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BROKEN RECORD

A complaint:

I’m having a fight with a friend – she said something pretty mean-spirited to me when we were hanging out, and now she’s saying she said no such thing.  Then she said she had said something sarcastic, not the same thing I remember, and we both laughed about it.  I know I didn’t laugh.  My feelings are hurt, and I’ll get over it, but I think she should admit that I’m right and say she’s sorry.

LISTEN:

“What do you despise?  By this are you truly known.”  — from Manual of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan, or Frank Herbert.

Or his son, Brian.

Or even, possibly, by Kevin J. Anderson.  I’m not really sure.  Hang on…No, it seems to be from the first book, so –

“What do you despise?  By this are you truly known.”  — from Manual of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan, or really — Frank Herbert.

The funny thing is that I remember the quote differently.  I would have said, in all certainty, that it really read “What do you hate?  By this are you truly known.”

Despise / Hate – same thing, right?  Well, that’s just my brain taking a short cut.  Here’s the funny thing: That same quote has been attributed to – drum roll, please – that’s right, folks – all the way from Caprese, Italy, it’s Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni!

So a quote from Frank Herbert’s great science fiction novel Dune has somehow been attributed to Michelangelo.  That’s really something.

But it’s also something very interesting when it comes to etiquette.

Actually, let me say first that it’s interesting to me because in my developmental years, I loved Michelangelo more than any other artist – and I read and re-read Dune until my copy fell apart.  When I went to Rome, I made a list of all the Michelangelo sculptures therein and drug my poor husband around from one church to another to see them all.  I made him go through the Vatican Museum twice on the same day (though the second time really was a bit of a trot).  That’s all – just a coincidence.  I’ve never heard the quote misattributed until today.

But what, you are undoubtedly asking yourself, does this have to do with etiquette?  Or behavior?

I’ll tell you.

LISTEN:

When you make a decision or an assumption based on facts that are based on your memory, there is no absolute guarantee that what you are remembering is accurate.  The human mind is complex, of course, but it’s also kind of an asshole.  It will re-route memories to make room for new ones, combine people and episodes together in your recollections where you could have just sworn that so-and-so said such-and-such.

That’s why we make qualifying statements, such as “From what I remember,” etc.  The problem is when you get into the realm of certainty.

And the reason that’s a problem is because when people have differences of opinion based on episodes of exchanged words, or the sequence of actions, memory is a compromised witness.  The caution should go to giving yourself the generous benefit of the doubt, of course, but that has to be extended to the opposing team, too.

Sometimes it’s not worth winning an argument by being right.  Especially when you find out later that you were completely wrong.

Especially when you’ve been drinking.

I mean “hanging out.”

 

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