Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Post Dad's Memory / An Experiment in Knuckle Cracking

A Youthful Experiment.

My Dad often talked about his memory and how good it was.  He stated that he remembered things back to two years old.  He often complained about how his mother, sister, brother, and other relatives did not remember, or claimed not to remember, things that he remembered clearly.  He resented this because he remembered many times when they had been wrong, or had done something that harmed or upset him, that they did not, themselves remember.  This allowed them to keep presenting themselves as knowledgable and kind people.

Father presented his memory as a beacon into his family's past.  He told us about these old transgressions that everyone else ignored or left behind so that we could see the family illuminated in his memory's light.  

But I was going to talk about his experiment cracking his knuckles.  The warmup paragraphs are here because it is a memory about a time when people were wrong, but it's not an unpleasant memory for him.  

His family had, and still have, for the ones that are left, a standard operating procedure of Stating Things.  Usually these were Things That Everyone Knows.  Sometimes they were Things That I Remember.  Sometimes they were aphorisms.  They would state and counter-state in an ongoing competition to be The Authority In The Room.  Admitting that something you had said might not be totally accurate was just not part of the game.

Dad's mind didn't work that way.  He was introverted and also didn't like arguing.  But most important, he though that things were either true or not, and that when a person made a statement, what counted was wether or not it was true, not how well a person could use it to chin themselves up over anyone listening.

So when his mother and her sisters all told him to stop cracking his knuckles because it would make them grow big and knobby, he decided to test it.  How, you might ask, would a child do that?  If he cracked his knuckles, they could all say that they would have been smaller if he hadn't, no matter what size they were.  And if he used a friend as a control, they could argue that the two were just growing differently.  

What he did was start only cracking the knuckles on one hand.  I don't know if he ever let them know that the experiment was ongoing.  He could have done it completely for his own information and satisfaction.  He did it for years and there was never any difference between the knuckles of his two hands.

This proved that Those So-Called Experts On Everything were simply parroting bad information.  He told us the story so that we would know that he had proved that they were wrong at so basic a level that we should always assume that they were probably wrong, especially if they were sounding particularly sure of themselves.  We didn't need to argue, but  it was good for us to know.

I thought that it was a clever experiment for a child.  I'm still a little pleased with it by proxy.  

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