For Lent this year, I decided to give up needing to do it right, “it” being pretty much everything.
The need to do something right begins with the giant assumption that a right way exists. Then I invest substantial time and energy in locating that way and pause at each step to assess its accuracy. But life is not a math test. The imaginary line I so often try to walk simply doesn’t exist.
It’s easy for me to confuse doing things right with doing them well. Even when working toward a specific outcome, we can rarely fully imagine the end product at the beginning, and we certainly don’t know how we’ll get there.
Being right is so useful in creating our own identities rather than letting our God-given identities come pouring through us. It allows us to claim an idea, an outcome, a process, a way of thinking as our own and imbue it—and therefore ourselves—with importance.
When I get stuck in trying to make the perfect choice, my ego is in charge. It’s focused on being liked and blameless, not on serving others or contributing to whatever effort is taking place.
I work with scientists, and one of the things I admire about them is their dedication to experimenting. They aren’t looking for the right way; they’re trying to discover the way things are.
An experiment that doesn’t support a scientist’s hypothesis isn’t a failure. It answered a question, and she knows something she didn’t before.
This approach can free us to explore the truth and beauty of life. When we don’t need to be right, a wide array of possibilities opens up. We can travel in our intended direction and trust the twisting path rather than seeing that natural meandering as a series of wrong turns.
This holy experiment called life is inviting us into discovery every day. Let’s see what wonders it has to teach us.
2 thoughts on “Holy Experimenting”
What a nice cross-over of disciplines! “Natural meandering.” Looking at animal tracks in the snow on the ranch I realized that only humans walk in straight lines. Two of my favorite cousins of natural meandering: “All who wander are not lost.” Tolkein. “Coddiwomple” – to travel purposefully toward an unknown destination.
I like your distinction between doing things right and doing them well. I’m not really even sure what doing things right means, but the ethos to do whatever you do well is legit and empowering to me. It also speaks to the idea that the way you do one thing is the way you do everything, especially with respect to the degree of care you put into things. Of course that can also veer into obsessiveness so I’m reminded of the need for balance, of the old middle way. But I digress.
I also like your description and acknowledgement of the scientific approach to questions and problems. The experimentation involved in an empirical approach ensures and maintains contact with reality. I think we could all benefit from the habits of thought that science inculcates.
I know that the Dalai Lama has a great appreciation for science and technology. I think the commonality between the Buddhist approach to investigating the mind, and the scientific approach of exploring the world appeals to him.