Monday, May 4, 2015

Being Wrong



When I was twenty-one, I served a mission in Chicago. I arrived in November and it was getting pretty chilly, but wasn't quite the frozen wasteland that it would become by December. My companions and I were near a little pond with ducks. I suddenly wondered aloud what happened when the water froze. Did the ducks just hole up somewhere until spring? My companions looked at me oddly and informed me that ducks fly south for the winter. No way, I argued, ducks don't fly. They waddle and they can kind of lift off a bit like chickens. 

I had YEARS of experiences backing up this assertion. I'd seen ducks chased by kids and sort of run/fly away, but no real flying. My companions began laughing. Ducks fly. Hadn't I ever heard of flying south for the winter? Sure, I had. Geese flew south. Some unknown black birds flew south. I'd seen them all in their ingenious V-shapes. But DUCKS DON'T FLY! We went back and forth a few times and the more they insisted, the more I dug my heals in. Suddenly, all of the ducks in the pond took off, all together, all at once. And I backed down. Clearly, ducks fly. 

The truth of the matter is the ducks in my neck of the woods could fly; they just didn't. I grew up in the Sacramento Valley. It'd get fire hot in the summer, but never too cold in the winter. There's a lovely duck pond near my home that I visited regularly year-round. I fed them bread crusts and I'm pretty sure if they stopped getting their snacks from visitors they would starve in short order. Why fly away from an all you can eat buffet? Ducks in the wild fly in Northern California, but I'd never seen them do it. I was a town girl. I didn't hunt. No one in my family hunted. I'd formed my rock solid belief that ducks were basically water chickens, based on my experiences.

I was recently reminded of this event when V and I got into a conversation about narwhals and fairies. I took the firm stand that neither were real. I think you can see where this is going. One google search later, I admitted I was wrong. I don't know everything and there are some weird common knowledge things that have escaped my notice. Narwhals exist. Ducks fly.

I really am reasonably intelligent, fairly well-read, with a pretty good base education in a lot of subjectsand I'm wrong sometimes. So are you. I can guarantee that I currently hold several false beliefs, some about the earth and people, some about heaven and God. So do you. It's so easy to get locked in to a certain world view and refuse to see new truths and correct old errors, especially now that I am losing brain elasticity and attention span. (Curse you, impending senility!) It's so important though. I could have lived my whole life long without a proper knowledge of ducks and narwhals with no ill effects, but when it comes to people and God, the mistakes I make can be crippling to my soul. 

I want to be the kind of person who constantly learns and incorporates new truths into old truths, making adjustments as needed. In a lot of ways, I think that willingness to learn and change is the basis of humility. I try to remember that even when I thought ducks couldn't fly and narwhals were fables, God knew the truth and if I'd somehow managed to make it through life missing those facts, he would have cleared it up in the next life. I've got eternity to fix the gaps in my knowledge, but if I don't have the disposition to learn and change, all of eternity will not help.