Monday, August 20, 2018

"The Factoid Fallacy"

You know… 

You do something – you think it’s good.

You don’t?

Well do something and think it’s good.  Not because I’m saying it’s good.  I have been consistently rewarded for doing that thing, meaning  “outside people" are saying it’s good, hence, the reward. 

If no one else said it was good, I probably wouldn’t think it was good.  Okay, I might think it was good anyway.  But I don’t have to, because they do.  

“Outside people” are telling me it’s good.

Have I sufficiently nailed that concept to the ground?

“Yes, thank you.”

Well, in case I haven’t…

Recent Example of What I’m Talking About (which, before mentioning the example, is this):

I have a natural gift for the retention of random, semi-relevant factoids, an ability perhaps not “up there” with being able to balance a nickel on my nose, but arguably on a par with people are able to spell and pronounce words backwards.  

I can remember things others totally forget.

Such as…

Biographical Tidbits. Like that my childhood friend Arny’s mother used to call hotdogs “ha’digs.”  (I re-met Arny at our recent Elementary Hebrew Day School reunion.  Arny, who had totally forgotten that maternal peculiarity, seemed genuinely impressed that I hadn’t.  Sixty years later, I recalled “ha’digs.”) 

Fragments of History: In a “Grade Ten” history class I attended at Bathurst Heights Collegiate and Vocational School, our teacher Mr. Coulthard told us that when Holland’s William of Orange was recruited to be King of England, he self-definingly proclaimed,  

“I don’t like bainting and I don’t like boetry.”

remember that about William of Orange.  And nothing else.  How many, I wonder, remember our “Grade Ten” history teacher was Mr. Coulthard?

Geography:  I know three things about Australia, two of them provided by travel writer Bill Bryson.  1)  Australia has more different species of snakes than any other country.  2)  Australia includes the geographical terrain – the Outback – where you are most likely than anywhere to end up drinking your own urine.  And 3)  I have no idea where this came from, but in Australia, the toilet water swirls in the opposite direction – hold on, I’ll check mine……………….. okay, theirs swirls counter-clockwise.

Wait!  I know a fourthone.  In Sydney, they pronounce “razor blades”, “rise-up-blides.”

This, by my reckoning, makes me a “near-genius” about Australia.  Though, in reality, it is only four things.  (And not even the most important ones.  Perhaps.)  Still, in my time, it may surprise you to hear, I have surfed the waves of popular acceptance knowing just one.

Recent Example from My Oxford Experience:

During my first lunch in “The Great Hall”, I find myself seated at one of the provided long tables opposite two women – guesstimatedly in their early thirties – of Chinese extraction but currently living in Australia, Crystal and Fan.  

We are chattering away – no, Iam chattering away, because I am excited to be lunching in “The Great Hall” – and I learn, among other fragments of personal history, that the two had originally met on-line.  (The bulk of the rest of the conversation was all me.)

Anyway, numerous days later, my cell phone suddenly breaks.  The screen went all milky and I was unable to call out.  That evening at dinner, I happen once again to be seated opposite Crystal and Fan, my defective smartphone in hand – or at least availably “in pocket” – and, solely because these women are, by several decades, youngerthan everyone else in attendance, and therefore presumably tech-savvier, I impulsively hand them my cell phone, saying,

“Can you fix this?”

And, miraculously – at least to me – Fan does!

For which my ecstatic response is an effusive “Thank you!” and a subsequent, heartfelt kiss on the hand, Crystal quickly, clarifyingly explaining, “She fixed his phone!”  (I just threw that in because gestures of gallantry are rare as hen’s teeth in this venue.)

As the dinner ensues, when somebody asks the young Australian companions how they know each other, I reflexively hear myself say,

“They met on-line.”

To which Crystal explosively responds,

“You remembered!

All excited, you know? Like she had lost some cherished possession and I had miraculously retrieved it.  

It’s what I do.  

I remember one thing. 

I know it’s not much, but people appear sincerely grateful when other people just listen.  

Then retain.

Then randomly regurgitate.

It’s okay – or at least harmless – having a minor gift people seem to appreciate.  The problem arrives when you know one thing about important stuff and you think you’re an expert..

Which happens more often than one is eager to admit.

Another lesson in humility, of which I am certain, 

“More To Come…”

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