The Mental Wall

One way to forever stave off certainty is the mental wall. It goes up for protection from attack. It is impenetrable. It stops intellectual attacks cold, and provides a bastion for devastating counterattack. It also stops questions as if they were attacks. It stops comments as if they were attacks. It stops reminders as if they were attacks. It stops disagreements as if they were attacks.

Questions, comments, reminders, and disagreements are not attacks, but shortcuts to learning. They indicate the relationship between your thoughts in particular and thinking in general. Thinking is differentiation and integration, which means that a subject is examined simultaneously as its unique self and in relation to all else. The mental wall falsifies intellectual relationships by making them all adversarial. It converts mistakes into land mines, and disagreements into wars. Learning gets put off to more peaceful times. And put off. And put off.

The mental wall is a metaphor for the habit of instant defense against those dread words, "You are wrong."

If you evade the truth, you are morally wrong. If you substitute subjective wish for objective fact, you are morally wrong. But most mistakes are not moral wrongs. They are errors from lack of knowledge or unskilled application of knowledge. They are stumbles on the path to certainty. They need no wall for defense, but a method for detection so they can be corrected.

Dread of being wrong results from considering mistakes out of context, as isolated happenings unrelated to a process of doing something. As an isolated event, a mistake looks like a failure of reasoning, a weakness, a personal fault. As part of a process, mistakes look very different.

Imagine that you are bringing a glass of water to your lips. You begin to raise the glass, notice that the trajectory is wrong, and correct it. When you notice that the glass has wavered a bit, you correct again. In a short time, the glass reaches your lips.

Suppose that when the glass is halfway to your lips, I say, "Aha! I have caught you making mistakes! You want the glass at your lips but it's not there! And, look! It is not even headed there! You are wrong, wrong, wrong!"

A reasonable reply would be, "Stop being silly. Nothing is accomplished in an instant, or without course corrections. As long as I am using the right method for getting the glass to my lips, I am right all the way."

Any process of accomplishing anything includes provisions for course correction – for detecting and correcting mistakes. If not, it assumes that doing things does not start, progress, and end, but happens magically. It assumes mind over matter.

If a mental wall stops you from comparing your thoughts to other thoughts, mistakes can go undetected. Then they don't get corrected, and your thoughts get nowhere. What could have been a minor course correction can become years of wandering in the wrong direction.

Behind the mental wall lies doubt. What is out there? Will I be proved wrong today? Will I be shown as incapable of handling reality today? Do I dare try something new today?

Building a mental wall is letting fear of mistakes get the better of you. To achieve certainty, tear down that wall!

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