Paranormal questions I’m pondering right now

Paranormal questions I’m pondering right now
June 13, 2009
Palestine Herald-Press

I think I'm going to see a psychic. Maybe I'll learn that I was a friend of Jesus in a past life.

Let me clarify what set this plan in motion. I recently finished “Travels,” an essay collection by late author Michael Crichton, of Jurassic Park fame. Like the title implies, many of the chapters are about the author’s visits to exotic locales around the world, from living with indigenous tribes in New Guinea to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. But, for all the chapters about external trips Crichton took, there are just as many about what you could call internal travels, the journey inside oneself to take a look around and perhaps discover some kind of epiphanistic truth.

There’s talk of mediums communicating with long-lost souls, disembodied spirits still roaming the earth and just looking to relay a message. There are stories about week-long spiritual retreats, full of fasting and meditation, and at one point for Crichton, talking to a cactus. They are stories that, at first glance, seem so outlandish, so ridiculous, that you can’t believe that they’re included in a book labeled nonfiction. But then, you start thinking about the context of what you’re reading. You start thinking about the author.

Michael Crichton, although a prolific storyteller, was a licensed doctor. The first half of Travels recounts stories from his time in medical school and about the various rotations he did in all branches of medicine. He also was a scientist. Despite being fiction, almost all of his novels are based around some type of fringe science, some technique or method not proven, but not altogether impossible. He did painstakingly large amounts of research for everything he wrote, and it’s because of that research that the idea of bringing dinosaurs back to life actually started getting serious attention when Jurassic Park was released. Prey is equally as powerful, detailing a frightening tale of the science of nanotechnology gone awry.

What I’m trying to get at here is to simply ask you to think for a minute. Michael Crichton was a well-known scientist and physician, and yet in his book, he still speaks of these paranormal activities. There were never any questions about his mental stability, never anybody crying for his incarceration — aside, maybe, from enraged ex-girlfriends, of which he had many. And then, to make his case even stronger, the icing on the cake, Crichton doesn’t just speak of these experiences and allow you to laugh. He presents evidence and theories for their existence.

What, asks Crichton, makes something deemed “paranormal” actually paranormal? The term literally means “above normal,” but who is to say that that’s the truth? Crichton boldly asserts that maybe something like seeing auras or communicating with lost souls is in fact normal, but a skill that we as humans lost long ago, or simply forgot how to do. What if all these things we consider outrageous or outside of reality are actually normal facets of the world that we simply haven’t studied long enough? We’re all aware that children can do some strange things, often seeming to be staring at things we can’t see or communicating with “imaginary friends.” What if this is more than play and in fact them performing some sort of extrasensory task, something they’re able to do because 1) they are children and more sensitive to it; or 2) they are children and we haven’t quite beaten the belief in paranormal activity out of them.

Many of the medical procedures and equipment we have today were deemed impossible or outrageous only a few years ago. Before we had the concrete proof, these things seemed paranormal as well, and yet we now have them. What if hypnotism is the same thing?

With statements and claims like this, there of course is talk of fraud. But tell me this, what field or profession doesn’t have frauds? Jayson Blair was ousted from The New York Times for plagiarism, fraudulent journalism. Doctors are constantly having their licenses revoked for medical malpractice, practicing fraudulent medicinal practices. It only follows that if you go to a psychic, chances are you could get a fraud. But just because it’s easier to spot fakers in situations involving the paranormal doesn’t mean they’re all liars.

This is a subject that’s always interested me, but there truly is no way to approach any sort of rational experimentation or analysis of it because we are so culturally chastised for even giving a semblance of credence to it. You meditate and talk to cactuses? Oh, you’re weird. Chances are, Michael Crichton didn’t actually talk to a cactus, but he got some sort of experience out of it, so who’s to say what actually happened? Perhaps the collision of energies within Crichton himself and forces being given off by the cactus caused some sort of sensory experience that simulated a conversation?

We can’t toss things like this aside and label them all examples of mystical, New Agey hocus pocus. We need to do more analysis, more research, because who knows what we’ll find. Perhaps a séance isn’t some blasphemous, outlandish concept. Maybe it’s simply a remnant of a time when we weren’t so quick to dismiss anything that doesn’t have to do with our morning lattes or living life only in the pursuit of financial gain. Maybe what we consider paranormal is actually evidence of a time when we were better.

If I end up going to that psychic, I'll let you know.
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