I have always wanted to write a book about being wrong. Not about the “idea” of being wrong, but a biographical account of the many times I have “done” wrong.
Because there are so many times I have found myself doing things that are morally deplorable. Things I am embarrassed to admit, and I guess that embarrassment, that shame, is the reason I am yet to write that book. “When You’ve Been Wrong” is the title I am fiddling with.
But I love my reputation too much. The image I have crafted of myself is too precious to take apart and expose what filth resides inside. It feels good to “appear” normal to everyone else. You know, any wrong I do is either “not my fault” or is “out of compulsion.” If you think about it, normal people “never mean to do” any wrong, though they do it. And that’s the kind of person I want to be, or rather, to be seen as — a guy who makes mistakes, not a monster who plots and plans and maliciously carries out unspeakable wrongs. That’s reserved for the rapists.
I mournfully note that the idea of “sin” has practically died in the past 100 years. I guess, the religious baggage associated with it didn’t really work in its favor, especially in our increasingly secularized world. Today, any “wrongdoing” is understood in the framework of “mistake”. That is, you want to do the right thing, you plan to do the right thing, you do what you think is the right thing, you do it in what you are convinced is the right way… But then something wrong happens. Someone gets hurt. Out of an oversight, or a blind-spot, you end up doing wrong.
No wonder it’s been so difficult to write a book about being wrong. I feel like an alien in this planet. When I am brutally honest with myself about myself, I can come up with dozens of instances when I set out to do wrong. No excuses. No blind-spots. I was just plain “being mean”. Like the times I have lied about finishing that assignment, or bribed my way out of a traffic offence, or kept quiet about a financial oversight that worked in my favor. The incidents are many. In fact, the main reason why I cannot reveal some of them here (and one more reason why writing that book is still proving to be difficult) is because they may inappropriately expose other people who were involved in the wrongdoing.
I even set out to look for books and stories and blogs written on “being wrong”. Not being “mistaken” but being “guilty”. I found none, at first, and it was only with a little deeper digging that I found some writings on the topic — mainly the personal accounts of prisoners.
Incidentally, my search led me to numerous books written on “being wronged”. Everyone wants to talk about how they have been hurt by family, abandoned by friends, fired from work, and sucker-punched by the universe. We want to talk about how people have gossiped about us and how this hurt us, how our fathers were never there for us, how we endured poverty and discrimination.
But none of us wants to talk about being a bad parent, a thief, a liar, a gossiper — without appending footnotes of excuses. We don’t want to talk about being racist and corrupt and adulterous. No, those topics are too taboo. In fact, it is almost like those topics don’t exist. And since I am the only one with full access to my inside man, I almost feel like an alien knowing I have been these things and worse while everybody else has only done them “inadvertently”, you know, by mistake.
We seem to have lost the concept of morality. No one “sins” anymore these days. Biology and Psychology and Chemistry nowadays explain many of the “wrong” things that people do. So no one is objectively “guilty” anymore. We are all, in a way, predestined by pedigree and sociology to be the people we are and make the decisions we make. “I plead insanity” has become a universal get-out-of-jail-free card. We are no longer wrong. Mistaken? Yes. Blindsided? Sometimes. Ignorant? Often. But knowingly and willingly doing what we are not supposed to do? Never.
I am still hoping and planning to write that book. The one about being wrong, and what it feels like to be wrong and live with the knowledge of my capacity to be cruel and cold. The one on how often I am envious and how many times I have knowingly stood in the way of the success of my friends.
Someday I hope to write about the many times I did wrong and passed it off as a “mistake” and blamed my pedigree or the devil. I will write about, not stumbling or falling into sin, but planning and scheduling and budgeting for and walking into sin. Because that is the kind of person I am. A person who consciously sins sometimes, too often in fact.
And I believe that we are all like this, it is just that we are only privy to our own internal worlds and not that of the others. But sometimes we get an opportunity to get close to someone, and even marry this someone, and we get access to a world and a person that we never knew existed outside of ourselves. We get to meet another sinner. And we are surprised by how familiar they suddenly look.