“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words, though it contradict everything you think today. ” Emerson, Self-Reliance
“Ah, you’re trying to refute me by quoting things I’ve said or written myself. But I live from one day to the next! If something strikes me as probable, I say it; and that is how, unlike everyone else, I remain a free agent.” Cicero, Discussions at Tusculum
I don’t think there is a more impressive thing to do intellectually than turn over a long-held a opinion in light of new evidence. And maybe free agency isn’t the right metaphor any longer because what I really think he’s talking about is having a higher loyalty. That is, being ok with the embarrassment contradicting yourself in exchange for working towards the truth. Being consistently inaccurate to be constantly accurate.
The technique reminded me of something I’d been taught by another reporter at the Journal-News. When somebody is screaming you mustn’t hang up on them because they’ll call your boss right back, and they’ll be much angrier. ‘Uh-huh,’ you say ‘uh-huh, uh-huh.’ Make sympathetic noises, and wait until they’re done with their tirade. Finally you start to talk to them calming, and as if you have a lot to say. Talk for about a minute and then in midsentence hang up on yourself. Half the time, they won’t call back. If they do call back, they’re going to be easier to deal with. Now they feel you’ve both been wrong. – Selling Ben Cheever by Ben Cheever
I had a high school cross country coach who would just talk forever without saying anything important. My friends and I would wait until there was a pause her speech and I would pretend that I was swinging my arms around until my hands connected and clapped. Then someone else would follow it with another clap or stand up. About half the time she unconsciously mistake take that emphasis for her own poignancy – like when a captain yells BREAK! before going out onto the field – and decide to end on the high note.