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You cannot always be right



An interesting weekend that was made more interesting by the fact that I got to do a job I haven’t done in a long while, welding: the melding of metal and metal using extremely high temperatures. One cannot afford to be careless in the selection of the gear in this one, the right helmet or brazing goggles depending on whether you are brazing or welding, for these two methods of melding pieces of metal together are different.

You need the right pair of gloves, the right shoes, the correct type of overalls that are resistant to the sparks that come with arc-welding like I was doing over the weekend, and if you can afford it, you need to wear the right inner mask at all times to save your lungs and eyes from the fumes that come from the moment one puts the rod to the two pieces of metal to be melded.

Welding is perhaps the most interesting job to me, both scary and arousing at the same time, a job that teaches one to stitch metal to metal and join that which many believe is hard to enjoin. However, welding does come with it precautions that should be adhered to, for a single error can lead to one being fatally electrocuted, burnt beyond recognition, or maimed for life. It is that kind of job that teaches one that they cannot afford to be overconfident for it can lead to carelessness that in turn leads to unwarranted accidents.

You cannot afford to be too sure; it may lead to your demise. Neither can you afford to be shaky when confronted with the task, for it too can lead to your being injured, and thus, you need to keep a clear mind to keep steady your hand whilst you put the rod to the metal and create magical pieces of art.

I have always looked at life as reminiscent to the tasks we put our minds, hands, and commitment to. What I do is reflected in the life that I live, and what I was doing this weekend is one task that bears a heightened sense of similarity to life itself: we are constantly trying to connect, to merge that which at first seems disconnected and cannot under normal circumstances be enjoined.

We live as different individuals (though not ‘unique’ as the modern speak seeks to claim) who seek to find some sense of commonness out of that which makes us different. Our cultures, customs, traditions, tendencies, learnt behaviours, and differing processes of socialisation work towards determining the kind of individual characters we shall bear for the larger part of our existence in this world.

We meet and interact as is the basic requirement of human living in this world, we connect for the sake of community and in all that process, there are points at which we ‘connect’, that is, find points of common interest that keep us together for long periods of life. These connections (or ‘networks’) serve the basic purpose of ensuring that we can share all the joys and troubles, all the pleasures and the pains that come with the process of life as a united human community.

The life of a welder is often a solitary affair even though it serves to increase the needed sense of security for the clients he or she comes across in their line of business. People living in the city are of different sorts, and the most feared are the burglars who wreak havoc with their break-ins into people’s property to steal items that people have worked hard for. As a welder, one does not need to bother themselves with the reasons why burglars do what they do: all the welder does is to ensure that the burglar shall not break into the house and steal the valuable items.

In community, there are those figures whose very existence seems to be hinged on the stealing of the joy of others. Gossips, tabloids, paparazzos, rouble-rousers, and others of their ilk are the burglars that come and take away whatever little joy we have. They therefore need for each individual to guard against them by ensuring that first, one needs not engage them upon realising that they are the type of person that is constantly in search of ways that are meant to unseat the confidence of others, that what makes others joyful is their enemy.

The final bar is the re-teaching of these kinds of people in the proper way of living with others. We can only connect through practicing those virtues that engender feelings of satisfaction in ourselves and others, for the moment we choose to practice those behaviours that hurt others, we are not only infringing on their rights but are in every essence betraying the interconnectedness of humanity as a race that has to live together to succeed. We should be wary of the burglars that come to steal our peace, and somehow, I have found out that they do bear similarities that distinguish them from other people.

Imposition is the first sign of the many qualities that define the sort of character one should be wary of in the determining of the burglar that comes in from the cold to steal those virtues we need to live by from day to day. People that impose their will on others should be kept in check because sooner than later, their victims find themselves living their lives far from the pattern they had first set out to follow. Those who impose themselves on others end up forcing their victims to live in a manner that the imposer wants them to live, not what they want to live.

What is often described as the bully is just merely a type of imposition where the bully falsely believes that their target needs to be forced to live in the manner that the bully deems right. Why people should not have the right to control their own lives in the eyes of the imposing bully is not that hard to understand if one looks at the bully’s background.

There are often gaps of lack in terms of the inculcation of the basic principles of living together with others in the life of the bully that need to be filled with re-education of the affected individual. The bully just needs to be shown the right way of expressing their opinions without forcing others to share them with him or her. The simple fact is that their view may not essentially be right for everyone, and so this needs to be revealed to them to ensure that they can live well with others.

Narcissism plays a large role in the lives of those that hold the notion that they are the best in terms of their appearance or what they do in life. The narcissist is always checking their image in the mirror, constantly squeezing the odd pimple because they feel it taints their ‘perfect’ face. These kinds of people seem to believe that everything should be perfect for their day to be made. Well, the reality is that some of the inconsistencies in terms of appearance actually serve a practical purpose. A well-made door will sometimes need an ugly lock because such a lock has proven to be the most reliable on the market in terms of preventing break-ins.

Obsession with perfection in terms of beauty or appearance may sometimes prove to be the undoing of that which is practical. I have come across door and gate designs that could be broken into by a four-year old burglar because their makers focused more on the beauty side than on the basic function of that which they were making. A burglar door needs to be strong enough to stop the burglar’s forced entry; it is not a necklace or a bangle. Our character as human beings counts for far more than what our appearances present, that is, we should focus more on cultivating virtuous characters than on our colognes, designer suits and shoes.

Self-righteousness plays a large role in the lives of those that hold the belief that only their views are right. The truth is that well, your view may be right from the angle you look at that which you are judging. Giving yourself the time to see things from the perspective of those you are judging may well reveal insights that could unhook you in the daily struggles you come across.

A judgemental attitude leads to one being bogged in one spot instead of progressing, for even a simple mind in your view may well be the solution to understanding things in a simple (and cheaper) manner that could solve your business and financial challenges. I met a fellow welder over the weekend and he was at first very critical of my work. I sat him down and showed him the beauty to the madness of my method, and at the end of our conversation, he revealed that he had been spending pounds on that which cost a penny.

The basic challenge in Africa is associating experience with the length of time and concluding that those who have spent longer actually know more. The reality is that some have to gaze for a long while to understand things. Some merely have to catch a glimpse to understand what took others ages to fully comprehend. Being right does not necessarily hinge itself on the length of time spent doing something, being right actually means understanding and getting to the desired goal on time and ensuring that it serves the intended purpose.

Inconsistency leads to the proliferation of errors, that is, the more one chooses not to be regular in the doing of a certain duty they are supposed to perform, the more the likelihood of committing errors when it comes to the actual performance. The old tried and tested way of repetition serves to a large extent in ensuring that whatever it is one is supposed to do comes out right at the end of the day. Holding the notion that one is familiar to a task leads to the obvious: actual contempt and disregard for those elements that contribute to its success.

I see metal everyday, it is familiar to me, but when it comes to the actual process of dealing with metal, I treat such a job as an individual: possessing its own qualities and challenges unique to the day and the prevailing circumstances under which it has to be dealt with. Assuming that I will be right could easily lead to my flouting it and at the end of the day having to deal with the repercussions of a job that has flopped.

The first result of such a flop-job would be that I will not get paid the agreed price. The second is that time will be wasted on the fixes that have to be performed to ensure that it is acceptable in the least. One cannot always be right, the only way to be right is to stick to the rote, to familiarise one’s self with the reality that they will have to repeat something over and over again until they can do it right. Always looking for the alternative does not exactly come as the right answer; it only extends the life of the error and worsens the problem.

Lacking in terms of respect, the character that thinks that they are always right often ends up with more errors on their plate than they began with. It is wise to be humble in the approach of any entity, for its unpredictability is as that of a viper that is coiled in the corner, and what is simple on sight may prove to be hard and complicated upon engagement. I have come across jobs that demanded that I take a moment of repose and retreat to some corner like a David Henry Thoreau secluding himself to his Walden. Of this issue of acknowledging that there is a possibility for error in every task he wrote:

Begin where you are and such as you are, without aiming mainly to become of more worth, and with kindness aforethought go about doing good. Be humble, keep good intentions, and worry not about missing the target. You will get there, for you can’t always be right every time.

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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