Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Sweet Boy, But Not Too Bright

Which one's the dumbest?

Just before another Easter, when I was seven, my dad decided it was time to level with me about the Easter Bunny. He was a psychologist and a responsible parent, after all, and thought I was old enough to know the truth, since I was evidently not figuring it out on my own. So he told me the truth, "Jeff, there is no Easter Bunny. I wish with all my heart that there was, but there isn't."

I was devastated. "But who colors and hides all those eggs?" I wailed.

My dad was a little worried about my density, "Well, obviously, it's your mom and me."

To make it up to me, for lying to me and shattering my childhood, he did suggest that he and I make it a tradition from then on to color and hide the eggs for my little sister (then 2). That assuaged me. And the prospect of being in on a conspiracy to pull a fast one on my sister (and set her up for a colossal trauma in a few years herself) was too much to resist.

I felt better after our man-to-man talk and said, "Well, at least there's still Santa Claus."

My dad thought (he later told me), "He's a sweet boy, but not too bright."

I wasn't. Or, at least, I was so self-deluding that I had the deft ability to wall off areas of illogic in my brain in order to hang on to beliefs that were vital to my sense of order in the world. It was, in fact, another two Christmasses before I could not escape the inevitable conclusion that if the Easter Bunny was my parents, so must Santa Claus be, too.

Me So Dumb

But think about it; giving up the Easter Bunny was easy. I mean just a bunch of colored, hard boiled eggs--and I didn't even like hard boiled eggs. But Santa meant loot. That was a much bigger delusional investment. Also, there was the forced realization that there wasn't really magic in the world, which is a shocking discovery for a seven year old. So I hung on to every last dumb belief, fighting to the last delusion.

And even after I finally admitted to myself that Santa was also my parents (to my dad's credit, he didn't feel it was necessary to have to have another man-to-man talk), I still hung on to the notion that  at least God was  real. God couldn't be my parents, right? That was just too dizzying a concept to cross that ontological chasm.

But that lasted only another thirty years or so--at least the notion of a God as described in religion, a kind of Santa in the Sky who causes football teams to win or lose bowl games, but has "His mysterious ways" when it comes to letting genocides happen. That God went the way of the Easter Bunny for me.

And then came my disillusion and eventual categorical rejection of my faith in the Republican Party. That just turned out to be my parents, too.

One by one, all of my childhood belief systems have fallen to the chain saw of logic--and facts.

Perception is Reality

This is an unbreakable rule of marketing (soon to be elaborated on in Cathey Armillas' and my forthcoming book, The Unbreakable Rules of Marketing: 9 1/2 Ways to Get People to Love You). Even when faced with incontrovertible facts, people--even people smarter than me--are bound by their preconceived beliefs. This extends right down to their commercial choices.

If they believe their Mac superior to any PC, even when it crashes a dozen times a day, that's a fact; it is superior to any PC. If they believe that tax holidays for the wealthy result in greater prosperity for all, that's a fact; even when the economy is in the toilet after ten years of tax holidays for the wealthy. And if they believe that taking their reusable shopping bags to the supermarket is saving the planet, that, too, is a fact. Planet saved.

It takes a Magnitude 9 Logic Quake to shake the foundations of those beliefs. Our walls are thick and high. So bring on the facts; make your best shot.

I don't think I'm as dumb today as I was at seven (though there are many who would weigh in on this), but I think even someone as astute and cynical as me is vulnerable to something as blatantly maudlin as a Pixar movie. I love those movies because they bring back for me the comforting feeling that magic is real, that the Easter Bunny comes in the night to hide colored eggs,  and that Santa magically comes on Christmas Eve to bring presents, and that God is up there listening to me and caring about me.

But I'm not too bright.


  1. show me a MAC that crashes a dozen times a day and I'll show you a guy with a magnetic screen cleaner. love the fact that you never miss a chance to bash the Holy MAC (that I made your point was not lost on me! haha) but my 5 1/2 year old MAC has N-E-V-E-R crashed; not a once.

  2. Don't think I don't know who you are. And where you live, oh "unknown" one.