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.  

The Philosophy of the Obvious


Anyone who has messed around with Legos knows the philosophy behind the seemingly insignificant, yellow, see-through Lego. Our lego adventure begins when we rip off the cellophane and crack open the packages. Exuberance leads novices to ignore the systematic instructions and find the largest pieces to put together. It probably has something to do with our need for immediate gratification and an underlying lack of intelligence, but we like to snap big pieces together. It gives us a false sense of accomplishment that we find pleasing. At some point in the process, and it’s usually 3/4ths the way through, we recognize an error. One of the other large pieces doesn’t snap into the large structure we’ve created. We drop whatever ego drove us to approach the project without instructions, and we open them up. In the instructions, there is a step that requires us to attach a seemingly insignificant, yellow, see-through Lego properly. With some frustration, we realize we have to disassemble the project, almost in total, to put that seemingly insignificant, yellow, see-through Lego on. In our frustration, we mentally suggest that the Lego designer could’ve added a quarter inch protrusion to the larger piece to make the tiny, yellow Lego unnecessary. We might even say that aloud, but in the midst of frustration, we recognize the philosophical driver behind the Lego designer making the tiny, yellow piece. 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 not be the smallest part 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 the kinesthetic knowledge inherent in the Heraclitus quote, “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.”

As with Lego projects, we attempt to define our philosophy through large constructs. We ignore the road maps others design, or the instructions, and we attempt to design our own philosophy without the need for seemingly insignificant, yellow, see-through Legos. At some point, we’ll realize the mistakes we’ve made, but we won’t know how to fix them until we consult instruction manuals that detail how we need to incorporate the proverbial yellow Lego to unlock larger, more confusing and debilitating complexities that inhibited us throughout our construction. After we reconstruct our project, we realize that that the crucial, unapparent connection we fail to make was so obvious that it was staring us in the face all along.

Most of us view philosophy as the study of larger concepts and abstracts that govern human behavior. Philosophers call this the accurate and abstract philosophy. The other branch of philosophical thought is considered the easy and obvious philosophy. The latter, writes David Hume, “Uses examples from everyday life so we can see the difference between right and wrong. He says that this type of philosophy is popular and follows from common sense, therefore there are rarely errors in it.” Some consider the easy and obvious philosophy, and the discovery of the obvious, a “Well yeah” and “Of course!” study. The second philosophy, the accurate and abstract philosophy, does not direct our behavior. Instead, it focuses on what causes that behavior and why we do the things we do and uses abstract reasoning to attempt to make sense of it.” The Group 3 Blog goes onto write, “That Hume says that since this area of philosophy does not use common sense, errors are made often and because of this, this area is sometimes rejected.”

***

“I deal with the obvious. I present, reiterate and glorify the obvious – because the obvious is what people need to be told,” Dale Carnegie. We have to imagine that as a young upstart, Carnegie didn’t put much focus on the obvious, and that he initially considered those smaller elements somewhat irrelevant and trivial. We can guess that he set out to find a larger, mind-blowing concept regarding the general principles that govern human behavior to impress his peers, and the world in general. At some point in his studies, he realized the larger concepts don’t seem to fit quite right without the more obvious tenets, and he realized that he needed to disassemble the larger concepts and reassembled them with the philosophical equivalent of the seemingly insignificant, yellow, see through Lego of the mind.

After he reached that point, we can guess Carnegie saw little-to-no reward for his modified thinking on a subject like, How to Make Friends and Influence People because he was just pointing out what was so obvious to everyone. He probably also learned that if he transmitted his version of the obvious philosophy properly, the recipients would assume they arrived at the conclusion on their own.    

“It takes a very unusual mind to undertake analysis of the obvious,” Alfred North Whitehead said. Most authors worry about insulting their readers by introducing concepts that are so obvious that the reader might view their writing as condescending. They also don’t want their readers to consider them authors who deal with matters so obvious that they’re not worth reading, so they qualify it in an almost apologetic manner, “This might seem so obvious as to be unworthy of discussion, but …” If the author is cursed, or blessed, with an unusual mind, however, they consider the point in question so noteworthy that they need to explore it.  

“The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.” Arthur Koestler. Those who consider such discussions unworthy should ask themselves how many times they’ve discussed something so obvious that it was a complete waste of time, only to realize that that discussion modified their thinking on the issue. We could call this almost imperceptible progression an epiphany, unless we remain fixated on the image of an epiphany involving an inventor toiling away in a basement until they make that mind-altering, “Eureeka!” discovery. This definition of epiphany usually involves a light bulb above the recipient’s head. Epiphanies, like most matters, come in big and small packages. In this case, it involves seeing something a certain way for our whole lives, until we run into the unusual mind who sees it a little different.

Smaller epiphanies arrive when we view an obvious matter one way our whole life, only to see a small, obvious addition or contradiction to that way of thinking. It might be so obvious that we think we thought of it ourselves, and we make that imperceptible change that incorporates this line of thinking into ours, until we can no longer “unsee” it back to the way we saw it before. As Koestler says, we might view the obvious concept as so obvious after we hear it that we may never remember how we saw it before, if we never face a contradiction that exposes how we used to view it. In this sense, we could call this modification of our thinking on an issue an epiphany. Some epiphanies are small, as we said, but some are so tiny that we might never know we made a change. If we do, and we want to tell our world about it, they might consider it so obvious that they wonder how we didn’t see it before.

For some, obvious philosophy might be, as Alfred North Whitehead writes, “Familiar things happen and mankind does not bother about them.” It might be something that generates an, “Of course!” after reading. Obvious philosophy might also analyze the obvious in a way that we’ve never considered before. The careful study and processing of an obvious quote might eventually result in clarity on some complex concept that required obvious don’t-I-feel-stupid for never seeing it that way before. “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication,” Leonardo da Vinci. “That’s the way things come clear. All of a sudden! And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along,” Madeleine L’Engle. 

“There is nothing as deceptive as an obvious fact.” –Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious.” –George Bernard Shaw.

“The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it.” –Kahlil Gibran

“Nothing evades our attention as persistently as that which is taken for granted.” –Gustav Ichheiser

“Because it’s familiar, a thing remains unknown.” –Hegel

“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” –Aldous Huxley

“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something – because it is always before one’s eyes). The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless THAT fact has at some time struck him. And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful.” –Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The best place to hide a needle is in a stack of needles.” –Robert Heinlein [Finding a needle in a haystack is difficult, but what about finding one in a stack of needles? That would be so obvious.]

“We are like people looking for something they have in their hands all the time; we’re looking in all directions except at the thing we want, which is probably why we haven’t found it.” –Plato

***

Yesterday, I thought I could help a friend with my version of the obvious philosophy. I did it before. I offered another friend some platitude on a crisis that they were experiencing. To my amazement, they used it, and it helped them. Drunk on this success, I later tried to help another friend in a similar vein. Today, I realized that I’m not the genius I thought I was, and that the best thing we can do is help those who are open to constructive criticism, our loved ones and ourselves.

The late sixties Star Trek crew sets foot on a foreign planet. They know a beast awaits them on this planet. The beast, in this case, is a large, red carnivorous flower. The guy in a red shirt (aka Redman) is the first to encounter the beast. As he attempts to perform some scientific readings on the flower, it shoots a tentacle out, captures Redman, and begins to devour him feet first. By the time the Star Trek crew happens upon Redman, he is in the flower up to his waist, and his reaction suggests that the pain involved in the flower’s digestion process is excruciating. When we witness the veins in the man’s forehead pulse, we immediately mistake this for his agony, but it might be part of the flower’s digestion process. Captain Kirk is in the corner shielding Lieutenant Uhura from the scene and the man’s screaming, and the other players attempt to avoid watching the event. Spock steps forward and examines the episode from a relatively safe distance as the man screams in agony. “Fascinating,” Spock says. He then explains to the rest of the crew what he thinks the beast’s digestive process is doing this to Redman. He does so using unemotional, scientific jargon.

This specific scene never happened on the show, but if it did, and I wrote it, I would focus on the Vulcan characteristics of Spock’s lineage, by depicting him as oblivious to Redman’s screaming. I might even have him swipe Bones’ scanner to conduct further scientific readings of the digestion process, and what the flower is doing to Redman’s body. I would have him look at the scanner, lift an eyebrow and repeat, “Fascinating,” as he walks away from the scene.

I might have Kirk and the rest of the crew aghast at Spock’s reaction. I might have Kirk confront Spock about his unwillingness to save Redman. “Captain, it was obvious, by the time we arrived that it was too late,” Spock would say, “and if we hope to defeat this beast, we need the data necessary to understand its nature first.”

It’s obvious that if the Star Trek crew was going to survive the threat of the beast, they were going to need the data necessary to understand it first. The logical, Vulcan side knew this, even while Redman suffered, but why did Spock’s human side permit him to allow for human suffering to continue regardless of the overall benefits? Anyone who knows anything about Star Trek, knows Spock regularly faced the conflict of his nature. He was part human and part Vulcan. The Vulcan side of him viewed matters without sympathy, empathy, or any other human emotion, and the human side contained all of them above. The interesting contrast often played out when Spock was confronted in situations like these regarding how he should react. The human side probably wanted to save Redman, but the Vulcan, rational and unemotional side, won out, because he knew that the emotions of humans often play a role in their demise.

Spock’s Vulcan reaction, in this scene, displays the scientific approach layman should pursue when studying our fellow man. We cannot save everyone. By the time we learn the details of our friend’s self-destructive downward spiral, it’s often too late to save them. Those of us who try, often hear “Who the hell are you?” from those we’re trying to help. More often than not, we don’t know what we’re talking about when we try to help others. We don’t know any more how to correct the course they’re on than they do, but when we watch them continue to flail about, we develop ideas how we might avoid a similar plight. Today I realized, we want to end human suffering, but most sufferers have to reach the depths of despair before they realize they need our help, and it might be too late at that point. At some point in our frustration, and despair, we realize that the only thing we can do, while others scream in agony, is study them from an analytical, emotionless Vulcan perspective to try to use our obvious logic and obvious philosophies to avoid falling prey to what ails them.

***

Had I heeded the tenets of obvious logic, I wouldn’t have done the stupid thing I did yesterday. Yet, if I ever wanted to sleep again, I thought I had to do it. I knew it was wrong, and the corporation had a list of the consequences for such an action expressly stated in the employee handbook. After I fell prey to my impulses, my boss, and the HR department did not waste any time delivering the consequence. I paid a heavy price for doing something that was obviously stupid.

I remembered the obvious advice one of my friends offered his son, “Don’t do stupid things.” I found that philosophy so obvious as to be hilarious. Would I have been able to avoid the pain and humiliation I experienced if someone told me to avoid doing stupid things when I was younger? Of course, but stupid things are what we do when we’re young. We jump from an unreasonable high for the adventure it promises, then we get hurt, and then we learn. We throw something at something, we get in trouble, and we learn from it. Some of the stupid things we do are impulsive, and some involve knowledge and forethought, but they all provide one vital component to maturity: lessons. Our elders and superiors tell us to avoid stupid things, but for some reason those lessons don’t stick as well as the lessons we learn on our own. Those who know how to advise children suggest that if we raise our children properly, we will help them avoid experiencing one-tenth the pain and humiliation we did. If we achieve this, we should consider our parenting a success. We know we all have to ride this merry-go-round on our own, in other words, and no advice is going to prevent us from doing stupid things. We might know these things are wrong, but we will do them anyway for reasons we might not be able to justify. The best we can do is teach them what to do in the aftermath.

Some of the best advice my dad passed along to me, when I experienced a crisis was, “Some of the times, you just have to take it on the chin.” If we don’t have a valid excuse for the stupid thing we did, in other words, don’t bother trying to dream up other excuses. Just take your medicine. 

The worst advice he passed along was, “Some of the times, you just have to take it on the chin, even when you know you’re right, because you didn’t got caught for all of the other stupid stuff you did.”

Even the most obvious philosophies and advice don’t work all of the time, but I think that’s obvious. 

For those who can’t leave well enough alone, the two lists of these great quotes can be found here and here to support your theories that a discussion of the obvious is not always a complete waste of time.

 

Find Your Own Truth


Most loathe vague advice. We want thorough and perfect answers, the kind that help us cross our proverbial bridges. We also want those answers to be pointed and easy to incorporate into our methodology, but another part knows the seeker of easy paths often gets what they pay for in that regard.

When we listen to a radio show guesting a master craftsman, however, we expect some nugget of information to unlock the mystery of how that master craftsman managed to carve out a niche in his overpopulated craft. We want tidbits, words of wisdom about design, and/or habits we can imitate and emulate, until we reach a point where we don’t feel so alone in our structure. Vague advice and vague platitudes feel like a waste of our time. Especially when that advice comes so close to our personal core and stops abrupt.

Ray Bradbury went onto define this relative vision of an artistic truth as he saw it, on this radio show, but that definition didn’t step much beyond the precipice. I tuned him out by the time he began speaking of other matters, and I eventually turned the channel. I might have missed some great advice, but I was frustrated.

If the reader is anything like me, they went back to doing what they were doing soon after hearing that advice, but the vital components of deep and profound advice arrive when it starts popping up in the course of doing whatever it is we do. It might take hours, it might take weeks, but this idea of an individual truth, as it pertains to one’s artistic vision, becomes applicable so often and, in so many situations, that we begin to chew on it and digest it. Others may continue to find this vague advice about an artistic truth nothing more than waste matter –to bring this analogy to its biological conclusion– but it begins to infiltrate everything an eager student does. If the advice is pertinent, the recipient begins spotting truths what should’ve been so obvious before. They begin to see that what they thought was their artistic truth, and what their primary influences considered true, is not as true for them as they once thought.

Vague advice might seem inconsequential to those who do not bump up against the precipice. For these people, a platitude such as, “Find your own truth” may have an “of course” suffix attached to it. “Of course an artist needs to find their artistic truth when approaching an artistic project,” they say. “Isn’t that the very definition of art?” It is, but if we were to ask an artist about the current project they’re working on, and its relation to their definition of an artistic truth, they will surely reply that they think they’re really onto something. If we ask them about the project after they finish the piece, we will likely receive a revelation of the artist’s frustration in one form or another, as most art involves the pursuit of an artistic truth coupled with an inability to ever capture it to the artist’s satisfaction. Yet, we could say that the pursuit of artistic truth, coupled with the frustration of never achieving it, provides more fuel to the artist than an actual, final, arrived-upon truth ever could.

Finding an artistic truth, involves intensive knowledge of the rules of a craft, locating the parameters of the artist’s ability, finding their formula within, and whittling. Any individual who has ever attempted to create art has started with a master’s template in mind. The aspiring, young artist tries to imitate and emulate that master’s design, and they wonder what that master might do in moments of artistic uncertainty: Can I do this? What would they do? Should I do that? Is my truth nestled somewhere inside all of that awaiting further exploration? At a furthered point in the process, the artist discovers other truths, including artistic truths that contradict prior truths, until all truths become falsehoods when compared to the current artistic truth. This is where the whittling begins.

In a manner similar to the whittler whittling away at a stick to create form, the storyteller is always whittling. He’s whittling when he writes. He’s whittling when he reads. He’s whittling in a movie theater, spotting subplots and subtext that his fellow moviegoers might not see. He’s whittling when we tell him about our experience at the used car dealership. He’s trying to get to the core of the tale, a core the storyteller might not see.

“I could tell you about the greatest adventure tale ever told, or a story that everyone agrees is the funniest they’ve ever heard,” she says, “and you’d focus on the part where I said the instead of the.” The whittler searches for the truth, or a subjective truth that he can use. Is it the truth, or the truth? It doesn’t matter, because he doesn’t believe that the storyteller’s representation of the truth is the truth.

Once the artist has learned all the rules, defined the parameters, and found his own formula within a study of a master’s template, and all the templates that contradict that master template, it is time for him to branch out and find his own artistic truth.

 

The Narrative Essay

 

Even while scouring the read-if-you-like (RIYL) links the various outlets provide for the books I’ve enjoyed previously, I knew that the narrative essay existed. Just as I’ve always known that the strawberry existed, I knew about the form some call memoir, also known as literary non-fiction or creative non-fiction, but have you ever tasted a strawberry that caused you to flirt with the idea of eating nothing but strawberries for the rest of your life? If you have, your enjoyment probably had more to do with your diet prior to eating that strawberry than the actual flavor of the inexplicably delicious fruit. In the course of one’s life, a person might accidentally indulge in a diet that leaves them vitamin deficient, and they might not know the carelessness of their ways until they take that first bite of the little heart-shaped berry.

“You simply must try the strawberries,” a friend said in a buffet line at the office. I have always loved strawberries, but I didn’t even notice them in the shadow of the glorious array of meats and carbs at the other end of the buffet. While I stood there, impatiently waiting for the slow forking procedures some have for finding the perfect piece of meat, she gave me a look. “Just try them,” she said. I did.

Prior to eating that strawberry, I knew nothing about chemical rewards the brain offers when we fulfill a need, and I didn’t know anything about it after I took that bite either. The only thing I knew, or thought, was that that strawberry was so delicious that I experienced an inexplicable feeling of euphoria. The line was slow, so I was allowed to eat another strawberry without progressing passed that station in the buffet. The second one was almost as delicious as the first, and before I knew it, I was gorging on the fruit when another friend behind me, in the buffet line, informed me that I was holding up the line.

By this point, the reader might like to know the title of the one gorgeous little narrative essay that spawned my feelings of creative euphoria. The only answer I can provide is that for those suffering a depletion, one essay will not quench it any more than one strawberry can. One narrative essay did not provide a eureka-style epiphany that led me to understanding of all the creative avenues worthy of exploration in the form. One essay did not quench the idea depletion I experienced in the time-tested formulas and notions I had of the world of storytelling. I just knew I needed something more and something different, and I read all the narrative essays I could find in a manner equivalent to the effort I put into exploring the maximum benefits the strawberry could provide, until a grocery store checker proclaimed that she never witnessed anyone purchase as many strawberries as I was in one transaction. She even called a fellow employee over to witness the spectacle I laid out on her conveyor belt. The unspoken critique between the two was that no wife would permit a man to make such an exaggerated, imbalanced purchase, so I must be a self-indulgent bachelor.

An unprecedented amount of strawberries did not provide me with an unprecedented amount of euphoria, of course, as the brain appears to only provide euphoric chemical rewards for satisfying a severe depletion, but the chemical rewards of finding my own truth, in the narrative essay format, have proven almost endless. The same holds true for the rewards I’ve experienced reading the output of others who have reached their creative peaks. I knew narrative essays existed, as I said, but I considered most to be dry, personal essays that attempted to describe the cute, funny things that happened to them on their way to 40. I never thought of them as a vehicle for the exploration of unique creativity, not until this epiphany occurred within the stories written by those authors who accomplished it.

It is difficult to describe an epiphany to a person who has never experienced one or even to those who have. The variables are so unique that they can be difficult to describe to a listener donning an of-course face. More often than not, an epiphany does not involve unique, ingenious thoughts. My personal definition involves of-course thoughts nestled among commonplace thoughts that one has to arrive at by their own accord. When such an explanation doesn’t make a dent in the of- course faces, we can only conclude that epiphanies are personal.

For me, the narrative essay was an avenue to the truth my mind craved, and I might have never have ventured down that path had Ray Bradbury’s vague four words failed to register. For those who stubbornly maintain their of-course facial expression in the shadow of the maxim the late, great Ray Bradbury, I offer another vague piece of advice that the late, great Rodney Dangerfield offered to an aspiring, young comedian: “You’ll figure it out.”

If advice such as these two nuggets appears so obvious that it is considered unworthy of discussion, or the reader cannot see how to apply it, no matter how much time they spend thinking about it, adding to it, or whittling away at it to find a worthy core, I add this: You’ll either figure it out, or you won’t.