The Seemingly Insignificant, Yellow, Transparent Lego


My “Holy Crud!” moment didn’t happen as I sat before my computer, with gritted teeth, spelunking through caverns of my mind for ideas. It didn’t happen for me in the midst of writing one of the many articles I’ve written, trying to find some kind of artistic niche in the over-populated world of psychological articles. It happened when I was trying to put together a Lego project for my son received for his birthday, and the instructions informed me that I neglected to add a crucial tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent Lego.

“Holy Crud!” moments walk up on us when we least expect it, like a long lost lover we’ve never met before. “Where have you been all my life?” we ask when we eventually fall in love with them. Our romance doesn’t follow the format of a ’80’s romantic comedy, as we rarely fall in love with them on sight. Once we get to know them, through something as small and beautiful as a tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent Lego, and they aid in modifying our personal philosophy, we develop an intimate relationship with them.

The difference between “Eureka!” moments and “Holy Crud!” arrives in moments in which we’re at a crossroads of ideas. If there are only two roads from which to choose, a “Eureka!” might provide a third road, whereas a “Holy Crud!” idea doesn’t provide a new road so much as it provides a new look to a worn path. We might think of this in terms of one of the old 1960’s overhead projector that we used in schools from the 60’s to the 90’s. Users of such projectors could place a transparent sheet over another to alter the projection on screen. The “Holy Crud!” moment places a new transparency over ideas we thought we thoroughly explored.

Our sixth grade teacher, a nun, asked the class what word we used when we were angry or frustrated. We sheepishly declined to answer aloud. When she asked us what word we used when we were excited. We sheepishly declined to answer. “You use foul language when you’re happy?” she asked. “What about when you’re curious or sad?” We all smiled at each other conspiratorially knowing that our lexicon was Not Safe for Nuns (NSFN). We took great pride in knowing all of the naughty words our teenage friends used, and we defined ourselves in our peer group by using them in context. I know I risk losing standing in the cool community by choosing a less explosive word, but in memory of my long since departed sixth grade teacher, I’ll stick with the NSFN word crud to prove my point.

***

As the Philosophy of the Obvious article states, our Lego adventure began with us ripping the cellophane away and cracking open the little packages of pieces inside. The excitement to complete the project led us to ignore the systematic instructions that the company provides its customers. “We don’t need no stinking instructions!” I said to the enjoyment of my son. “A trained chimpanzee could figure this thing out. Right? Give me some!” we said slapping skin.

After we ripped the cellophane away then cracked open the little packages of pieces inside, we snapped the big blocks together. For those of us who aren’t great at building things, putting the first five to six big blocks together provides a sense of satisfaction. “It looks just like it does on the cover,” we say. When novices don’t follow the systematic instructions the Lego company provides its customers, we eventually encounter a problem. We encountered our problem about a fourth of the way through our project. One of our large constructs didn’t snap into another one quite right. It made no sense. It made so little sense that we had to drop the ego and consult the instructions. The instructions informed us that we would have to tear all of our hard work apart to insert a crucial tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent Lego. In our frustration, we wondered why the Lego designer didn’t just include an extra little extension on the larger piece to render the little, yellow Lego unnecessary. 

After we complete the reassembly, and our frustration subsides, those of us with a mind’s eye so open to philosophical nuggets that we see philosophy where it probably does not exist consider the idea that there might be a philosophical component behind the Lego designer making the tiny, yellow piece so mandatory for completion.

In most real-world constructs, the little parts are as important as the big ones, and sometimes they’re more important. The spark plug might be one of the smallest parts on a car, for example, but if it’s not firing properly in a spark ignition system, proper combustion is not possible, and the process by which we achieve transportation doesn’t work. Perhaps, the Lego designers wanted their loyal customer base to recognize that some of the times, the seemingly insignificant is more relevant and more important, or as Heraclitus said, “The unapparent connection is more powerful than the apparent one.”  

“Life is filled with trivial examples,” Dennis Prager once wrote. “Most of life is not major moments.”

When developing a personal philosophy, most of us prefer to go it alone. We don’t want to listen to our parents, various other authority figures in our lives, or the proverbial instruction manuals of the way to live. “We don’t need no stinking instruction manuals.” We enjoy putting large concepts and constructs together to figure matters out, and we attempt to design our personal philosophy without the need for tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent ideas. At some point, we realize we’ve made mistakes, but we won’t know how to fix them until we consult instruction manuals that detail the need to incorporate the transparent, yellow ideas to unlock larger, more confusing and debilitating complexities that inhibit us. After we reconstruct our project, we realize that that the crucial, unapparent connection we failed to make was so obvious that it was staring us in the face all along.

The philosophy of the tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent Lego suggests that while big philosophical ideas and profound psychological thoughts often lead to big accolades, the philosophy of the obvious suggests that none of these advancements (whatever the scale) would be possible without the “Well, Duh!” or “I can’t believe you didn’t know that!” ideas that litter philosophy.

Once we learn philosophically obvious tenets and incorporate them into our life, we consider them so obvious that we convince ourselves that we knew them all along, or we can’t remember ever thinking otherwise. Yet, we lived a chunk of our lives without knowing anything about the tiny bricks in our foundation, and our mind somehow adjusted to those deficiencies.

How often do we subconsciously adjust to limitations or deficiencies? How many of us didn’t know we were colorblind, until some science teacher, in junior high, asked us to complete a colorblind test. If we failed it, and the science teacher told us that we were unable to distinguish the color red properly, we adjust to that reality going forward. The more interesting question is how did we adjust to that deficiency before? How often did we adjust to our inability to distinguish red for twelve years? What kind of adaptations did we make, in our daily life, to compensate for something about ourselves we didn’t know. How long do we some suffer through school before discovering that they are dyslexic? As one who is fortunate to have never suffered such deficiencies, I think it might blow my mind to hear such a diagnoses after suffering in the dark for so long.  

The mind-blowing reactions I’ve heard to people who learn of such a diagnosis, is that they don’t have much of a reaction. They say things like, “It made sense that the reason I was having trouble reading … or the reason I couldn’t match my clothes well … was because of a deficiency.” Most such sufferers don’t think about all the struggles they’ve endured, and how learning the diagnosis would’ve made their lives easier if they learned it earlier. Most don’t consider the information earth shattering, they just move onto the next phase of life that involves them approaching such matters with the diagnosis in mind. How many adjustments do we make prior to finding the tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent blocks of information we learn. We just adjust, adapt, and move on. “Nothing to see here folks, just a fella doing what he does.”

Regardless how we arrive at this place, or exit it, we gradually move to the philosophy of the obvious. It can take a while to uncover what we’re trying to write about in an article, and on a website, but some of us uncovered our whole modus operandi (M.O.), our raison de’etre while trying to do something as relatively insignificant as cobbling a bunch of Legos together. This otherwise trivial experience in my life proved an embarrassing, humbling, and illuminating experience that changed the scope of this website.  

The early posts on Rilaly.com began as a warehouse of the weird. We were weird for the sake of being weird, as we sought to shock ourselves out of our comfort zone into new ideas. After a couple posts, we found the immediate properties such pursuits offer aren’t as rewarding as we initially thought they might be. We were weird for the sake of being weird, and we found that we were able to dismiss those ideas as frivolous. “He’s just weird, nothing to see here!” We had greater goals of discovery that we couldn’t see, and we loathed it that we were able to dismiss our ideas so easily. Our secondary goal was to be so unfunny that we might be funny, but our greater goal was to discover our deep thoughts as they lead to greater discovery. This led us to the notion that while a shock to the system might move us from our comfort zone temporarily, a provocative thought might modify our thoughts on a matter. To make such a progression, we initially considered it natural to move to big philosophical concepts and profound philosophical constructs, but as the philosophy of the tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent Lego taught me, some of the times it requires a move down the scale to the philosophy of the obvious.  

Guy no Logical Gibberish V


We’ve discussed the idea that the human inferiority complex could drive our belief that aliens from another planet are intelligent beyond our comprehension, but we’ve never discussed the basis of our comprehension. The natural instinct when discussing intellect is to gauge it by comparing it to our own. We could achieve some level of comparative analysis by giving the aliens an I.Q. test, but we might consider that an unfair standard by which to judge someone or something from another planet, depending on the test. Another definition of intelligence might be the ability of a being to harness their surroundings to use them for a designed purpose. An example of this might be when humans use every natural and manmade element at their disposal to create a product. When an alien aircraft lands on earth will the product that transports them be born of greater intelligence or just different intelligence, based on different elements from their home planet?  

Abbot and Costello vs. The Alien Amazons

Are individual, modern comedians funnier than the comedians of, say, the 1930’s? Or are they just different? When we watch Abbot and Costello today, we probably don’t find them as hilarious as we once did. A current teen, who has an altogether different frame of reference, might not even find them humorous. Some comedy is timeless, such as the Who’s on First? routine, but Abbot and Costello had a different frame of reference, a different base, and a different mainframe from which they operated.

When a radically new comedian, such as a George Carlin, a Andy Kaufman, or a Jerry Seinfeld take the stage, they’re so different initially that we consider them brilliant and ingenious. Are they that brilliant and ingenious, or do they just change (sometimes radically) the landscape and language of comedy?

Is a Jimmy Fallon that much funnier than Jack Benny was, or is the comedy of a Jimmy Fallon more of a product of a different era that Jack Benny helped define in some ways? If we were able to flip them around on the timeline, and Jack Benny was everything the modern Jimmy Fallon is, would we regard Fallon as funnier than Benny? This switch would have to incorporate the time and place elements of comedy, the influences that led Fallon to the stage, and all of the prior comedians who changed the face of comedy prior to Fallon. If we incorporated all that into a more modern Jack Benny, would we regard him as funnier than a 1960’s Jimmy Fallon?

When the aliens touchdown on our planet, will they be superior intellects, or will their knowledge be so different that we don’t know how to comprehend their intellect? Will they be carbon-based, as we are, or will they be silicon-based, as some science fiction films theorize? Some scientists deem that impossible, as a Scientific American piece suggests that “silicon oxidizes, and it cannot support life.” What if the aliens introduced us to their line of alien products, our intrigue would initially lead us to believe that they’re intelligent beyond our comprehension, but what if their home planet operated from an entirely different periodic table. We assume that all life, comes from a shared mainframe, and when we find out that’s not the case, it will shock us, and lead us to marvel at whatever they do outside human comprehension. When, and if, we find out our assumption that all life operates from a shared premise was incorrect, we’ll be shocked into believing that they’re better and superior, when it could be as simple as just being different.

***

If you’ve read as many interviews with musicians as I have, you’ve run across the one-more-song phenomenon. I’ve read numerous musicians say they sweat blood and tears to compile enough songs to complete an album, only to have some record executive say, “It’s great and all that, but there’s something missing. We need an oomph song to put it over the top. Do you have one more song in you? We want another song to help unify the album thematically. Put simply, we want a hit.”

The musicians greet this directive with resentment and disdain, as they regard the exec’s request as flippant, as if it’s so easy to just write another song, and a hit song at that. The idea that the record exec would approach the main songwriter in such a flippant manner builds resentment between the two, until the songwriter approaches the other musicians and the producer with the request, “It looks like we need to go back to write another song,” in tones that mimic and mock the record exec. “We need a hit, so let’s go back to the studio and write a hit, because we obviously didn’t do that the first time out.” If you’ve read as many interviews as I have, you know that this musician eventually reconvenes with the other players in the studio, and they resentfully write “another song to appease the masters of their universe” and they haphazardly, and almost accidentally, create a song that ends up defining their career.

The conditions of the creation of this throwaway song are such that the artists involved often end up despising it throughout their career. Almost every musician wants the deeper cuts they spent decades compiling to define them and their brand, yet every audience member wants to hear “the hit” that the band spent three days writing, composing, and singing. The song has no meaning to them, yet they’ll spend the next twenty years playing it in concert so the audience will feel like they got their money’s worth. 

I’ve read about this happening so often that I think there’s something to it. It can be as simple as the difference between writing a complicated song about the fall of the Roman Empire and a simple ditty they write about their walk to Burger King. For some reason the Burger King piece hits, and their artistic dissertation on the Fall of Rome falls by the wayside. I don’t think it’s breaking news that most silly, little ditties about love and rocking every day and partying every night sell well and the important pieces usually do not. It might have something to do with the fact that people work so hard in their daily lives that when they get off work, they don’t want to think anymore. It might have something to do with the messenger, as opposed to the message. “Who’s this guy, a rock star? I’m not going to take the views he develops between bong hits too seriously.” The difference might also have something to do with the artist, as they try so hard to write an important piece that they try too hard, and it shows.    

It’s so difficult to predict what will hit, and most of my favorite artists often say they don’t even try anymore. They probably started out trying to appeal to our interests, but they realized that the best course of action is to create the best art they can, and if the audience loves it that’s gravy. When it happens with a song, story, etc., that didn’t require any effort on their part, the artist can feel the frustration in their answer. The complicated, brilliant works required them to jump through all the hoops of creative expression, and it was as difficult for them to be covert as it is to be overt at times, so they seeded and spruced their creation through the gestation cycle, until they decided it was ready to enter the birth canal. Pffft. Nothing. Then they wrote that little ditty about something interesting that happened to them on a walk to the local Burger King, and everyone went crazy. Writing the former was hard, as the perspective changed six different times, and the artist went through as many as twenty-five edits before they finally reach some form of satisfaction. When they wrote the Burger King ditty, they did it in a day, and they didn’t care about it as much. They’re all their babies, of course, but the artist works so hard on some of their material that they find it depressing when no one recognizes them for how important, intelligent, and well-informed they are. What does any of this mean? No one knows, and fewer care. As I wrote, it might have something to do with an artist trying so hard to write important and meaningful art that their effort shows. It might also have something to do with the fact that these simple little ditties, filled with silly and stupid lines, are more pleasing to hear, and read, because all we really want in life is to hear/read is a number that has a danceable rhythm.  

Have Bus, Will Travel


“Hold on a second, wait, wait, wait, did I just hear you say that you’re choosing to travel by bus?” I asked a fella named Rudy who was speaking to another group of people behind me. I interrupted Rudy. It was rude, but I couldn’t hide my amazement. When I asked him if his decision was based on finances, the fact that he didn’t have a fully functional automobile, or a fear of flying, he said no to all of the above. “Then, I don’t get it. Why would you choose to travel by bus?” I asked.

“I want to see the country,” he said, “and I feel like I’ve never truly seen the country before.” When I mentioned that he could see the country by driving his automobile, he said, “That pesky chore of having to pay attention to the road gets in the way.” When I said he could take turns driving with his girlfriend, he said, “Long story short, I’ll be traveling alone.”

“Have you ever travelled on a bus before?” I asked him.

“I haven’t,” he said, “and that’s part of the allure for me.”

“Before you purchase a ticket go smell a bus,” I said. “Ask the company if you can have a smellment inside a bus to inhale the interior. Walk around the depot and smell some of its passengers. Have you ever smelled pungent B.O. before? Now imagine that smell crawling all over you for nine hours.

“I jabbed a stick into a bloated, roadside opossum one time, and I could smell the noxious gases that came out of it a week later on my skin, in my hair, and in the clothes I decided to pitch. Even that putrid, eye-watering scent couldn’t prepare me for the smells of the guy who sat in J-4. If we could bottle J-4’s unique combination of gangrene, attic, and a slight touch of what can be huffed on an emu’s undercarriage, after an extensive workout, I think we might make a dent in any overpopulation fears we might have.

Rudy was listening with an “Okay, but,” look on his face that told me he wasn’t convinced. 

“Trains will make stops, but not at every Podunk town junction. An extended bus ride can make what might be a seven-hour trip into nine hours, which might not seem like much of an addition, unless you’re seated next to the smells of a J-4, and you can’t sleep because you stayed up all night, the night before to sleep the bus trip away.

“We all go a little nutty when we’re sleep deprived, but the nonstop bus stops can mess with your mind, as it might take fifteen to twenty delirious minutes to find sleep, until the next bus stop arrives thirty minutes later, at which point the cycle repeats. Repeat this cycle often enough, and you’ll become intimately familiar with the term hypnagogia. 

“I see it on your face,” I said. “You’ve never heard the term. I didn’t know it either, until that bus ride. Put simply, the mind messes with you in the hypnagogic state. I’ve read scientific descriptions that suggest the hypnagogic state can occur anytime in the brief moments we transition to or from sleep. We commonly refer to this brief mental state of moving towards sleep or wakefulness without completing the transition as being half-awake or half-asleep. In my experience, the incredibly surreal hypnagogic hallucinations are most vivid when someone or something abruptly forces us out of sleep. 

“I don’t know about you, but I wake whenever I come to a complete stop, be after a car ride, bus travel, or anything that puts me in motion,” I added, “I saw most of my fellow passengers sleep through a stop, and I envy/loathed them for that ability. How do you guys escape the laws of nature, I wanted to ask. When I would wake with each stop, my sleep-deprived brain told me that J-4 was getting ready to do something awful to me. This cyclical drama continued for me throughout all the stops the bus made, until I reached a level of delirium where I wasn’t sure if the dead and undead passengers around me were products of my nightmares or participants in it. 

“As I slipped in and out of sleep, I ate, just to do something with my hands. Halfway through, I realized I must be pretty good at eating, because the guy in H-2 leaned up over his seat to watch me do it to a bag of Gardetto’s. I don’t know if this guy was graced with a unique ability to stare his way into dreams, or if he discovered those super powers during our little trip together, but a couple hours into this trip, I was convinced he was supernatural.

“I love the smell of those things,” H-2 informed me. I wasn’t sure what world he said that in, so I gave him the rest of my bag, because I suspected that his need for my Gardetto’s might afford him the ability to alter his ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the way an octopus will to formulate an attack strategy it needs to capture the unique prey it finds.

“I thought conceding might also end the cold war I was having with H-2, until I realized that when I could only smell the Gardetto’s, it only served to increase his powers,” I said. “With the advanced state of delirium I was in, I wasn’t able to tell if I was dreaming or not, but at some point in our travel together he altered into some some form of hybrid that reminded me of a Cyclops in Greek mythology. He had the same face, and the same hands were tossing Gardetto’s back to me in J-3. He fed me in such regular intervals that I came to expect them. When it took him too long to feed me, I cheeped like a baby bird, but he did not regurgitate a Gardetto into my mouth, as I feared he might. He’d just turn around and tossed one back to me. 

“Those cheeps must’ve been aloud, because when I awoke from this half-sleep, half wake state of delirium, the passengers around me were uncomfortably quiet, and a four-to-five-year-old was laughing at me over the headrest. The kid then mimicked those cheeping sounds, while laughing at me, until his mother pulled him back.

“My grievances against bus travel date back to my teen years when my dad forced me to take the city bus to school, but it didn’t dawn on me how deep seeded my bias against bus travel was, until a man named Alex informed me that he wouldn’t walk to a Walgreens with me.

“But it’s right there,” I said, pointing to the establishment.

“I had to walk everywhere I went back when I was poor,” Alex said. “Now that I have money and a car, and I don’t want to walk anymore.” I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard, and it didn’t dawn on me until later that I have a similar, deep-seeded bias against travel by bus.

“You name the method of traveling a great distance, other than walking or running, and I’ve probably tried it. Check that, I’ve yet to go anywhere by stagecoach or pack mule, but I doubt that they compare to the horrible experience you’ll have on the bus. If I were you, I would seriously reconsider another mode of transportation.”