The Fate of Broken People – Part 2

There’s this thing I notice so, so often in the world. I wish there was a good name for it – Murfingburben Syndrome or Dumonification, or SOMETHING – so that I could just name it and you’d know what I was talking about. But I’ve never come across a word for it, or even a good description. So I just call it “the 180-degree thing.” By which I mean “180 degrees opposite.”

It’s like this: You hear that something is a certain way, and you believe it, sometimes for years. But one day you discover that, out in the real world, the thing is exactly opposite the way you were told it was. It is 180 degrees opposite of what it should be. If it’s something that was right with the world, it is now wrong – so wrong it doesn’t just sit there being wrong, it moves at light speed in the direction of wrong, so that it becomes not just un-right, but anti-right.

Say that terrific uncle you remember so fondly from your childhood, the one who took you and your little sister for ice cream, and to amusement parks, and to libraries, and camping, for YEARS … only when you’re 48 and coming home from grand old Uncle Larry’s funeral does your sister break down sobbing and tell you he was steadily molesting her the whole time, but she never told because she didn’t think anybody would believe her.

Yeah, like that.

It’s like the axle of the world flips upside down, so that everything slams to a halt for a second, and when it starts turning again, it’s going the exact wrong way. The sun rises in the west, sets in the east. Except it was always that way — it’s just that you didn’t notice it.

But it could also be something that you thought was bad, but then find out is really, really good. The standoffish retired man next door, the old guy you never liked, steps out in traffic one day to toss a little girl out of the way of a speeding car, and then dies himself in the collision. You find out later he was a frequent blood donor, a tireless volunteer at the local homeless pet rescue center, and was sending half his monthly pension to a poor family in Nicaragua. And he wasn’t standoffish, only shy.

Like that, too.

— CONTINUED —

  • Diana

    This is gonna be good. I agree – we do need a name for this thing you’re describing.

  • Michael Swanson

    Find a German. They have words (long, long words) for everything.

  • Mommiest

    Epiphany? From wikipedia: An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. It also has religious connotations.

    So, maybe combining that with something to indicate a full reversal of understanding– actually, reversal is not a bad word for this, but it’s probably not strong enough.

    Repiphany? Esnapphiny? Crashpiphany? There’s go to be something that can be made of this.

  • fastlane

    Michael Swanson, if there’s a german word for it, it would translate into “one day you discover that, out in the real world, the thing is exactly opposite the way you were told it was. It is 180 degrees opposite of what it should be. If it’s something that was right with the world, it is now wrong – so wrong it doesn’t just sit there being wrong, it moves at light speed in the direction of wrong, so that it becomes not just un-right, but anti-right.”

    Just take all that, translate it into German, and mash it all up as a single word.

    Glad I could help. ;-)

  • athena

    Circumiphany? Circ=circular, (ep)iphany=new knowledge

  • Amy

    I have used the phrase “getting my wig flipped” for example “That just flipped my wig” to describe things like that. I picked that up from somewhere but I can’t remember. Usually when I say that about other people I mean that they have gone crazy. When I use it in the context above it means that the info shell shocked me for minute. It’s like getting bombed. yeah. I think that would pertain to information like finding out your uncle was molesting your sister. That’s a big bomb.

  • Chakolate

    I recall a science documentary that talked about times when the earth moved. The narrator talked about Galileo one day discovering that the earth moved about the sun, and in that moment, the earth shifted and had a new center. But it also referred to other times: Darwin publishing Origin of Species, and the earth shifting so as to have a new center of gravity.

    He said it happens to all of us, just in the way that your story about a sister and an uncle changed the center of gravity.

    I’ve had lots of those moments, although not (usually) as dramatic as the first one you described, and I always thought of them as a shift in the mental center of gravity. What used to be ‘up’ isn’t, any more.

  • Leander

    German, per se, has no word for what you described. But I could try constructing one.
    Maybe “Überzeugungsumkehrentdeckung” (a discovery that inverts your opinion on something).

    Epiphany is probably the correct Word, though…

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