The Comforts of Being Fallible

In the last blog post I wrote about the inevitable errors we humans make. This post picks up where that one left off: "There's almost no escaping our fallible human selves. As contradictory or cross-purposed as that might seem, I find myself in awed gratitude of this truth." Here's why.

There are two sides to the comfort I gain from this. One has something to do with humility, with being kept humble by the appearance of an inappropriately doubled consonant or ridiculously common error. There. Did you hear that? I called an error ridiculous. I am pulled to examine the judgments I make about people who make mistakes when I make them.

By making mistakes, just like every other human on Earth, I am reminded that I am just the same. Just as capable of error. Just as fallible. Nothing special—no super-powered, cape-wearing extraterrestrial anomaly who towers above every other word-working person. The comfort comes from knowing I am surrounded by good company.

The second comforting thing, oddly enough, is that despite being equipped with software and automatically reasoning machines it's still possible to get it so very wrong. Features like auto-correct and "change all" can save a lot of time, but they can also spell our mortifying death on the page. It means that the human element is still necessary to discern errors within context. I remember one person's tale of a grad student who at the eleventh hour made a universal change in their thesis document on Gandhi. Unfortunately, the suggested (and drowsily accepted) correction made by the spelling tool was to change every occurrence of an unrecognizable word, Gandhi, to the closest known word, Gonad.

Like the barber who cannot cut his own hair, or the shaman who knocks on the hut of the other village healer for help, we need each other to get along a little better in life. I can't edit my own work. It's too close, too familiar. I can get way too attached. The same Earth-Mother energy of genesis and nurturance does not serve as well in editing as a more metal-wielding Kali Ma, slicing and gnashing with a compassionate wrath to separate the rich, lively content from the extraneous, superfluous distractions that may feel good, but sound terrible.

So when I birth some piece of writing, I tap someone else to draw her sword, knowing she will be committed to the health and viability of the final piece. And when someone calls on me, I sharpen the blades, pull on spectacles, and shine the light on that writing, knowing it is as precious as any creative thing—as any crea-ture—and treat it with according respect.

It takes more than one. Editing is yet another example of how we need each other; we need witnesses and collaborators to urge each other along. Somehow I feel better knowing this.

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