Discoveries That Changed my Life
Think back to when you were a kid. Did any discoveries about life, the adult world, or even the natural world really shock you? Did anything you learn make you go Really? What? No! That can't be true! As you grow up, you learn little by little about the reality of life, and these things tend to shatter the illusions you have as a child. After all, when you are a child everything and everyone is amazing to you and you are full of hope and a sense of invulnerability. But as you grow up you realize the world is not perfect, and neither are the people who populate it.
I took a few minutes to reach back into my memory and think of the discoveries that really shocked me as a child and made me think differently about the world. I suppose that I was about elementary school age for most of these discoveries. Many of them seem funny and even embarrassing to me now, but what may be stranger is that I have just accepted these facts--some of which seem to be major contradictions--as just a part of life. I guess that is what they call "maturity."
Here we go, with "discoveries that changed my life":
1.Presidents don't write their own speeches
Believe it or not, this was a real shock for me. After all, the president is supposed to be the most powerful, respected person in the country, and he gets up on television in front of thousands or millions of people, lifts his chin and points his finger, and speaks about dreams and hopes and unity and history--and he didn't even write the words coming out of his mouth!
Of course, in the old days many presidents did write their own speeches, either because they were good writers, had more time, or there was not as much division-of-labor in those days. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, wrote his own speeches. I wonder where that custom ended? Although I see the benefits of having a professional speechwriter, I personally would not mind going back to the old days when great men wrote the words they spoke.
2. Movies are not filmed in the order of the story
Okay, this seems obvious to me now, but as a child you believe in the story and so you think, of course they would film it as the story goes! How dishonest would it be, for instance, to have the first scene in Indiana Jones actually filmed at the end because it was more convenient that way. How can they pretend that that came before all the other scenes, when in reality it was filmed last? Just to save time and money??
But as a child I failed to realize that all movies are make-believe, and in the end all that matters is that the illusion created is believable. Of course, directors have to deal with budgets and deadlines as well, and in the end filmmaking is a very complicated process. Still, I did question the integrity of directors after this discovery.
You must remember some point in your life when you actually realized that everybody will die. Not just soldiers in WWII movies, not just criminals who are hanged, not just cats and dogs, not just people in plane crashes, but everybody, including your grandparents, your mother and father, and yes--even yourself--will die.
In a way, this may not ever really sink in. It is, as they say, a realization that only human beings experience, and one that is not so easy to accept. That's why we have religions and zealous pursuits for "eternal youth." Many of the ancient emperors of China sought ways of achieving immortality by trying out all kinds of potions, even mercury! People will go to any length to shield themselves from this most horrible destination we all are heading to. We think to ourselves, wait a minute, I was given life, and a family and happiness and I did nothing wrong, so why is it all eventually going to be taken away from me?
In point of fact, that is not such an easy question to answer. What is the point of life if you are going to die anyway? And so are your kids, and their kids, and really, everyone so what is the point? I can't remember the exact instance when this truly sunk in, but I imagine I started to do a lot more thinking on the meaning of life since then.
4. Santa Claus isn't real
Every kid goes through this. Why is it that our parents try to fool us into believing there is a benevolent old fat man who is so kind that he goes around to every house in the world once a year to leave loads of presents? What a nice guy! He is so generous that he will visit total strangers and offer gifts to their children. In reality no such person exists.
On the other hand, the discovery that it is actually your parents who are giving you gifts should make you feel better. After all, it means that the people who are closest to you love you! But it will make you realize that there is no stranger out there in the world who is going to be so very kind. Lock your doors!
5. The tooth fairy isn't real
This is just another gift-giving stranger (albeit a spirit) who turns out not to be real. How great is it to go to sleep with a tooth under your pillow and wake up with some money under there? It's some compensation for the trauma of losing a tooth. When you lose a tooth as an adult, however, you are going to have to wake up, go to the dentist, and pay a bill! It amazes me how when one is a child, one receives so much, and then when one grows up one must turn around and give. I guess that's just the cycle of life--what comes around, goes around!
6. England is actually a really small country
I guess because I learned that England used to rule America, and America had a big war with them, and their language was spoken everywhere, and they used to say "The sun never sets on the British Empire," I thought that England was a very big country, on par with the size of Russia. I had never looked at the map properly. It is a tiny country!
As a child one equates size with power, and in fact many adults do to. But here was one hell of a tiny country that had gone out with its ships and conquered much of the world. And they had so much success that their language is spoken all over the world. Actually, it really is pretty impressive.
7. Cartoons are made by filming lots of drawings and then speeding it up
Again, an illusion--albeit a clever one. This did not shatter any preconceived notions I had about cartoons (which I loved) but it did amaze me. How could artists spend so much time drawing each one of those frames? It must have taken hours! Days! And then to sit there and film every single one of those drawings as they changed bit by by, just for a few minutes of reel! I thought to myself, there must be some better way to do this. But really, there isn't. Making a cartoon is a lot of work!
Of course nowadays you have the help of computer graphics so I assume that in many ways the work has become easier. But if there is one lesson learned, it is that great works of art are often made through tedious work!
8. People in the old days used to be a lot shorter
I remember visiting the USS Constitution with my grandfather, and observing that the doors down in the hold were very low. The guide explained that people were shorter in those days by a few inches. Since then, observing old beds and clothes and whatnot, I found it hard to accept that people in the old days were somewhat midget-like. If all the historical greats were so short, it would mean that Alexander the Great or Ghengis Khan were actually pretty short guys. In fact my six-foot-one grandfather would tower over them!
I guess what shocked me was that historical figures cast such a great shadow on the present that in a way you almost imagined that they would even be bigger. Not to say their achievements were not great, but in many ways they were just ordinary people--who actually were shorter.
Well, there you have it. I could go on with some other discoveries that affected me, but I think you get the idea. Basically, life is one big illusion, but an illusion that helps us get through it all! Perhaps the lesson is that humans can't really face the truth. I have a hunch that God or Mother Earth have some other secrets in store for us that will really tear our assumptions about the world apart. Things that will make our eyes bulge out and make us say, What? You're kidding! The deeper you get to the truth, the more you realize it may be one big joke! So laugh! And more than that, learn to live with it!