I don't like to be wrong. But I dislike problems that defy fixing even more, whether these be personal, political, or any other sort.
And what I've learned from painful experience is that when I believe I'm absolutely right, yet that rightness isn't resulting in progress at resolving a problem, the best thing I could do is tell myself, "I could be wrong."
This morning, when I emerged from a separate bedroom where I sleep, my wife told me that our kitchen faucet that we'd gotten earlier this year had stopped working. It's a Delta faucet with Touch2O technology. Meaning it can turn off and on with a touch once the water is running.
Pretty handy when I'm washing dishes and don't want the water running all the time. I scrub a pan with soap, touch the faucet, and rinse the pan. Another touch, the water is off. One more touch, and the water runs again at the same temperature and strength.
But today not only didn't Touch2O work, the faucet wasn't working at all. Laurel, my wife, had bought the faucet. She also was home when a plumber installed it. I asked her if she was sure that the plumber had connected the faucet to our home's electrical system rather than using a battery pack to power the faucet.
Yes, Laurel said, I'm quite sure.
So when I looked under the cramped area under the kitchen sink (we've got reverse osmosis equipment that takes up most of the space) I focused on troubleshooting tips other than replacing batteries that I'd found on a Delta Kitchen Faucet with Touch2O Technology support web page.
Those tips didn't get the faucet working. I then watched several YouTube videos about getting a Touch2O faucet working again, each of which said that if the light at the base of the faucet is blinking red three times (ours was), by far the most likely reason was that batteries needed to be changed.
But Laurel was sure we didn't have a battery pack. Since my wife is usually right, I also was sure about this. Until Laurel started moving things around under the sink in preparation for a visit from a plumber we'd contacted, who was going to bring a replacement faucet, which revealed a hidden...
Battery pack. We changed the batteries. The faucet worked fine. Happy ending.
Except I wasn't so happy about how both of us had gotten locked into an erroneous assumption about what could be wrong with the faucet. With all the stuff under our sink, I couldn't tell what was at the other end of the faucet's power supply cord. So why didn't I move things around right away? That would have led to a discovery of the battery pack.
Because I never thought, "I could be wrong." Admittedly, that's hard to do when you feel like you're right. Not that I knew what was wrong with the faucet. I just figured that whatever it was, it couldn't be the battery pack, since we didn't have one.
But we did.
On the plus side, though at the moment I don't take a lot of comfort in this, after the faucet was working again I recalled a piece that I wrote in 2013 for my Strange Up Salem column in Salem Weekly, our city's alternative newspaper at the time. Here's an excerpt from "Keep Fighting, Good Citizens of Salem."
One determined person can make a difference. I tear up from the Man of La Mancha lyrics:
“This is my quest, to follow that star... No matter how hopeless, no matter how far... To fight for the right, without question or pause... To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause.”
Keep fighting, good citizens of Salem. Remember: your opponents aren’t evil.
Often they suffer from Groupthink, a malady diagnosed by someone who testified at a recent City Council meeting. It is exacerbated by an isolation from outside influences.
The treatment? Opening up flows of information, discussion, collaboration, decision-making. Transparency. Listening to both sides. Considering creative alternative options. Doing this sincerely, not with lip service.
Huston Smith quotes a Zen friend. “I have a new koan: I could be wrong.” Beautiful. The best revolutions happen when people in power revolt against their own dogmatic attitudes and actions.
Often, though, they need the aid of a citizen activist pin to help puncture the Groupthink balloon in which they have encased themselves. City leaders, don’t fear this.
Well, I guess I should do better at practicing what I preach, since today I fell prey to my own dogmatic attitude about what was wrong with our kitchen faucet. If I'd listened to an inner voice saying, "I could be wrong," I would have saved myself a lot of time and trouble.
Live and learn.
Next time I have a problem that is resisting being solved, hopefully that voice will be louder and more insistent. While I'm at it, I might as well also hope that our nation's political and religious leaders hear the same voice of I could be wrong because we sure could use more humble cooperating and less vitriolic competing.