Reflections on the flexibility of the mind.
Two unrelated and relatively random aspects of my childhood Random thing 1: a gregarious lady in my childhood church congregation often said “You know what they say: Oh well.” This became so ingrained in my mind it is hard for me to avoid saying “you know what they say” when I mean “oh well.” Random thing 2: I watched way too much Marx Brothers as a child, and when called upon to provide a random statement the first dozen things that comes to mind are quotes from Groucho. have resulted in my perpetrating the following exchange far too often:
Me: “You know what they say.”
Them: (awkward silence) “No, what do they say?”
Me: “If you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce it tastes more like prunes than rhubarb does.”
As a consequence of this unfortunate habit, I have discovered the way that many different people respond to that particular saying. Many look at me with justifiable displeasure and move on. Some ask what rhubarb is. But many of the rest reply with something along these lines:
Them: “Wait… we’re comparing stewed cranberries and rhubarb?”
Me: “Yes. Which one is more like prunes in flavor?”
Them: “But none of those taste anything like each other.”
Me: “True, but which one tastes more like prunes?”
Them: “I don’t know. Probably the cranberries.”
At this point you might be asking yourself, “Self, is there a point to all this?”
It has to do with the strangeness that anyone can even think like this at all.
Why would your brain be able to compare these three flavors at all?
Why can people who think
It is slightly embarrassing how many people say
“I’ve never had stewed cranberries”
Me: “What about cranberry relish?”
Them: “Oh, yeah.” they have never had stewed cranberries still make a comparison? Why is the brain so very good at hypothetical comparisons?
I write this post not to speculate on why, but to rejoice in the fact it can. You’ve never considered it before, but most of you will be able to decide fairly quickly if you would rather have two forearms growing out of your left elbow or have you nostrils positioned on your forehead. I can craft almost any two marginally-intelligible statements I want and if I put them in the context of “more like” or “like more” your brain will be able to swallow the mess and spit out an answer, usually with some reasons behind it.
Isn’t the brain amazing?