Yesterday I Learned …


Yesterday, I learned that TIL is an abbreviation for “Today I learned …” Today I learned that in the era of texting and Tweeting, we are abbreviating far too often. I knew that yesterday, but it’s annoying me today.

1) Yesterday, I considered myself intelligent. Today, I learned that I’m not half as smart as I thought I was yesterday. We curious types ask questions and questions can lead to questions, such as, “How is it that you did not know that?” They ask this with that strained smile that suggests they have a haymaker awaiting us. Curious types often wipe the slate clean to learn different perspective, new angles, and nuanced approaches to known procedures. There are also times when we just don’t know. Decades of cultural and societal conditioning train us to avoid asking such questions, for we know the abuse that’s coming from those who know and those who quietly pretend to know so they’re not the subject of such abuse.

2) Yesterday, I learned that kids hate cotton candy as much as I do. Today, I learned that no matter how great it looks, cotton candy is pretty awful. Cotton candy, fairy floss, candy floss, tooth floss, or whatever we call it around the world looks so good on a stick or in a bag. It looks so beautiful in other mouths, but how many of us, kids or adults, make it past the third bite? After watching others tongue their way through the confection and appear to be having one heck of a good time doing it, my son pleaded with me to purchase some for him. “You’re going to hate it,” I told him. “No, I won’t,” he said. Amid the back and forth that ensued, one that mirrored the many arguments I had with my dad, I conceded. I remembered how alluring the confection was for me. My son took one bite. He wouldn’t admit that he hated it, he wouldn’t give me that satisfaction, but he gave it back to me saying, “I can’t eat it.” I was frustrated with him, but as I said, I remember going through all of that myself.  

3) Yesterday, I learned that the Astros cheated by stealing signs, the Patriots cheated by filming the other teams’ practices, and the New Orleans Saints cheated. Today, I found out that no one has accused my favorite teams of cheating. If the other team has such obvious signals that my team can steal them, why aren’t they doing it? If the other team is giving away their game plan in any way, and you’re not taking advantage of any opportunity you can to win, why, the hell, am I still cheering you on?  

4) Yesterday, I learned that some of the times we accidentally buy junk for a kid’s birthday gift. Is it our fault that the toy was a piece of junk? Today, I learned that it depends how long it works. The reveal is the most vital moment for any birthday present. If that kid wants to play with it moments after opening it, and it works for that first hour, we’re in the clear.

5) Yesterday, I learned the need to teach our kids to appreciate gifts they receive. “That isn’t what I wanted,” my kid said after opening a Christmas gift. Most of us learned gift etiquette from our mom when we were young. “You pretend that you love that gift, no matter what,” my mom told me, as her mom probably told her. Today I learned to phrase this in such a way that the child’s rationale might view it as more honest. “You don’t have to talk about whether you like the gift or not. You just say, ‘Oh, thank you so much’ with a bright, shiny smile on your face, and everyone moves on in life.”

6) Yesterday, I learned that there’s nothing more compelling than a well-placed, succinct disclaimer. If I were the owner of a fireworks company, I would test the limits of that theory by placing disclaimers listed all over my creations. I would warn my potential customers that this might be the most dangerous firework ever created. One part of the reason we think we need disclaimers is to protect the consumer, another is to protect the company from lawsuits, but they also serve to generate hype and excitement to those who seek dangerous fireworks. Today, I learned that this principle applies to music, movies, and anything that might lead a parent to warn a child. The more we warn, the more exciting the subject of our warnings will appear to the warned.  

7) Yesterday, I heard someone say, “You’re whole life in anecdotal!” I had no idea what that discussion concerned, but I couldn’t help but think about how that quote could apply in context. Today, I realized that we’re all anecdotal.

8) Yesterday, I learned that some of the times I move out of another person’s way without complaint, regardless if I have the right of way or not. Most people cede space in an open area for another to pass. Some do not. Some walk straight for us, expecting us to cede the space necessary for them to get through, and we can read those signposts as they head our way. When we see them coming, we know it’s better to move out of their way. Some form of compassion often motivates this decision.

9) Yesterday, I learned that, “One of the key components to having an open mind is admitting that you’re wrong,” says the person with whom we disagree.

“That’s probably true in some personal instances,” I argue today, “but you’ll need to show me the person who was richly rewarded for admitting they were wrong, and I’ll take a look at it.”

The first thing a person who wants to have an open mind will do is listen, read, and gather all of the information they can attain to formulate a philosophy. After selecting a philosophical train of thought that aligns with ours, we should continue to gather as many dissenting opinions as we can to challenge that logic. Some people say that an open mind often contains some conflicting opinions. We all have some conflicting opinions, but the best way to limit it is to listen to, and read, as many conflicting opinions as we can find, as often as we can, so that we can philosophically defeat dissenting opinions in our own mind. If we can’t defeat their rationale, we adjust accordingly. If we can, dissenting opinions often strengthen our own. We should also compare our ability to have an open mind versus the person who requires us to have an open mind so that we might agree with them. Their mind is often as closed to dissenting opinions as those they accuse.

10) Yesterday, I learned that too many say that they are so honest that others can’t take their brand of “brutal honesty”. Today, I learned that too few of us use such brutal honesty on ourselves.

11) Yesterday, I learned that there are two types of people in this world. Those who prepare an order before they reach the drive-thru window and those who put their family of eight in park and turn to them, “Now, what does everybody want?” Today, I realized that there is a third type, the person often trapped behind that family of eight.

12) Yesterday, I learned that I think we can tell a lot about a person by the way they drive. I sat behind a person who would not turn until they had a “clear” opening. Today, I realized that I could never be friends with such a person, in part because the man who raised me would not turn unless he could see Wyoming unobstructed.

13) Yesterday, I learned that too many of the most horrific things that ever occurred to us often take less than a minute of our lives. Today, I learned that Americans, on average, live 41,942,880 minutes. Those of us who spent too much time in our life grieving know that it doesn’t help to hear others say that we should just move on, but there is a point when we begin to obsess over it so much that we ruin too many moments in our own lives. No matter what happens in the moments before our death, I can’t help but think that we’ll regret wasting so much time obsessing over death.