop raving about “After The Prophet” — he is a man who knows his history and revels in finding mistakes, so that is no small compliment. He was most impressed, specifically, by how easily readable it was — well-written and enjoyable, not simply a journey of facts and chronology.

  2. Have to get this one for all the wrong and right reasons. Thanks Lesley!

  3. What a relief!

    Also Lesley, this reminds me of your work so long ago about Americans thinking that to be depressed was defeat and terrible, whereas you were looking at what one can learn from depression.

  4. Yay, hurrah & huzzahs all ’round for Wrongology. Author, of course is a wrongologist.

  5. Greetings and Salutations,
    As always I find your writings and book reviews to be in depth, deeply engaging and thought provoking. Currenly I am consumed by a book called ” Forty rules of love” by Elif Shafak. Havent bought it nor stolen it but this has been my reading homework. I would say the same about this book as you said above…” book to be savored, to be digested in bites rather than in a gulp. ”
    You need time to absorb everything author is saying …..
    I would love if you could read and write a review!
    Regards Hana

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