Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer 50th

"You know Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid, and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose,
And if you ever saw it,
You could even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names;
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee,
"Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer,
You’ll go down in history."

If you don't know these lyrics, then you were probably living under a rock for the past 50 years.  This song is about the famous red-nosed reindeer which many of us grew up learning about from books, TV or in classrooms.   It originated in 1939 authored by Robert L. May in a booklet. The story of Rudolph entails a young reindeer who was born "different."  He had the body of a young buck, but something on his face was quite out of the ordinary. Instead of a black nose, he had a red one which glowed.

While just a simple story, it conveys a powerful message of accepting differences. Rudolph was mocked by his peers for his unusual nose. This story highlights the prejudices that plaque humanity. We don't trust people who are different from us many times.  According to a 2005 study by Arizona State University, we all are hard-wired to exhibit prejudice. This prejudice allegedly aided our ancestors with survival as evolution took its course.

Our brains work with heuristics, or techniques we develop based on experience in order to help solve
problems or make sense of things around us. The brain gets conditioned to adopt these heuristics and many times makes poor decisions based on them. This is called Representativeness Heuristics.  We judge "like unto like" as being the logical course when in fact many times it isn't. The "Linda Story or Problem" is a famous example of this which is used in both psychology and philosophy courses to show how logical and rational thinking truly works as opposed to relying on representativeness heuristics in order to make decisions or come to conclusions.

In philosophy, it is called the Conjunction Fallacy.  "If it quacks like a duck, it is a duck" does not always follow logically.  It can be a sound effect or a speaker that is projecting the sound of a duck. Naturally, our minds will recall the representativeness heuristic of the creature we call "duck" which we associate with "quacking."  In a funny twist, some atheist posers on Twitter and on some silly blogs fall into the representativeness heuristic in attempting to link the identity of a high school teenage with me simply because of the "chi rho" symbol and other things that may be related to me or my pseudonym "Sacerdotus."  This shows that they do not think logically.

The story of Rudolph the red nose reindeer is no different.  Rudolph's parents, peers all judge him as strange because a nose is not supposed to be red. They rely on the typicality of the feature we call nose to generalize it as the norm. Anything that is atypical to that norm is considered "strange" or "abnormal."  Because of this, poor Rudolph feels left out.  He is bullied and harassed just for having this red glowing nose. How many of us are bullied and harassed for being different?  We make fun of others because of their skin color, height, weight, religion, body shape, bodily features, sexual preference etc. This is a sign that humanity is still immature and must work to get past prejudice and relying on heuristics.

Rudolph with his bright red nose has to work harder in order to "fit in." He is a "misfit" along with Hermes the elf. Santa Claus finds use for Rudolph by relying on the light to guide his sleigh during a bad winter, perhaps a polar vortex!  The story reminds us that we all are different.  We are not identical nor clones. Each one of us has different things to offer this world. No one should be made to feel inferior or "strange." Every human life has intrinsic value that no one can take away.

We must not judge anyone based on looks or what may be apparent; instead, we must look at them as God sees them (1 Samuel 16:7).

Happy anniversary to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!  Thanks for the memories and for giving us such great wisdom in the fact that there is beauty and utility in differences.  








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