Why is confusion such a wonderful way of being?

“How does it feel to be wrong?” This was the question Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, coauthor of Picking Cotton, asked a group of us gathered in Camden, Maine. People responded with answers like “embarrassing, humiliating, and humbling.” Jennifer then asked us if we were sure that these were some of the feelings we had when we were wrong. We answered, “yes.” “Well, you are all wrong,” she responded. For the next minute or so, she held the room in silence. We sat there in a state of confusion. We also had a feeling we were about to learn something.

Before we solve this riddle, I want you to deeply reflect on a time when you were wrong. This isn't difficult for most people. Take a piece of paper and write a word or two that describes how being wrong felt to you. If your answers are like ours were, you too are wrong. Confused? Good. Thompson-Cannino went on to explain that “being wrong feels exactly like being right…until you realize you are wrong.”

In the sixth century BC, people believed the earth was flat. They lived their entire lives feeling right but being wrong. Imagine that afternoon when Pythagoras called everybody down to the Great Theatre on the slope of Panayir Hill in Ephesus to reveal a startling revelation: “Hi, everybody. Hey, ya'll know that belief we all have about the earth being flat?” People look from side ...

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