Hi Darin. I understand your frustration and confusion. Contrast is central to photographic imaging, and a clear understanding of the concept is critical. I intend to make a little animation sequence that will illustrate the concept, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Most photographers that I know are very visual people and respond to visual demonstrations, but I think you can follow in your imagination. Imagine a bar divided into three equal sections; pure white on the left, middle gray in the middle and pure black on the right. This is a very high contrast scale. Now imagine that you can tug at each end of this scale and stretch it, but as you do so, new tones averaged between the two adjacent to them appear. The longer you stretch the scale, the smaller the tonal difference from one tone to its adjacent tones, and the more of them. So a long scale has many steps between white and black, while a short scale has few. I hope I haven't added to your confusion.