My previous blog pulled up some childhood memories of my father. Here’s another story about the early days and how I became a slightly optimistic skeptic.
I was only three or four years old, so all my memories of those days are fog filled. But the following episode stands out vividly—clear as could be. I’m on a road trip with my family—Dad and Mom in the front seat of the old, green wood-paneled station wagon, me and my two older brothers in a row on the back seat. I’m so young that this might have been one of the first trips where I wasn’t sitting on Mom’s lap.
Dad pulls the car into the gravel parking lot of a road-side concession and announces that we are all going to have ice cream cones. Moments later, I am handed my ice cream cone.
It is pleasant. I’ve had these treats before—sweet, crunchy.
Because I am so young, my cognitive functions at that point were underdeveloped. My powers of observation feeble. Most of life a mystery. I’m a trusting innocent surrounded by a loving and supportive family.
But that afternoon, I suddenly realized that the ice cream cones I had been eating were different—inferior. The fog lifted when my brother Gary gave me the butt end of his nearly exhausted cone and I discovered that it contained something wonderful—ice cream. To avoid an unnecessary mess, my family had been feeding me empty ice cream cones while they enjoyed ice cream cones filled with actual ice cream. What a difference!
At that moment, two separate insights flashed in my undeveloped mind.
First, life might offer more wonders and delights than I realized. I should probably be paying more attention. The ice cream was evidence that existence had the capacity to get better. A little, mild optimism might be justified.
Second, my family, though loving and supportive, could not necessarily be trusted. I should probably be paying more attention. Nice and loving people can still lie to you. From now on, a little caution and critical scrutiny of the “truths” they told me was obviously justified.
So, Don ends up being a slightly optimistic skeptic believing that life has the capacity to be better and that all ideas have the capacity to be bullshit. And I still like ice cream.
Pittsburgh, June 12, 2018