On the mystery of “our deeply strange existence” from scientist David Eagleman

We are living in an era where humans seem to need the strong seasoning of certainty even more than ever. Militant atheism seems hell bent (pardon the expression, a tad inappropriate in this context, eh what?!) on ramming down our collective throats their conviction that religion is pernicious rubbish. And militant religious fanatics have been turning to their usual tools, honed to a fine art  over many bloodsoaked centuries, of persecution and/or slaughter in the name of whatever faith they aver is ‘the one and only truth’.

How totally refreshed I was, therefore, given our current less than calm and reasonable collective context, to come across a wonderful opinion piece in a recent New Scientist magazine, from which the following quote is taken:

” But when we reach the end of the pier of everything we know, we find that it only takes us part of the way. Beyond that all we see is uncharted water. Past the end of the pier lies all the mystery about our deeply strange existence: the equivalence of mass and energy, dark matter, multiple spatial dimensions, how to build consciousness, and the big questions of meaning and existence….good scientists are comfortable holding many possibilities at once, rather than committing to a particular story over others. In light of this, I have found myself surprised by the amount of certainty out there….”

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. His book of ‘possibilian’ tales, Sum, became an international best-seller and is published in 22 languages.

To read the whole of the opinion piece  “Why I am a ‘possibilian'” which I found so refreshing, click HERE.

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300 words copyright Anne Whitaker/David Eagleman 2010 and 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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“Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation…” Henry Miller and a strange tale…

“Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant.”

Henry Miller

Good old Henry Miller – he could always be relied upon to bring sex into everything. And I love the quote! But it is a red herring, folks. This post is purely about what may – or may not – have been an experience of reincarnation. I will, as ever, be most interested to have your reactions.

Responses to last week’s  X Files post have been intriguing: it generated several purchases of my book “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness”, and a number of emails telling, very privately, of readers’ uncanny, inexplicable, but undoubtedly real experiences. But no-one was prepared to leave an account of one of theirs publicly in a comment  – thereby validating my own feeling that such matters are so productive of private unease that public exposition is for most of us, a step too far.

It took me a long time and a prolonged period of enforced leisure, to decide to go public with some of mine, for the period 1970-1999. A major motivator was a lifetime’s accumulated knowledge of how common paranormal experiences are, but how little validation our mainstream society offers them. As a rational, sceptical (in the open-minded sense of the word) person, I wanted to add some experiential evidence to that vast body of knowledge which demonstrates that we do not, never have, and never will, live in a universe totally accessible or explicable through the application of rational analysis alone.

 If – as contemporary scientists seems to be telling us– we only have measurable access to 4% of what’s going on, how can they be so arrogant as to dismiss what probably goes on in the 96% of energy in our universe which we cannot measure at all, as yet?

In the previous post I said: “And in my next post, I’ll share one of my own weird stories. You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine!” Well, you did share some of yours, albeit anonymously. So, being a woman of my word, here is one of mine – an extract from the section on Reincarnation – from “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness”. It would be good if this time, you could share a story or two here. Be anonymous! Call yourself Henry Miller if you like. If you do, I promise not to think that he is communicating from the Other Side…

Lecce, Italy

Lecce, Italy

Lecce, Italy: September 13th 1986

In the Atmospheres section, I set the scene for our 1986 trip to Italy, describing the Apulia Region where we found ourselves as ‘a corner of Italy which was full of atmosphere, some of it quite uncanny.’ In less than a week, we had two experiences which were quite out of the ordinary.

This first one took place in Lecce, known as ‘the Florence of the South’, on 13th September. I still recall what happened very, very clearly. We were on a bus trip with a voluble female Italian guide in her thirties, determined to cram as much local information as possible into the heads of the ignorant Brits in her charge. As a result, not helped by the heat, we reeled off the bus somewhat brain damaged for our hour’s ‘free’ lunch break. As usual, everyone on the bus meekly shuffled behind the guide to the appointed watering hole. As usual, we did not. This was our first sight of Lecce and we wanted some quiet time on our own to enjoy it.

The bus was parked in a dusty square, next to a big old church. I looked all the way up the spire, noticing an empty plinth at the top, and thought “Where’s the Archbishop?” I recall being instantly startled by this thought, as though it belonged to someone else’s brain – after all, I’d never been to Lecce.

Nevertheless, very shortly afterwards, we found him. There was a stone restorers’ yard in a narrow street we wandered into, round to the right of the church. In it, lying on his side, was a rather battered looking statue, his verdigrised copper covering cracked and peeling from the wear of many centuries. “There he is – it’s the Archbishop!” At the same time as I recognised the statue, it felt again like someone else’s thought. I wondered if the heat was getting to me...“Mad dogs and Englishmen….”1

I loved Lecce on sight; it felt uncannily familiar. Missing out on lunch, I took Ian on a fast trot round the immediate area we were in, finding my way around with no difficulty. I pointed out a sunlit terrace above a street not far from the church, where I used to sit at a table and write, feeling that I was a man then, and a writer. Ian almost had to drag me by the ear back to the bus, since I was most reluctant to leave.

I have long felt a strong affinity with Renaissance Italy, despite having never visited the country before. Some day, I’d like to return to Lecce and see what my reaction is then. But I’ll make sure it’s mid-winter, so that I can’t blame a heat-addled brain for bringing me one of my life’s more peculiar experiences!

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ENDNOTES:

1 “…Go out in the midday sun “ Mad Dogs and Englishmen Noel Coward song (1931)

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NOTE: If you’d like to buy this book, the simplest way is to go into PayPal and send $10 directly to my PayPal account which is : contact.anne.w@gmail.com .PayPal will then send me an email notifying me of the payment, whereupon I will send you the book within 24 hours.

wisps-from-the-dazzling-darkness

900 words Anne Whitaker 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

The X Files are back…time to share a few weird tales…

I wondered why there had been a sudden run on sales of my Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness memoir, until I realised that the X Files had just returned to  UK TV screens this week! Our collective appetite for  that which lies beyond the boundaries of ‘normal’ does not seem to have been the least affected by the reductionist onslaught in recent years on anything and everything which lies outwith the perceptual scope of our five material senses.

I must confess to finding this particular stance by so many scientists (and other reductionists) strange, to say the least. Have they never investigated the weird worlds of quantum physics? Have they never contemplated the implications of  4% matter, 23% dark matter, 73% dark energy?  If – as contemporary scientists seems to be telling us– we only have measurable access to 4% of what’s going on, how can they be so arrogant as to dismiss what probably goes on in the 96% of energy in our universe which we cannot measure at all, as yet?

I’m very much in favour of taking a sceptical position regarding matters which seem at first sight to be impossible within conventional analytical frameworks. Sceptical, in the open-minded sense of the word, that is. However, as I have discovered over the course of my lifetime, an awful lot of people you talk to, in all kinds of contexts – bus stops, coffee bars, counselling sessions, churches, evening classes, astrology readings, cinema queues – have a story to tell, if you are prepared to listen. I am one of those people who attract other people’s weird life stories at the drop of a hat.

That was why, eventually, when I had the time to do so, I finally gave in and decided to write a book in which I told my own: atmospheres, dreams, ghosts, mediumship, mystical experience, poltergeist phenomena, prediction, premonitions, reincarnation and telepathy – yes, folks, I’ve encountered all of  that lot, much though on each and every occasion I would have much preferred not to have done so.

As far as I am concerned, ‘normal’ life hands out quite enough challenges, thanks very much, without us going looking for more in the realms of the otherworldly. However, as I – and many, many rational, reasonable, non-gullible people – have discovered, there are levels of experience which, although they lie outwith the known and measurable 4%, have a palpable reality which people cease to doubt once they have encountered it themselves.

So, readers, how about celebrating the X Files’ return by sharing some of your own tales which lie outwith the 4% of what is conventionally knowable? Be anonymous if that’s more comfortable. It would be great if you felt like leaving your story as a comment. Or email me. And in my next post, I’ll share one of my own weird stories. You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine! And – of course – you can always go over and buy my ebook. A mere $10…

wisps-from-the-dazzling-darkness

500 words Anne Whitaker 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Children at Play – or Bulldozers. What’s your preference?

Following a lively and constructive meeting last night, the next phase of our Maryhill, Glasgow, UK’s community battle to save a precious piece of wild land in our area from both developers and our own city council has begun!

Save our wild land!

Save our wild land on North Kelvin Meadow/The Children’s Wood!

In this phase, we need urgently to put pressure on the Scottish Government over the next 25 days. See http://thechildrenswood.com/ for details. We need your help, Friends: where you are in the world does not matter!

If you feel that wild land worldwide should if possible be preserved to nurture and safeguard children’s relationship with Nature – and all the health benefits which go with that – do take the time to write a slogan of your choice which includes “Save The Children’s Wood, Glasgow, Scotland” and post the photo on Twitter, Facebook etc.This supporter, Claire, lives in Yonkers, New York (hint, hint, you guys in the Big Apple!) She wrote: ” I love the children’s wood and it is my niece and nephew’s favourite place to play.”

Claire, Yonkers, NY

Claire, Yonkers, NY

 Or  – go through to http://thechildrenswood.com/ and sign our latest petition. And – Share this post on Facebook. We need all the help we can get. Thanks!!

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200 words Anne Whitaker 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

The technology wars: human 100% , bank 0%…

Continuing my theme of cheering up my readers during the slow, grim grind of January, I thought I’d share this hilarious letter, sent to me this morning by my supervisor to help cheer ME up. It did the trick! I think we should all model ourselves, as we grow older in an increasingly technology-dominated society, on this kind of  feistiness in response to the slings and arrows of  engaging with contemporary institutions. Well done, Mavis!! ( I feel sure her name is Mavis but my psychic powers are, to say the least, unreliable, so don’t quote me…) 

Shown below, is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by an 82-year-old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times. (i)

Angry? Moi?

Angry? Moi?

” Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years.You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, — when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an OFFENSE under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete.

I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets, and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me.

I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further.

When you call me, press buttons as follows:
IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH

#1. To make an appointment to see me.

#2. To query a missing payment.

#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case, I am there.

#4. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case, I am attending to nature.

#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. The password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.

#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7 again

#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.

#10. This is a second reminder to press* for English.

While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?

Your Humble Client

And remember: Don’t make old people mad. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off…”

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Endnotes:

(i) I don’t have the original source for this: I googled and there are several links featuring variations on the letter. So it may be apocryphal, but I detect the ring of truth, don’t you?…

750 words Anne Whitaker 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

Are you suffering from January-itis? Have some winter magic on me!

I do not recall when I last felt so afflicted by a bout of  the above.

Daily – late afternoon lethargy as the weak North-Western daylight dims. Annoyance with the snowdrops for being so reluctant to appear this year. Stating to The Husband that I was a moany-faced old git, and not having him disagree. Fed up with those admirable space videos with shouty captions telling us how infinitesimally minute we are, therefore entirely without any right whatsoever to moan about anything at all.

Still coughing somewhat, a long six weeks after THE WORST COLD EVER. Totally, utterly bored with wondering what I would make for dinner today… and every other day for decades. Discovering, today, a Facebook file I never knew existed containing messages going back to December 2013. Cross with myself every day for not being more grateful for almost every way in which I am a deeply fortunate person.

And yet – I find myself always able to be responsive to those moments of magic that life weaves into the dreary tapestry of January.

Today, having my first ever Facebook videocall – all the way to India – with my brilliant nephew, a person whose insatiable curiosity about EVERYTHING and  bibliophiliac habits are probably worse than mine. It was just great to hear his fresh, first-hand impressions of that astonishing continent, and reminded me of the bright face of modern technology.

And – last Saturday – being granted the grace of capturing some images of pure winter magic as the snow, just for a day, turned our grubby rain-soaked city into wonderland. Enjoy some of those photos, as we cold and grumpy Northern people gradually turn our faces to the blessing of  Spring. As the poet Shelley so beautifully put it in his great Ode to the West Wind:

“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Kibble Palace, winter twilight

Kibble Palace Glasgow UK: snowy winter twilight

IMG_2797 IMG_2798 (3)

photos: Anne Whitaker 16.1.16

300 words + images copyright Anne Whitaker 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Starting 2016: fancy a spot of techno-meltdown?

No, I know comfort eating DOES NOT HELP.

It is 15.12 uk time. I know I may be sounding like the X-Files. I feel even Mulder and Scully would be tearing their hair out by now at this impenetrable mystery: why does technology, every so often, gang up on one so comprehensively that only two alternatives are feasible, ie stand out on the public highway and have a loud screaming tantrum, or eat an extremely squidgy, delicious Portuguese custard tart?

Being a highly evolved human, I am opting for the latter. For now…

Today, Friday, is my writing day. I look forward to it keenly. It brings peace, reflective space, and not having to talk to anyone all day if I don’t have to. Sometimes, I even manage to write something people want to read. Bliss.

The Writing Cave

The Writing Cave

Bearing the above in mind, consider my day. I arrive at the Writing Cave, eagerly looking forward to writing two blog posts, one featuring a Guest contribution from a writer I very much admire. The other is in response to something I’ve just seen on Facebook – one of those entirely admirable space videos with shouty captions telling us how infinitesimally minute we are, therefore entirely without any right whatsoever to moan about anything at all. I’m already composing a response…

HOWEVER: I cannot get onto my WiFi (EE, just in case anyone else wants to shout at them and ask for a rental refund). Two mobile calls to The Husband establish that where he is, his email works perfectly, thank you very much. I am not consoled. After spending an hour pacing up and down the Writing Cave reading an extremely erudite book about the archetypal significance of the dwarf planeEris, I try EE again. No luck. A quick google via my 4G mobile phone establishes that there has been an EE problem for several days in various parts of the UK. Faint consolation: at least it’s not a problem with my computer.

I form a plan. I’ll pop over to my favourite Friday lunch hangout and lurking place – that wee gem, the Hidden Lane Tearoom. I can use their wifi. So, loading my computer into my backpack, off I go, much cheered in anticipation of lovely people and a tasty lunch.

Oh dear. The lovely Audrey has got her head down in an emptying premises, and is morosely sweeping up. “We’re having to close early. The power is off in quite a few places in the area.”

To say I was less than pleased might just be an understatement. Having sympathised and problem-shared, I head off to my other favourite hangout. Great music, lovely sandwiches, dozens of different coffees and teas to choose from. CC & T. (Go there. Soon.) They are bound to have public wifi.

They don’t. I can now feel mild hysteria beginning to build up. Not a good sign. To quell it, I order a delicious looking toasted cheese and salami sandwich and some Brazilian blend filter coffee. First bite in – and a great spray of tomatoey oil squirts out of the sandwich, globbing over my best purple scarf, jeans, and my favourite grey cashmere cardi. Mine host is most kind, giving me some hot water and a cloth to mop myself up. I leave it to you, dear Reader, to intuit my mood and state of mind at this point…

However, as is often the case, I have found, when up to one’s ears in a crappy day  – a ray of light in the form of kindness penetrates the fast-encroaching gloom. Mine host proffers the shop’s wifi code. Success! I am on line. And – only slightly delayed by a small altercation with the upgraded and supposedly improved WordPress site – I have my inspiration for the day.

By the way – the custard tart was delicious!

Aaaargh!!!

Aaaargh!!!

650 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page