We like to compare and contrast. We take to it like a toddler to a playground. Like crinkly leaves to autumn. Like bouquet to a wine.
Comparing and contrasting are skills we learn very early on. And just as well or else we’d be quite lost. Roaming the streets without a map, not knowing whether we’re departing or arriving, having no clue how to get from one point to another.
In philosophy, the ability to compare and contrast guides us as we wade through directionless and undetermined paths between knowing and questioning, proving and falsifying, believing and doubting, feeling and thinking, and so on.
In practical terms, comparing and contrasting serve us well as we draw distinctions between work and play, earning and spending, growing and regressing, learning and teaching, and so on.
With our ability to compare and contrast comes confidence in the circles we inhabit, whether it’s our environment or our neighborhoods or our social circles. We learn what role we’re supposed to play when we can successfully determine what the game is, what the rules are, who the players are and how we win.
The downside is we can get caught up in examining how we measure up.
Or worse, we become insecure and let our hangups magnify when we measure where we stand in the lineup. The literal and proverbial lineup of who the winners and the losers are, who’s flawed and blemished and who’s always camera ready, who shines in the spotlight and who’s thrown off the stage.
If you’re looking for answers, dear readers, I’m afraid you won’t find any at this point in the article. Instead, I pose to you still more comparing and contrasting.
I ask you, which is better:
- A truism from a sidewalk preacher or a lie from a scholar?
- An insult from a friend or a compliment from a foe?
- A philosophical truth or a practical solution?
- Timeless beauty or pure substance?
- An unfulfilled wish or a bitter regret?
- A false kiss on the cheek or an honest betrayal?
In the vast sea of relativity and pliable perspectives, no matter how top notch our ability is to suss out a situation, we occasionally find ourselves unable to determine which option is better for us. Sometimes, we have trouble choosing, especially if all the choices are unappealing.
A LEGITIMATE OPTION
As always, there’s the option of making a mistake. An option oft-maligned and seldom considered by thoughtful and sensible people. A choice decidedly missing an opportunity to be fabulous.
So now, I ask, still without an answer, yet more questions. If we go through the exercise of comparing and contrasting, heads and hearts present and functioning with good intentions all around, and we find ourselves on a path that looks and feels right, then later turns out to be wrong, is making a mistake really so bad?
If we learn a valuable lesson from this mistake, and it compels us to do good going forward, is it so horrible? If we come out of it a bit battle-tested, slightly tougher with more depth, more wisdom, more character, are we so irredeemable? And in the off-chance that this mistake never teaches us anything and never inspires us to do better next time, are we so unforgivable?
I think not. As long as we’re prone to making mistakes and capable of admitting them, we should be forgiving ourselves as well as deserving of forgiveness. And if we’re able to release ourselves from the self-imposed punishment of clinging to the psychological tarriff of a mistake, then we’re off to a good start. Because as we start to move on, we’ll find that there are many of us on this morass of a path. Still figuring things out many years and many mistakes later, but always with many chances to do better than the last time.
What do you think?
ENOUGH WITH THE COMPARISON, IT’S SHARING TIME
I’m not expecting confessions but if you’d like to share a fortuitous mistake, or any thoughts or counter-thoughts, they’re all welcome.
Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life. ~Sophia Loren
Image by Truth Went Trendy