One of the troublesome things about going on a trip is the huge stack of mail that confronts you upon your return. Some of these are bills, some of it is junk mail, but part of this stack, for me, anyway, is a delightful cache of new magazines to read. As soon as I get unpacked and do the laundry, I make myself a cup of tea, get settled in my favorite chair, put my feet up and READ. And in the July 28 issue of the New Yorker, I read an article about something pretty amazing that also, in a small way, happened to me.
This was an article by one of my favorite science writers, the neurologist Oliver Sacks. The 1990 film "Awakenings," starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams, was made from one of his books. I like Sacks because, unlike so many of today’s scientists, he seems open-minded, curious and courageous enough to entertain new ideas, traits that every researcher should have but surprisingly few do.
In "A Bolt From the Blue," he writes about Tony Cicoria, a surgeon who, in 1994 at the age of 42, was struck by lightning. He had the classic "near death" experience: floating above his body, seeing people below helping him, being taken up in a tunnel of white light. Like so many NDE experiencers, he felt himself being sucked back into his body very suddenly. Also like so many others, he did not want to return but wanted to stay in the light.
When he recovered, he seemed normal, aside from a few memory problems, but Sacks quotes him as saying, "suddenly, over two or three days, there was this insatiable desire to listen to piano music." He had never had much interest in music at any time in his life before, but he began to purchase classical music–first records, then sheet music–and even began to compose. He learned to play the piano and eventually began to give recitals. Sacks calls this sudden obsession with music, which is clearly a reaction to some subtle changes in his brain caused by his accident, "musicophilia," and talks about other examples of people this has happened to. It also may help to explain the mystery of why some people can create music, while others can’t. He quotes Mozart as saying that his music "came from heaven."
I was especially interested in this article because after an aneurysm burst in my brain almost three years ago, I experienced some bewildering changes as well. For want of a better phrase, I called them the gift of "shamanic intuition." It wasn’t that I could predict the future–it was that I suddenly SAW how all the pieces fit together, as if life was a giant jigsaw puzzle. It turns out that other people who have nearly died have gained this ability as well. One person who wrote us said, "Anne got psi from her NDE, it happens to lots of us."
A more accurate term for hat I experienced is "synchronicity," because I saw one piece of life, and then another, slide into place. I somehow "knew" where I was needed and what I was supposed to do, in the greater scheme of things. It was a subtle change–it was never anything I could prove–but I felt "led," rather than being in the usual human state of floundering through life. I never had the classic NDE experience of floating above my body, but after I got out of the hospital, after spending 6 weeks in the I.C.U., it was almost as if I was floating above my own life, in the same way that astronauts float above the earth and take pictures of it.
As I read the article, I was kind of wishing that my trauma HAD awakened some kind of new talent in my brain, as it did with Cicoria, when I read an amazing paragraph. Sacks quotes him as saying, "At this point [after he got out of the hospital and became obsessed with piano music], one of our babysitters asked if she could store her piano in our house–so now, just when I craved one, a piano arrived, a nice little upright." He began to teach himself to play it.
Sacks glosses over the fortuitous arrival of the piano, but it struck me with a wallop, because it’s the same sort of thing that kept happening to ME. I lost some physical peripheral vision from my stroke, but I gained another kind of peripheral vision: I found that I would desire something and it would be there. Usually I had had the item all along, but simply hadn’t realized it. Sometimes what I needed seemed to magically materialize, and this occurred with events, and not just things.
The next step came when I began to realize that when someone needed my help, I would "sense" them calling to me. These "messages" weren’t nearly as strong as the intuitions that the REAL psychics I’ve met in the meantime describe as coming to them. My realizations were much more subtle: I didn’t actually experience anything as concrete as hearing a voice. In other words, I didn’t suddenly turn into the heroine of the TV series "Medium."
The most important of these revelations was that our goddaughter, whom I’d pretty much ignored in the past, needed me now. She had moved away from home, so I got back into contact with her and we began to exchange friendly emails on a regular basis.
Then her mother was stricken with colon cancer and soon died. Since her father has never really been in the picture, I understood that we were now her surrogate parents, the only adults she has left who truly loved her. She wants to be an actress, and will visit us soon in Los Angeles, so I am already playing my "motherly" role by arranging for her to meet professional actors, audit an acting class, and visit some movie studio lots. Acting is a tough profession and she will need some good and careful advice along the way, so I have an important role to play in her life. When I realized this, I saw another puzzle piece slip ever so subtly into place.
Quantum physicists say that we create our reality, although this is a simplistic way of talking about some extremely complex science. They also say that time travel must be possible, but as far as I know, they don’t say that our lives are pre-determined and that we are simply walking through pre-ordained experiences. The question of whether or not human beings have what has come to be known as "free will" is something that both religion and philosophy have questioned throughout the ages. If, as quantum science teaches, there are many (perhaps an infinite number of) parallel universes, it may be that the choices we make determine which one we’ll find ourselves in. That could be where our free will comes in. And could one of these universes be what so many religions call "heaven?"
Sometimes I think that the psychic gift I was given almost three years ago is gradually fading away. Meanwhile, my physical peripheral vision is returning as my brain repairs itself. I can only hope that that my intuition is fading because I’ve learned whatever lesson I needed to take from it.
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