Saturday, October 23, 2010

Three Questions

My friend sent me a link to an incredibly interesting Reading List.
Almost every book on there is one I want to eventually read. If Sam Harris thinks I should read it, that's good enough for me.
So, tonight I was [big surprise] at the Bookstore and I had a look at one of the books, it's called On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not.
Written by Robert A. Burton.
I leafed through it and even at a peripheral level, found it intriguing. One day I'll buy it and read it in detail. It's full of experimental exercises meant to illustrate how we "know" what we think we know.
At one point, the author asks us to recall where we were at three significant moments in history. Where were you, and what were you doing:
1) When President Kennedy was assassinated.
2) When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.
3) When the events of 9/11 transpired.

I am explaining it badly here, but, basically, Burton goes on to point out how the account[s] of what ought to be very definite and unchanging stories can tend to change with the passing of time. A morphing takes place… sometimes to the point that a person will be essentially saying that the events of September 11th [for instance] took place at night, because their [years hence] explanation of what they themselves were doing at the time the event actually took place is completely out of sync with the events themselves.
I am explaining it poorly.

The exercise made me think of where I was when the events mentioned, happened.
For #1, I was peaceful floating in a sea of amniotic fluid. Twelve days later I was born.
The other two events were fraught with misinformation.
For #2, on Jan.28th, 1986 I was sleeping. My mother ran into the room and was shouting me into a state of startled panic! "One of those missiles exploded" she hollered. I ran to the TV in the living room, thinking that the end of the world was nigh. A MISSILE? I thought that a worldwide atomic war had been initiated. It was terrifying. I then watched and re-watched the tragic reality of the events on TV for the rest of the afternoon.
For #3, I was at work in a warehouse, all alone. I had not heard the radio, or any outside information all morning. At about noon, one of our delivery drivers came to my building to pick up the morning's orders which I had prepared. As the roll-up door was raised, he said, "Did you hear what happened? Two planes have flown into the World Exchange Plaza."
See -- in the city I live in, there is a big building downtown called The World Exchange Plaza, and so I looked out the door in that direction, looking for smoke! My apartment is downtown -- I was horrified! I could see no smoke at all in the distance, so I asked this guy what the hell he was talking about…. and he said it again, but the right way this time -- Ohhhhhhh! Big difference. The World TRADE CENTER in New York! Now I get it.
Anyway, the book at the store made me rethink these moments in my life -- and I assure you, my own stories are the unvarnished, unembellished truth.
Especially for #1. I was like TOTALLY in the womb! Absolutely certain of it!



D.B. said...

#1 I was one year and one week old. Basically as oblivious as you in your lovely warm amniotic recall.

#2 Working as a secretary for an Architectural firm - still love those guys - and rushing home to watch 30 minutes of As The World Turns on my lunch break. Instead, watched in a surrealistic fashion, the death of those people. Let me speak up with the ego of an American - "this can't be happening!" Tragedy.

#3 In the midst of leaving to drive my 4th grader to school, to be followed by a coffee date with a friend. By the time I dropped him off, the second plane had hit. Met my coffee date in the parking lot - "Do you know what's happening?!" She and I went to my house to watch on a f-ing HUGE screen in my "movie room" the events play out. SURREAL and now I know what tragedy is.

stefanie said...

Sounds like an interesting book. My answers to the questions:

#1 I wouldn't be born for another 5 years. My mom was only 15 and hadn't even met my dad yet. What she and my dad remember about that day they have told me but I don't remember what they said.

#2 I was a senior in high school and the guidance counselor came into my AP English class to tell us what happened.

#3 I was at my office building in a yoga class before work. I had just changed my clothes and emerged from the bathroom and someone asked me if I had heard what had happened. We had a TV in my office and everyone was gathered around it. I was just in time to see the second tower fall on live TV. Some people gasp "oh my God!" most of us watched in silence with tears in our eyes.

Trish said...

1. It was three years before I was born.

2. I was living in my first apartment with my boyfriend and we had the tv on in the background . . . was it a Sunday? I don't remember . . . but I think we were getting ready to go over to my parents house for some occasion. He was shaving and showering and i was blow-drying my hair. I shouted into the bathroom that the shuttle exploded. We both stopped what we were doing and stared at the tv in disbelief.

3. I was homeschooling my boys who were 10, 7, and 2, and the phone rang. My friend was near tears saying, 'turn on your tv - you won't believe what just happened'. I tired to get her to tell me because we were right in the middle of 'school' and I didn't want any distractions just now, but she would'nt say any more so I turned on the tv and called my husband to come home. It was truly horrific. I felt like my children, and us all really, lost our innocence that day.

Cipriano said...

Such interesting responses.
Thank you, all. Isn't it just wild how we do not forget where we were at those crucial moments?