TED Conversations

Daniel Vineberg


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"I don't try to be right, I choose to be happy" ... wait, what?

With no disrespect intended to RIc or any readers with opposing views, I take issue with the quote I pinpointed. The pursuit of happiness is a great thing and all, but I don't think it should actually take precedence over being right.

Now I know there's a fine line between "being right" and "doing the right thing". After all someone who tries to "be right" on every minute issue can get very annoying fast ( -- ever met someone who insists on correcting grammar when it's clear what's being said? case in point).

But on larger issues I would like to suggest that proving that you are in fact right constitutes doing the right thing.
eg. Galileo would've been a lot happier if he just agreed the earth was flat and stopped insisting he was right -- but aren't we happy he was stubborn?

more recent eg. Fighting tolerance / discrimination. Though intrinsically rewarding, most of us can live an easier, happier life by turning a cold shoulder. But who would argue that this is good advice?

I don't mean to pick apart Ric's quote and use it out of context. All I would like to show is that what may help you live on a micro level may actually promote apathy on a macro level. I'm only twenty though, so I'm still at the idealistic age where I think some hard work can save the world. But isn't that what TED's all about? :)


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    Apr 28 2011: Thanks everyone for taking the time to give such thoughtful responses. Based on the direction of the conversation so far I'll just add a brief clarification my defense of "being right".

    "Rightness" is such a loaded term that it is easy to equivocate someone's saying that they are right to saying that everyone else is wrong. A few commenters have pointed to this as a flaw of trying to be right. But this isn't necessarily what I'm saying. Rather, it's the ability to hold onto your own sense of "rightness" while co-existing with others who have their own believes of what's right that should be strived for. If you're living under someone else's notion of what's right (legally, morally, spiritually, etc..) then I don't think you can truly choose to be happy, but only chose to conform.

    On the other hand, I believe there are certain issues where right and wrong can and must be determined. It *had* to be determined for example that women have the right to vote. In countries where they still do not, we cannot simply force this belief on them, but we are selling humanity short if we passively accept such forms of oppression in the name of tolerance.

    ( The first TED talk I ever watched was by Sam Harris, who does a great job of talking about the implications of judging right and wrong:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html )

    In sum, I agree with the speaker on the importance of not sweating who's right in the small things. But in the larger sense, the often tiresome battle for rightness is well worth having.

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