My son and I just finished a three-week journey in Europe. I will share a taste of some of our experiences after organizing photos, but for now, I’d like to share a few insight posts about trips in general.
Yesterday we had a big family reunion where I heard my son constantly asked questions like: “What was your best experience on the trip?”, “What was your favorite country?”, “What was your favorite food?”.
I had prepped my son for such questions when we had similar questions on first returning from our trip. At that time I had taken him aside and explained something like this:
“Look, everyone is going to want you to reduce all your experiences in Europe to a few “bests”. When answering these sorts of questions, you will at first find it difficult to distill out “the bests”, but with repeated effort you soon will find a few bests that satisfy all your listeners so that you can summarize your experience without boring listeners. By asking “Best” questions, people are only trying to superficially let you share your trip. It is their way of sharing — without really sharing.
But, though it is customary and seemingly benign, it is a horrible thing to do. You don’t have to let others teach you how to kill reality. Fitting your experiences into “Best” categories may be convenient for listeners who don’t really want to share but it is horrible because you will also:”
- Form the bad habit of falsely judging one experience vs. another
- Quickly kill memories of other events and stop deep learnings in your mind
- Distort memories with exaggeration and atrophy
- Learn to boil down and distil reality to “bests” while destroying all the rest — a horrible crime.
As we went through examples, I was very pleased to see that my son understood. And today, at the reunion, I heard him answering similar question from adults who tempted him to reduce and distort his experiences. He shared a few stories but added creative caveats explaining that all his experiences were rich. He refused to sacrifice his reality and left the adults a little off guard.
Question to readers: This “Tell me your best”, “Tell me your favorite” questioning has seemed a perversion to me for decades. Is it just me, or has anyone else felt the destructive reductionism of this sort of thinking?
Notes & related posts:
- Re-writing History with Head Nods: where I tried to capture the same theme of this post.
- HT to image source. This is from Macklin’s Bible 1790. I hope the choice of image is clear. If not, my following two posts may help.