I would have been six or seven years old, so it was 1945 or 1946. I was visiting the apartment at 334 Eastern Parkway where my grandmother lived with Aunt Mollie. Mollie and my father were engaged in an earnest conversation of which I understood not a whit. I suspect that they were speaking the language of the old country. Very likely they didn't want me to know what they were saying.
I was on the floor studying what I now realize was some sort of halftone illustration. Perhaps a magazine illustration -- something from Life or Look or Collier's. Halftone is a style of reproduction in which a picture is comprised of a myriad of tiny dots. When halftones are done inexpensively, as in comic books, the dots are plainly visible. When they're done expertly, they're almost beyond the perception of the human eye. But they're not invisible to the inspection of a small child.
I said to my father and to my aunt something to the effect that "if you look at this picture closely, you can see a lot of dots." I passed the illustration to my father. He said, "No, there are no dots there." I said, "Look again. I can see dots." He looked again and so did Mollie. "Nope, no dots," they both agreed. They handed back the picture and resumed their discussion. I had been, in modern terms, totally dissed.
"Who are you going to believe? Me, or your own eyes?" says Chicolini in Duck Soup.
I was shocked. My father, whom I knew to be correct in all things -- to deny the existence of something that I could plainly detect. And my aunt as well. Two adults, neither one who had ever been wrong about anything! What was going on here? What was a child to think? It was a moment of great revelation, and turning point in my worldly experience.
Well, I wasn't about to argue with such formidable figures. But I knew in my heart that I was right and they were wrong, wrong, wrong.
I also knew that I had to choose between Authority and my own senses. And of course I chose sensation. The picture was made out of dots, no matter what they said.
But my infant mind did not rest. At that moment, I knew that I would never ever put blind trust in authority, never again. If my own father couldn't see the dots and I could, then how could I believe anything that was contrary to the evidence of my senses My infant bosom got its back up, and I became a skeptic -- and I've remained a skeptic.
It was not until many years later that I realized that the senses themselves could be untrustworthy. But by that time, my habits were fixed. In a contest between authority and the evidence of the senses -- it would be sense all the way.