Conforming to the Truth
The prominent 19th-century British actor William Charles Macready (1793-1873) was noted for his tragic roles, but his handwriting was notoriously difficult to decipher. When he wrote a complimentary letter of admission to a theater during one of his American tours, the recipient remarked that it looked every bit as illegible as a doctor’s prescription. He and a friend thereupon decided to take it along to the apothecary to see what he made of it.
The young assistant took the piece of paper and with scarcely a glance at it began pulling down phials and jars to make a compound. After mixing a number of ingredients with great confidence, he seemed to come to an item that bothered him; he paused and puzzled over it and at last summoned his boss from the back of the shop. The older man studied the paper and then with a contemptuous snort at his assistant’s ignorance, pulled down another bottle and completed the mixture. Handing the result to his customers, he remarked with a smile, “A cough mixture, and a very good one. Fifty cents, if you please.”
We have a way of interpreting things according to our expectations, rather than altering our preconceptions to conform to the truth.
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