Epiphanies, Revelations, and Other Childhood Trauma

History is filled with examples of great thinkers having moments of epiphany; instances in which some conundrum which had been perplexing them was finally understood in the flash of a moment.

Take Sir Isaac Newton for example.  The observation of an apple falling from a tree was all it took to pull the loose threads already meandering through his mind into the Universal Law of Gravitation.

Back in my corporate days, we referred to those instances when your thought processes finally clicked and you immediately understood something that had been stumping you as: “Aha! Moments

I can clearly remember the very first “Aha! Moment” that I ever had.  Sadly, the outcome of that moment of insight didn’t yield a result which would match up to Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation, but for me it was enough of a revelation that I’ve never forgotten it.

When I was eight years old, I began to develop a real love for reading.  I wish I could say that I was driven to read by my passion for the works of Tolstoy, Dickens, and Melville; I was not.  My favorite author was Franklin W. Dixon.  Are you struggling to come up with some of the titles of Mr. Dixon’s more noteworthy works?  I’ll give you a hint.  His main characters were Joe, Frank, and their fun-loving companion, Chet.  That’s right, the Hardy Boys.

I devoured Hardy Boy books; particularly during the summer.  Warner’s Toy Store carried most of the books, there were 58 titles in all, and as I recall they could be had for the princely sum of $1.00 each.  I spent many a summer afternoon sitting in the shade of a tree in the backyard reading such genre classics as The Twisted Claw or Mystery of the Flying Express.

But I digress.  On to my “Aha Moment”.

While reading, I would sometimes come across a word which, at my young age, I could not decipher.  One word in particular stymied me for quite a while.  It was a fairly long word, nine letters in all.

Keep in mind, I was still a very new reader and still at that stage where I was often discovering new words.  But for the life of me, I just could not figure this one out.

I remember attempting to pronounce the word phonetically in my mind.  DETT’-uhr-mine, DETT’-uhr-mine?  I’d try to figure out what the word was by examining how it was used in a sentence.  No luck.

Finally after weeks of frustration, I remember coming across the word once again in a book.  Immediately, I perceived the printed word in a completely different manner.  It was almost as if it jumped off of the page at me.  My mind’s eye separated it into its component syllables differently than I’d ever seen it before.

Aha!  I realized that this was a word that I already knew!  I realized that this was a word which I was completely familiar with it!

dee-TER’-men, determine, DETERMINE!  Not DETT’-uhr-mine.  

In keeping with the prose that I was used to reading in the Hardy Boys stories, I probably said something like, “Yikes!

My mental agony was at an end, at least momentarily.

My eight year old mind could not possibly imagine the epiphanies and revelations that Life had awaiting me around corners not yet encountered.


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