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The Big Question: What If I’m Wrong?

The Big Question: What If I’m Wrong?

For some reason I find that DRIVING… top down, music blaring… is the best form of relaxation for me. In fact, some of my best ideas seem to come to me (almost as if being channeled) when I’m “in the zone” and not concentrating on anything in particular. I quickly find myself lost in my own mind. The sights and smells of nature coupled with the speed and my own thoughts often leads to some magnificent epiphanies. I’d like to share one such gem with you that occurred while out on a particularly feisty 75 mile roundtrip jaunt this evening.

More than a thousand years before Descartes uttered his famous words “I think therefore I am,” St. Augustine wrote “Fallor ergo sum” meaning “I err therefore I am.”

“What if I’m wrong?” Wait, what? Wrong about what? Well my friends… that question is certainly one that could be applied in a relative manner to your own life. That particular query could be interpreted and construed in any number of ways when applied introspectively.

For me, the “what if?” involves the possibility that everything I THINK that I know about what actually happens after shuffling off this mortal coil is simply incorrect.

As most of you know, I’ve dedicated my life to trying to answer the one common question that has plagued humanity since time immemorial: “What happens after I die?” With the realization of my own mortality, my focus for the last 20 years has been on trying to lessen my own fears by understanding  the many variables involved.

Honestly, it’s been a wholly selfish journey, but one that I willingly and openly share with folks through my writing, tv, and radio appearances.

I’m a very analog kind of guy. Rather than vague generalities and pseudoscience, I apply generally accepted scientific tenets and rational thought to satisfy my own seemingly endless thirst for knowledge. Throughout the years I’ve finely tuned my theory to account for the latest scientific discoveries and anecdotal data from NDE experiencers.

I’m incredibly passionate about my beliefs and often lecture to large crowds regarding my work. So, suffice it to say that it’s a pretty big deal for me.

But… what if I am wrong? What if there is no continuity of experience? What if the old axiom of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is correct? Perhaps upon physical death of the organism we simply cease to exist. Sure that would suck and my years of hard research would effectively be for naught… but there is a bigger picture at play beyond simply being wrong. One that I didn’t realize until this evening.

It’s often incredibly hard to admit that one might be wrong… but have you ever wondered why? Well, according to an article in The Art of Manliness blog by Brett and Kate McKay entitled “Personal Responsibility 101: Why Is It So Hard to Own Up to Our Mistakes?”

“All humans are essentially ego-driven creatures. Starting from a young age we develop an identity — a self-concept and self-image — constructed of our beliefs and how we view ourselves. Most of us think of ourselves as pretty decent people, better than average in certain areas, maybe a little worse than average in a few, but always trying to do our best. We believe we see the world realistically, and act rationally.

When our own thoughts and behaviors, or the accusation of another, challenges our cherished self-concept, we experience what is called cognitive dissonance – a form of mental discomfort and tension. Cognitive dissonance arises when you attempt to hold two conflicting beliefs/attitudes/ideas/opinions at the same time.

When we make mistakes, the gap between our questionable behavior and our sterling self-concept creates cognitive dissonance. We can allay this dissonance either by admitting that we made a mistake and re-evaluating our self-concept in light of it, or by justifying the behavior as not in conflict with our self-concept after all.”

So… ego can take the brunt of the blame as to why we often refuse to admit when we might be wrong… Honestly, I’ve experienced cognitive dissonance innumerable times throughout the years when considering the possibility that my singular focus might perhaps be misguided or completely wrong, but, I submit that there is still yet a bigger picture. One that is so simple that I can’t believe I didn’t realize until this evening.

Here it is… the big epiphany:

Nobody wants to be wrong, but, being wrong is ok.

It’s not a personal affront to your intelligence, knowledge, or methods. In fact, being wrong drives forward our understanding of the world. Being wrong garners objective dialog and discussion. It helps to further fine tune the models and theories. It provides an opportunity to expand our sphere of knowledge and influence. Being wrong allows us to be open to other ideas and possibilities that we might otherwise not be open to.

And when that eventual moment does come and I’m facing the great pearly gates… if I’m NOT WRONG, then in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarznegger – “I’ll be back.” Oh, and I will haunt the hell out of my critics.

“I know one thing: that I know nothing.”  – Socrates