I recently wrote a blog post in which I described, at some length, my memory of seeing Star Wars for the first time. It’s an incredibly vivid and visceral memory. It feels very, very real. TL;DR? A quick synopsis is that I remember having an anxiety attack when I realized I was watching the 4th installment of a multi-part series (*cough* Star Wars), because young me was not able to handle interacting with a series in a non-sequential fashion. Here’s the problem: when I was writing the post, I discovered that there was no way that memory was true. I edited the post to get it to not actually be self-contradictory… but here’s what I know: I would have seen Star Wars when it was originally released in the movie theater in 1976. It is also true that the “Episode IV” did not appear in the scroll at the beginning until the 1981 reissue. I stopped for a minute to consider if the memory was just from seeing it for the first time in 1981… but then one of my movie buff colleagues indicated that the other way to tell was whether it was Greedo or Han who shot first in the Cantina scene. I have ALWAYS been a “Han shot first” kind of individual.
As an aside, it is also a FACT that my little brother insisted, all rules of lexicography to the contrary, that the correct Obi Wan line at the beginning of the Mos Eisley Space Port scene was “you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and VILLAINEX.” No amount of parental coaxing that “villainex” was not a word could change his mind about this (it’s sci-fi after all, and Mos Eisley Space Port isn’t a thing that exists in the real world, either… try and have that argument with a small person; it will be frustrating, I promise. I remember… or maybe I don’t and am making this up too). The timing of this family story is interesting because this is before we would have had the ability to see the movie on video and re-watch the scene so it was just a never-ending family debate of villainex v. villainy… and we Andersons are a stubborn lot… so I remember a surprising amount of back-and-forth about the “villainex” debate… like way more than could reasonably be expected to arise from such a misunderstanding. Like I said: stubborn.
Here’s the thing: our brains function as evolution intended, but the things that helped us survive when figuring out how not to get eaten was a prime feature of our brains is very different from our current, more couch-based existence. Brains are simply not as reliable as we seem to think they are! I could also be wrong about this. I could be wrong about anything. All of us can. I do not think this means we should just throw up our hands and decide that there is nothing at all that is objectively true. If we do that, we can’t make decisions or, you know, live. This is also why philosophers who specialize in epistemology can be not very much fun at parties.
So, two weeks from now, I’m going to hit you with a wall of facts that we are going to use as a jumping-off point for discussions… but for this week, we are just going to sit with the fact that our brains are simply not as good at doing what the modern world needs them to do. But we have this weird inability to understand what they don’t do well, and so we make all kinds of bad decisions or dig in about beliefs. Yes. All of Us. Every single one. No matter what our belief system. Me, too… you, too. All of us. It’s important to be aware so that we can keep an open mind as we approach these topics.
No, I am not arguing for complete relativism here. I’m asking each of us (myself included) to sit back and interrogate the beliefs that we think are foundational, because sometimes it’s with those that the problem resides. Sometimes. Not always. But digging in can be the place where we set ourselves up to disagree. And we can’t engage if we can’t agree on this one point, wait for it, ON BOTH SIDES. Ugh, we will talk about both-sides-ism at some point down the line and why that’s become such a painful phrase… but for this particular post, that’s where I’m ending. Because we can’t engage if everyone involved in the conversation isn’t prepared to admit they are wrong… even about super vivid Star Wars-based childhood memories *points at self*.
It’s a fascinating topic so be sure to check one of these books out if you want to read further.
The phenomenon related to my Star Wars memory specifically is called “the Mandela Effect” and you can find more information about that here. If you really want to blow your mind, read up on the collective delusion that many individuals (myself included) suffer from that comedian Sinbad starred in a movie in which he played a genie back in the nineties. To a one, these individuals also insist that the movie is not the movie Kazaam (which starred Shaq) but a completely DIFFERENT genie movie. Sinbad has made it very clear that he never starred in such a movie, and yet, this shared delusion persists, egged on, perhaps, by the power of the Internet. You can find more information about that weird collective memory here.