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Confidently Incorrect

My wife’s cat doesn’t understand color.

That dawned on me one day when I was at my desk and instead of working, I was watching the cat. He had climbed a tree to get on the roof of the walkway, and from there to the roof of the garage, where he was stalking a squirrel. A solid plan, except he didn’t seem to notice the three inches of snow on the roof or the fact that he’s bright orange.

The squirrel did that squirrelly thing and pretended to be oblivious to the cat’s presence, watching him out of the corner of his eye. He finally darted away when the orange blob was at the exact distance to cause maximum frustration.

Cats aren’t really known for being particularly self-aware, but even by cat standards this one is a little oblivious.

It does make me much of what I know for sure am I completely wrong about? It’s the sort of thing that should give us all pause for thought.

Our son told me about a website called “Confidently Incorrect.” When I checked it out, the first thing I saw was a video of a couple hikers headed down a snow-covered path. You could clearly hear what sounded like ice cracking. The leader said, “We’re not on a river, this is a snowmobile trail.”

Yeah, you got it. Five seconds later, splash.

I have my own definition of being confidently incorrect that I got years ago from a book by Robert Parker. He describes a character as, “Often wrong, but never unsure.”

I bet when you read that line, the face of someone you know popped into mind. And if no one occurred to you who fit that description, there’s a chance you could be the problem.

My theory as to why we seem to have an epidemic of the confidently incorrect is that the penalty for being wrong is just not what it used to be. For instance, if you were a caveman and told your friends, “I know for a fact that saber toothed tigers are just as afraid of us as we are of them,” your DNA wouldn’t be cluttering up the gene pool for long. In my neck of the woods, if a European straight off the boat 150 years ago had said, “I’m not worried about winter. Where I come from, the temperature often gets down to near freezing,” his body would have been discovered about the time the snow finished melting - in June.

For some reason, in our current world, there seems to be no penalty at all for being completely, utterly wrong. I find it to be a baffling, terrible mistake. I’m not saying we should bring dueling back, but I think there should be some sort of downside to spreading ignorance with confidence.

I mean, if it weren’t for the bag of cat food in the hall closet, maybe Templeton the cat would be more in tune with what’s true and what isn’t. And maybe if being confidently incorrect wasn’t the path to a lucrative career, we’d all have a little less stress in our lives.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson


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