The Other I

June 14, 2010

My little list of “don’t knows”

Filed under: Just Stuff,Questions beyond Science — theotheri @ 8:32 pm

The older I get, the more things  there seem to be that I simply can’t explain.  I don’t mean things that other smarter people can explain.  Like string theory or nano-technology.  Or even how this box of cables and wires I’m currently typing on can communicate actual ideas around the world.  I mean things that contradict common sense.  No, more than that:  they contract the very fabric of reality that I and almost every other sane person lives in most of the time.

Lately  I’ve been pondering lately a small but elite list of things that have happened to me or to other people whom I consider eminently sane.  They are things that, if they happened as they were experienced, make no sense at all.

For example:

  • When I was teaching at Montclair University, I went to the same gas station for almost 15 years.  Then one day, I stopped for gas and the pumps had been torn up.  I mentioned this to a friend as a passing inconvenience, but  filled up at a different station without too much further thought.  Several months later, I had reason to pass the old station and there is was, open and dispensing gas just as before.  I was shocked and I drove in to ask if the station had been sold.  Not yet, the attendant said, but the pumps are going to be taken out next week.  I asked if they’d been taken out and put back in within the last couple of months.  No, he said.  I was so flabbergasted I checked with my friend and asked if I’d told him about the Exxon station that had closed earlier.  Yes, he said, a couple of month ago.
  • During the 4 years that my husband and I had dogs in Spain, we would often hear them flop down on the tile floor downstairs when they adjusted their positions.  We continued to hear the sound after the first dog died.  Two years later, Dugo, the second dog, also died.  Several days after he died, I mentioned to Peter that I thought I could still hear Dugo flopping down on the floor at night.  He said in some surprise that he did too.  It stopped after about a week.
  • A good friend of mine who was an identical twin woke up one morning and told her friends at the breakfast table that she’d dreamed her twin was paralyzed and couldn’t get out of bed.  The twin was living in Chile at the time.  Several hours later a phone call came through that the twin in Chile had been diagnosed with polio.

There are another 3 or 4 similar incidents on my list.  They happened either to me or to people who are not religiously inclined.  None of them seem prone to hysteria or an over-active imagination, none believe they have super-natural powers or that they were observing some kind of miracle.  In fact, they all tend to be pretty hard-nosed scientific types and are emphatically not superstitious.

Sigmund Freud was a hard-nosed reductionist and believed that even memories firmly repressed in the unconscious would some day be found to have an identifiable physical reality.   He said he had observed several inexplicable things which seemed to suggest that telepathy sometimes occurs.  “I don’t know,” was all he said.

And that’s what I do with my little list.  The standard psychological explanations just don’t seem valid in some of these situations, although, of course they might be.

But I just don’t know.

My suspicion is that these strange things happen more often than we realize.  Mostly we either forget them, or the religiously-inclined may explain them as acts of divine intervention or visitations, even sometimes as miracles.

I prefer to leave them in my “I just don’t know” list.


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