My mind, like God, works in mysterious ways. Of course, the big difference between my mind and God is that I, along with my mind, actually can be shown to exist.
At any rate, this morning I found myself thinking along this line. If you consider that this shows I'm questionably sane, I'd be the first to agree with you.
I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. So have you, I'm confident. But from here on I'm going to use "I" to refer to myself as an example that applies to almost everybody.
The problem is, those mistakes have only been evident after the fact. Meaning, after I'd already done what, a bit or a lot later, I regretted doing.
So at the time I did what turned out to be a mistake, my mind was feeling that I was doing the right thing.
This is obvious, because if I'd had a feeling that I was doing the wrong thing, I would have stopped and tried to figure out what needed to be done right.
Now, this shows that it is really difficult for me to not do the wrong thing, since there's no warning light in my mind that flashes when I'm heading off the right track.
My Subaru Crosstrek, on the other hand, makes a chirp when I cross the center line of the road. In that sense, my car is smarter than I am.
On the positive side -- assuming there's something positive in doing wrong -- it's hard for me to blame myself when I didn't know that I was screwing up at the time, only later.
Hard, yet not impossible, because I often do berate myself for not recognizing what I should have done differently.
I then pondered the question of what to do about this vicious circle of not knowing that I don't know what I should be doing until it is too late to do anything differently.
At first I thought it would be possible to carefully consider alternative ways of doing something before I did it, to have a better chance of doing the right thing rather than the wrong thing.
But there's several problems with this.
One is that it would take too much time, even if I only did this for new or unusual things that needed doing. Washing dishes, for example, is so habitual and familiar, I rarely mess it up.
By contrast, last Saturday I changed the oil in our generator after it had been running for most of the day during a full week after an an ice storm caused massive power outages in Oregon.
I got the warm oil draining into a quart yogurt container and figured I had time to change the air cleaner on the other side of the generator. When I went back to the oil change side, the container had started to overflow with oil.
I immediately thought, "That was stupid of me." Yet at the time I had no thought that taking my eye off of the draining oil was going to cause a problem.
So is it possible to eliminate our screw-ups when we have no idea that we're doing something wrong? No. Screwing up comes with being human. I do feel, though, that focusing on doing one thing at a time reduces the chance of a screw-up.
If I'd patiently watched the oil drain into the yogurt container instead of changing the air cleaner simultaneously, I would have been able to prevent the minor oil spill onto our carport cement.
However, no matter how carefully we try to do things, frequently we'll find that we've done something wrong. In that case, compassion appears to be in order.
After all, few of us consciously set out to mess something up. Almost everybody tries to do the right thing, even if it seems clear to almost everybody else that we did the wrong thing. Thus self-compassion is as important as compassion for others.
Often we just don't know. And we don't know that we don't know. Neither do the other people who don't know that they don't know.
If the person in the car ahead of me knew that their left-turn blinker has been on for several blocks, I'm confident they would have turned it off. So they're not trying to irritate me by pretending they're turning left, yet never do.
They, like me frequently, are just caught in the grip of not knowing that they don't know.
This, of course, gets us into the much larger question of free will. Along with many, if not most, neuroscientists, after a lot of reading about how modern science looks upon free will, I don't believe it exists.
Which doesn't stop me from getting upset when generator oil being changed overflows a yogurt container. I do, though have a more philosophical attitude when I do something that, in retrospect, I wish I hadn't done.