Monday, August 31, 2009

It's Magic!

Today has been a long time coming.  After a brilliant spring and summer full of adventure and butterfly chasing, it's time to get back to work.  I managed to get some stuff done in writing, and stuff done around the house and garden, but not enough to stay afloat, never mind make progress.  It feels like the beginning of a new year.  Maybe it's the kids still being on a school schedule.  I never escaped the school year calendar system to uninstall it from my brain.  Or it may be the first hints of Wandering.  For those of you unfamiliar with Wandering, it's an autumn thing.  The restless leaves, the morning chill, a special softness to the quality of light, especially at dusk, like glass lightly frosted in blues and salmon pinks, and the warm but urgent wind that inspires an intense desire to journey beyond the horizon line.  The Wandering twinge has tugged a few times already, but faded quickly.  It's early.

Soon now.

But that's not what I wanted to blog about today.  I wanted to talk a bit more about magic. 

Studying physics and engineering in college, plus growing up with an engineer father and a mother whose an RN, has solidly rooted me in science.  I love science.  I love the scientific method, when it's employed properly.  But.  (Yep, you saw that big but coming, didn't ya!)  The scientific method isn't always used properly.  Politics, money, and personal agendas get in the way of learning.  Seriously.  For example, I pity the poor souls who get wrapped up in anything dubbed a paranormal study.  Ridiculed, scoffed-at, with little or no funding, they haven't even had a chance to develop the tools (and the tools are so critical) for examining certain phenomena.  They can't measure a damned thing.  Some have tried, using tools from other disciplines, but this is a lot like trying to learn what elements our sun is composed of using a flashlight, a notepad, a pencil, and duct tape.  Heck, a prism and a bunsen burner would be great, as would some highly refined materials to burn and catalogue, but no, you don't get those.  To add insult to injury, most of the paranormal 'scientists' don't understand the scientific method, or how to measure stuff, or what to measure, developing hypotheses, etc.  Many of them, if they're doctors of anything at all, have no experience in research.  

The reason I've been thinking about all this is because I heard a rumor that finally the medical community will be taking a more extensive and serious look into the placebo effect.  Hopefully that will eventually be something I can mark off my magic list.  Which should clue y'all into what's on my magic list.

On my magic list: 'ghosts' (whatever the heck they are,) healing through prayer/visualization/laying on hands, 'out of body' experiences, phantom predators, what I call deities (which are not omnipotent, btw, at least not to my experience, nor immortal,) the ability to dance longer and harder than I can jog, and other stuff having to do with phantom-ish things like disappearing objects that reappear in the last place I left them.

I would love to check these things off my magic list and have them placed in the known phenomena list, or at least properly explored phenomena list.  In other words, I don't really believe in magical magic as some sort of 'supernatural' force.  It's all natural, baby.  It's all part of this world.  We just don't get it, yet.  

Why is Bigfoot not on my list?  They're too borderline.  First off, they're presumably a living species and therefore that doesn't make them special, just rare, possibly on the verge of extinction.  Ockham's Razor and all--why should Bigfoot be psychic/magical/supernatural but be hairy and stinky like every other living thing?  If they're physical beings they have to have bones, and believe me they couldn't hide them all.  Serial killers have been trying to hide bodies for years.  Eventually, a percentage of those bodies turn up, and with an entire species, I think it would be damned near impossible to hide all the bones.  Now, if I see something, fossilized or other, that suggests that there might be a huge skunk ape running around, I'm all about changing my mind.  But I'm not willing to accept increasingly weird ideas about time travel or dimension-shifting beings until I've seen a Sasquatch or read about confirmed evidence.  I'm willing to entertain the thought that they might exist.  Enough respectable people have come forward claiming to have seen them, or smelled them, or whatever.  But they're not truly magical.  Same with aliens.  They're presumed physical, no, more, presumed to be flesh and blood, even by the people who swear they exist, and so I need some flesh, blood or bone evidence before I'm willing to say okay, I believe they're among us.   

On the other hand, I won't say that they absolutely don't exist, and I won't mock those who believe in them even when they're sounding their most woo woo.  I've seen too much weird stuff in my life.  I'm just not going to hold my breath for the first evidence to show up, and I won't be leaping up and down saying I told you so.  I'll be just as surprised as anyone else in mainstream science, though I admit I'll smile and speak a little blessing to those who knew but couldn't prove it and had been ridiculed up to that point.

Contrast this with healing, or ghosts.  I've healed some pretty serious stuff.  I've seen ghosts.  I've heard them, felt them.  I have corroborating witnesses who saw, heard and felt the same things.  If Amazing Randy was willing to come to my house and set stuff up here, I would have a million dollars right now.  But that's not the deal and that's the trick with 'real' scientists and worse, skeptics who make skepticism a lifestyle, who won't accept any evidence contrary to their beliefs, and scream laboratory conditions are required at the first sign that they might have to touch something they've poo pooed so far.  Now, I rather like Amazing Randy, but things have gotten skewed.  I watched a program once (bear in mind too that his editing team gets to pick and choose what's shown) where he mocked a purported psychic.  Even with Amazing Randy and his editors in total control of what I got to see on tv, they had to admit she got the vast majority of facts right about the person when reading a photograph.  She may have even gotten every one--I don't remember.  It was remarkable.  But she didn't get the one fact that he wanted her to get right, what he thought was the most important fact (the picture was of a serial killer) about the man in the picture.  To him, that proved that she was a fraud.

And that's when I knew he was just as much a fraud as those he wanted to expose.

I could have ghosts screaming through the house knocking on all the walls and I would not get my million dollars, because it wasn't in a lab, nay, not any lab but his lab, to which I would have to fly on my own dime.  I understand that he doesn't want to spend his own money going all over the place, but some things, like Saturn, won't move to a lab for convenient study, not for all the bank accounts in all the world.

Okay, rant over.

I believe there are explanations within the realm of nature for things like ghosts, healing, and what I categorize as religious experiences with intelligent semi-corporeal beings.  It's not all in my head.  For that matter I don't think it's supernatural.  

When someone else hears the knocking and the voices too, it's not just me and it's not mass hysteria when there's nothing to be hysterical about.  Mass hysteria is like swamp gas--a means for people to dismiss something they feel isn't worth pursuing.  If it's not worth pursuing, fine.  If no one ever decides to explore these things, it's really no skin off my back.  Weird stuff happens, and it's not really critical to our survival, though it may have an impact on our experiences after we're dead, if there are any.  (Dead people have long taken a back seat to the living in our modern era.  This may bug them, but neglect of the elderly is pervasive too and I get quite a bit more excited about that than I do about how society deals with issues of afterlife, especially since we haven't even scientifically established that there is one but we definitely do have issues with abuse of the elderly.)  Just don't tell me I'm stupid or crazy for knowing what little I know.

What science doesn't acknowledge or understand, yet is real as far as I can ascertain, I categorize as magic.  I want that list to be small.  I'd like it to be smaller.  Heck, as far as I'm concerned gravity borders on magic.  The 'well' in the space fabric is all fine and good, but what is space fabric and how can it communicate instantly?  No fabric I know of can communicate instantly.  There's a delay as the threads stretch when you deform the surface.  Therefore, it's a magic fabric, the magic fabric of space that no one really understands.  Or, it might be magic graviton particles that communicate instantly in defiance of what we know of physics.  Gravity is clearly real.  The difference is that everyone agrees it's real and is devoting lots of resources to its study, while healing through thoughts/focus/energy is considered bogus or woo woo.

I think the placebo effect is a big piece of thought/focus/energy healing (though it's not the whole shebang--how other people can affect a person without their knowledge is not part of the placebo effect.)  It's encouraging that forays may be made into our understanding of the placebo effect, and that we may be able to employ it and expand on it, make it more powerful so that we can use fewer 'real' drugs, less chemo, less surgery, etc.  To have treated it as a mere artifact since 1955 or whenever seems to me to be a major medical research oversight.  It deserves to be much more than magic.

We may not get to answer all the questions.  There's no rule that says that an offshoot of great apes on planet Earth get to figure everything out.  Some things may remain a mystery forever.  But they may not.  I think we have at least a shot at seeing a glimmer of an answer here and there to even the most complicated, obscure and elusive question marks in the universe.  I believe that most of the time scientists have correctly prioritized our explorations.  We have some big problems that need solutions and big questions that need answers.  Ghosts can wait (at least, I hope we aren't dealing with a big oops on that score.)  In the meantime, I'll have to be satisfied with dealing with them as I've always dealt with them and other magical things--as a bumbling primitive who doesn't really know what's going on, and through trial and error deals with them in such a way that helps the most and hurts the least.  

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