Happy or Right

I read this old article in Psychology Today entitled: “Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy” which discusses control and how you can be a slave to this need to control things. It hurts you as well as those around you. It also includes a citation from The Tao Te Ching, verses 74, which I will paraphrase here:

            Being in control is like trying to take the master craftsman’s place: You take up his tools,   you’ll probably get cut.


            Trying to control things is bad, yes; and hurting others, even if unintentional, is bad, too—Of Course. But my problem, with the article at least, is that the narrative running through the text is about a husband who wants to be right and a wife who will not back down. He is the heavy in this situation, illustrated perfectly by their going to a pastor, the husband wanting him to take his side, but here comes the man of God who says: “Would you rather be right? Or would you rather be happy?” It is a good question, but it discludes the possibility of one thing:

            What if the heavy is, in fact, right?

            This is the problem, to me, at least, that the person who is right is labeled the heavy though, for the narrative in question, the wife is just as hard-headed but is, in fact, wrong.

            This happens to my wife and I all of the time. I am not patting myself on the back or rewriting history here; I own my mistakes—if I am wrong I will own them—but with my wife, as with the wife in our little narrative, will not. My wife will fight me, acknowledging my rightness later, but will, as she has on many occasions, rewritten the story in its recollection so as to avoid looking like she was wrong. And I am not talking one person’s point of view differences. I am talking about objective facts or the expansion or elaboration upon an idea, moving it away from the frost of cold numbers and applying it to the heat of a specific instance or an actual event. For instance: statistics show mass shootings are rather atypical. Statistically, they are extremely rare. I will concede this point as she is, I disclose, a Doctor of Criminology. My interjection is that shootings of this sort, while rare, are growing in frequency and, while they are statistically rare, we must ask ourselves why these shootings occur more often now than in the past. It is a larger-question statement, borne out of a desire to discuss causes and effects or theories on how to curb them. I get yelled at because the stats tell us they are few (in relation to other violent crimes).

            Done. There is no more discussion. She is right and I am wrong.

            OK; but this is not a recitation of cold statistics but a probing of the hows and whys.

            Sorry, no. Mass Shootings are rare *ignores the data illustrating their uptick*

            *ignores the actual thrust of my statement, its depth rather as opposed to scope*

            It bugs the absolute shit out of me.

            And this is what I see going on in the world today.

            Facts, the right answer, the right thing (both literally and ethically), is pushed aside for the chance at being happy. Bull. Shit.

            Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy, or else people will brand you as an asshole and rewrite their personal histories, excising even the possibility they were, in all honesty, in the wrong. Happy? I know that ignorance is bliss, and in many situations (my own included) it is less about ignorance and more about being unaware or not current on a topic, but really, how happy can we as a society be, knowing that under the surface we are, all of us, illustrating that we are content in being wrong—just don’t talk about it?

            Happy? What does that even mean in the context of this article? To revel in one’s ability to emotionally blackmail someone they love?


            In the style of the article I read, allow me to similarly cite an ancient Eastern text: While I may not be a Buddhist scholar, I am fairly sure the First Noble Truth is that all life is suffering? We are, all of us, created with the capacity (or the ability to strive for the capacity) to endure and cope with this suffering. And if I understand correctly, one of the ways of eluding this suffering is to learn. After all, is it not accurate to say that Nirvana is a state of true knowledge? And is it not also true that one of the strategies for attaining (or attempting to obtain) Nirvana is to follow the Eight Fold Path which, correct me again if I am wrong, deals with concepts like Right View, Right Action, Right Effort, Right Speech, and Right Mindfulness.

            All these rights and we, all of us, are still content in being wrong.

            It appears that society has done away with the concept of suffering so we, all of us, have ceased being concerned with the growth that derives from listening and learning. The sting of being wrong is fleeting whereas the pain of ignorance is long. Or, to put it another way: fucking up is the best way not to fuck up again.    

            I am the first to admit I like to be right and, if the past has been any true indication, I am right an awful lot. The reason for this, I contend, is that I was so very wrong often enough in the past. I have learned from the pain of my mistakes and continue to feel pain because I see that others have not. I so want everyone to, as our friends in the military have often noted, embrace the suck, not to cause them unpleasantness but only as a tool for societal growth.

             But I take issue with the idea that I am trying to control anyone or even control the narrative (the irony of my constructing a narrative here is not lost upon me). My hope is that this would all end, this cult of mediocrity, this devotion to happiness as opposed to correctness. Knowledge is, after all, power, though I am not seeing a great many people celebrating their power nor even reveling in the power of others. What I see are many asses in the air as people are placing their heads firmly in the sand. While they may end up with wonderfully stretched hamstrings, I cannot imagine there is a lot of air down in there. We are, all of us, running out of oxygen and when we all die out who will be left to take over?

            Because remember: In the land of the Blind the One-Eyed man is King.

            You know I’m right….

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