Under Analysis: Why exercise when you could be eating? Lessons 1-4

By Mark Levison

It is becoming fall: the time I love the most. Trees make us humans look drab, and the temperature changes to crisp. Summer’s humidity wanes, and the air clears. If we are aware, on autumn mornings our eyesight improves. The world is in sharper focus. Seeing clearly makes us smarter, and being in this enlightened state I shall offer four lessons — and I’ll get to those eventually.

First, those of you who recall my recent column about Cheryl and the pickle jar will remember it has been a long, hot summer. My wife can be challenging at times, and often casts a questioning eye on some of the things many of us accept — like evolution and global warming. During other seasons, when days were colder than normal, she goaded me that the frost provided irrefutable evidence for her contention that the global warming scare is no more than a clever marketing ploy to get consumers to scrap perfectly good possessions and replace them with “green stuff.” I tried to use the unbearably hot summer nights to win concessions. Of course, it didn’t work.

Cheryl’s skepticism of the Darwinian construct is not religious-based — she just doesn’t believe we act much like apes. I, on the other hand, have seen litigation opponents who clearly prove the theory.

Arguing with her about such things as evolution, global warming or whether it’s better for our inner peace to watch a football game (my choice) or Law & Order, Special Victims Unit (her choice) can be maddening. After all, as a lawyer I am supposed to be able to persuade people to my point of view. Further, because I spent years teaching a prep course in how to do well on the LSAT exam, I frequently remind her of my inherent logical dominance. Still, for some reason, all of my well-honed lawyer logic doesn’t seem to have much of a positive effect in the domestic arena.

If I’ve learned anything as a lawyer, it is we all need to be very careful about being sure of what “we know,” or for that matter, of what “we see.” I remember one summer I was helping at a kids’ camp with my oldest daughter, Mariah. Most of the campers had issues — surprise, they were teenagers — and while the founder of the camp was gone for a couple of days to give a lecture, a nasty issue surfaced.

Alex, a clean-cut young man from an affluent suburb, accused Ricky, a rough-looking renegade who had been in trouble before, of trying to sell him LSD. The counselors met to decide how to deal with Ricky, and whether he should be immediately sent home. We never questioned Alex’s story because the allegations fit our perceptions. We hadn’t agreed to a course of action when the founder got back early, and asked a very simple question. “How do you know Alex is telling the truth?” That question had never entered any of our minds, and as a lawyer, that incident embarrasses me to this day. After a thorough investigation, Alex admitted he had made up the story.

That was a lesson I’ve tried to keep with me through my legal career, all of which leads back to Cheryl, global warming, survival of the fittest, food choices, exercise habits (which Cheryl doesn’t believe in) and a whole host of other positions she takes that make no sense to me. But then I remember Ricky and Alex, and I remind myself:

Lesson One:
What you see, you might not see.

Lesson Two:
What you know, you might not know — or you might know something completely opposite by tomorrow.

Lesson Three:
Whatever your wife believes may or may not be correct, but you might as well act as if it is.

Paying careful attention to Lesson Three will be much better for your inner peace, and coincidently, your marriage. The next step in this particular “evolution” is to not only act as if your wife’s position is correct, but to actually believe it. Lesson Three is probably a Buddhist concept which creates harmonics in the universe. By the way, this advice may be equally applicable to women with respect to dealing with their husbands, but not being a woman, and keeping in mind Lesson Two, I can’t be certain about that.

At dinner last night, our son Patrick told us he received a good score on the first practice exam he took in preparation for the October LSAT. Patrick is taking the same course I once taught. He asked us if we wanted to try to answer some of the questions in the logic section that he thought were particularly difficult. I, of course, took the bait. Patrick read us four questions. I got two right, Cheryl got four right.

Lesson Four:

Don’t try to compete with your wife, it’s not going to come out good no matter what happens.

Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Mark Levison is a member of the law firm Lathrop & Gage L.C. You can reach the Levison Group in care of this paper or by e-mail at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2010 Under Analysis L.L.C.