The Way Out, and The Way In
Sunday my brother calls me up. It’s the middle of the Memorial Day weekend, and he wants to share something with me.
“You’re probably gonna call me a liar,” he said.
Now in reality, a liar is probably the last adjective I’d ever use to describe Richard. Stubborn and bull headed maybe. And one who, as they say, does not suffer fools gladly. But completely reliable and with more integrity and grit than any other man I know. And over the years he’s become more three dimensional, learning much about compassion and taking himself less seriously. He’s also the one person on the planet I’d entrust my life to above anyone else. What you call a stand up guy.
So a liar is something he ain’t.
Also, he’s a critical thinker. He and I both have a well-developed bullshitometer built into our brains. We can smell nonsense a mile away.
So what he told me is not easy to dismiss or deal with.
“I was on a date with this new woman I’ve been seeing. We went back to her place and sat on her backyard porch, and the stars were out.” Richard lives upstate, near Woodstock.
“Yeah…? So you get laid?”
“Listen to me. We were looking at the stars, and she asks me if one of them, a bright one, is a star or a planet.”
“Oh. Did it flicker? I believe if it flickers, it’s a star.”
“Ok. Well I told her I don’t really know. So she said, ‘Let’s ask it!’ So she did. She said, sort of half-jokingly, ‘Give me a sign to reveal whether you’re a star or a planet!’”
“How long have you been dating this woman?”
“So….right after she said this, like right after, it moved, very slowly…”
Ah, I thought, a satellite.
“…First to the right, and then to the left. And then, it moved in a tight circle. We watched it do this for about 40 minutes!”
I told him I simply didn’t know what to make of this. If I had heard it from anyone else, I would have dismissed it out of hand.
Now for the record I don’t take seriously anything “way out” or paranormal, including UFO sightings or anything of the sort. And from what I’ve seen over the years, this kind of stuff tends to attract people with all sorts of personality disorders. Astrology, ghosts and hauntings, the occult, I’m pretty leery about it all. Generally, I wouldn’t give any of it a second thought. Except, however, for what I’ve experienced myself.
Like there was that time in ’97 when I was sitting at the 12th Street Bar in Park Slope on a Friday night nursing a Stoly on the rocks, when this lovely girl and her friend sat down on the two stools to my right. I struck up a conversation with her – the usual stuff, only this time, the answers came to me twice, and into two different ears.
“Where do you live?” I asked her.
“She lives on Berkeley Place,” was what I heard, softly and clearly, in my left ear. But there was no one to my left.
“On Berkeley Place,” she said.
“Where on Berkeley?” I asked.
“Between 6th and 7th,” the voice on my left said.
“Wait.! Don’t tell me! You live between 6th and 7th Avenues.”
She was taken aback.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
“I don’t think so!” I thought of the next question before asking it aloud: Does she live alone? And again the answer came to me.
“Um…you live with a roommate, right?” I said.
She looked at her friend, then at me.
“What’s going on?” she demanded.
“Um…Just asking. In a studio, right?”
I then thought of a few more questions, received the answers, and told her more about herself: The school she goes to; what she’s studying.
She looked me right in the eye, and then politely excused herself. “Excuse me, you’re freaking me out.” And then she took herself and her friend to another part of the bar.
I’ve never been able to duplicate this experience. And certainly it may have a rational explanation.
But what follows doesn’t…
When I was younger, my dad, who never minded being the center of attention, claimed for a while he could read minds. When company would come over, he’d announce that he had discovered this ability. He’d then ask someone to remove a dollar bill from their pocket and to concentrate on the serial number, one letter and digit at a time.
Obviously, everyone was sure it was a trick.
Except that it wasn’t.
They’d all suspect that he’d arranged this with someone there beforehand. So someone else, usually the most skeptical person in the room, would take out their own dollar bill, and say, “Ok. Read my mind!”
Which he would then do.
And everyone enjoyed it. Until they didn’t.
After a few such encounters, dad decided to stop this.
“People started to became very uncomfortable around me,” he explained.
So I’ve learned from an early age that Shakespeare was probably right when he said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Whenever I see a deck of cards, I turn it upside down, pick out a card, and try to guess it. Usually I’m wrong, of course. But I’m right more than once every 52 times. And every now and then the phone rings and I just know who’s on the other end. (Has this happened to you? I’ve heard others say it has). But I also notice that when I get attached to knowing something like this (that is, when my ego wants to be right about it) I’m almost always wrong. What is working here seems to be not my conscious mind but some deeper intuition, which is something I’d like to control, but cannot.
This corresponds to my attempts at success in life. When I’ve tried real hard, the universe resists real hard. But when I just lightly envision something, it tends to happen. Intention glides with a light touch. It’s as if the universe feels insulted when I seem to think it needs a push. But if I cajole it a bit, it gives.
So I know this other-worldly, outside-of-my-philosophy stuff exists, but it spooks me, and I don’t know what to make of it.