A while back, I was riding in a pickup truck. This is notable only for the fact that the girl driving it was consistently using about three feet of the right lane while driving in the left. As a passenger, I found that pretty terrifying and said something to the effect of “Jesus, what the hell are you doing?”
She insisted she was fine, she hadn’t had any issues and seemed to think I was making fun of her driving or calling her crazy. This went on for a bit, her insisting everything was perfectly fine and me growing more and more concerned, particularly as we narrowly missed side-swiping other vehicles and pedestrians.
I finally demanded just why she thought she was centered in her lane. She told me that her driving instructor had taught her to center the white lines on the hood of her vehicle and she’d always be in the center of the road. When I quite testily replied that she’d probably learned to drive in a car, rather than a pickup truck, she went silent. It was a thoughtful silence. After she considered the fact that a truck was several feet higher than the car she’d previously driven and the geometry was therefore different, she shifted over to something rather more like the middle of the lane.
The world and circumstances had changed. Her point of view had shifted, but she’d been operating under the same assumptions as before, not taking into account the changing conditions. It wasn’t that she was stupid, or that she was crazy, or even that she was reckless, it just hadn’t occurred to her that some of her basic assumptions were no longer valid. The paradigm had shifted and that had endangered her and fellow drivers around her.
The Star Wars quote, “From a certain point of view,” applies pretty strongly. Obi Wan spun the truth for Luke when he told him that Vader betrayed and murdered his father. He told Luke what he needed to hear, a simpler “truth” that set him on his journey of change, hoping that Luke would have the resilience and wisdom to understand the full truth as he gained experience. That’s what many teachers do, they give us the basic “rules” and hope that as time goes on, we fill in the blanks, we learn the “why” as well as the deeper complicated details.
It’s something to consider both in writing and in our lives in the real world. Be willing to re-examine some of the facts. Be willing to question those basic rules that you’ve lived by. Be willing to adapt and change. Your characters in the stories you write should learn from their mistakes, but they should also change and grow. Their beliefs and concepts of the world should adapt and grow with them. And perhaps we should hold ourselves to as high a standard.