Sunday, April 22, 2007

Your personal magnetism and attractiveness (to the mentally ill)

There are dozens of bloggable moments every day, but I haven't had the time to read the news or even use the internet much lately. Here is something from notes that I scribbled down on a paper around April 3 or so, I don't exactly remember. The recent events have changed the sense of the spring-is-when-the-crazies-come-out meme. Here is what I was going to write, anyway.

Instead of taking a subway, I prefer to walk the last stretch of my commute, and spend less time standing underground and more time walking through the city. One day I decided to take JR to Ueno and walk past Shinobazu Pond and through Tokyo University, eliminating the subway fare entirely. It turned out to be a good decision. There was a small bazaar set up along the south side of Shinobazu pond, where little tented booths were selling things like printed matter, magazines and the like, from the 1940s to 1970s, little religious objects such as small Buddhas that looked like they might have come from southeast Asia, unidentifiable knickknacks from the 1800s or whenever. The pond is a broad stretch of dessicated lotus blossoms, except where they have been cleared away, and attractive to birds. Cherry blossoms were emerging for the first time that day, just 5 or 10% out. I saw what looked like two Korean university students looking in a confused way at a map, as I got closer I could see that it was in Hangul and my guess was right. There are camps of homeless people under the trees, living there as discreetly as they can. Their address suddenly attracts thousands of people at this time of year, becoming prime real estate for cherry blossom viewing. I notice a trippy-looking fellow with wild wavy white hair strolling along very quickly in my direction, and I tried not to look at him as my built-in nutcase-detector glowed red somewhere inside my skull.

Suddenly he veers right and is in my face, gesturing wildly with both hands pointing stereophonically toward his ears and shouting about "LOS ANGELES" and "INPUT". That's a bit odd since I happen to be listening to Harry Shearer's Le Show from KCRW in Santa Monica, and he is in Los Angeles for this podcast, not in New Orleans or London where several of his recent shows have been recorded.

He goes on gesturing wildly and talking about Easy Rider, Peter Fonda, Robert Redford, Los Angeles, input, asking me about my religion, not accepting no religion, asking about my parent's religion, talking wildly in Japanese but not making alot of sense. I am listening thoughtfully, actually trying to follow what he is saying and give him one or two minutes of my time. His finger is a little too close to my face. Finally he says in Japanese something like, "Aw, I'm drunk!" and smiles a big crazy smile, which I return. We say "Gambatte" to each other and wave goodbye.

Later, that night, I tell my wife about it and she deadpans, "It's Spring." As if the emergence of lunatics at spring equinox were as natural as birds flying north, as if it explained everything. The unspoken assumption being that crazy people emerge from their concrete caves every year at this time. Apparently her office experiences the annual arrival of crazies off the street at this time, too.

I'm a magnet for crazy people. It doesn't matter if it is Los Angeles, Beijing, Varanasi, Songkhla. They will zoom in on me right away and start talking to me. I can also sense them coming. Takes one to know one? Maybe. Could be that opposites attract. I don't try to avoid them. It seems to be my fate to have to talk with them. Maybe I can do some good.

I am also not the only one to notice that crazy people are more likely than others to pick up on your thoughts. I read somewhere that it is common for people who work with mentally ill and institutionalized people to hear them shout out thoughts that are running through your head, words used in an argument at breakfast that morning, and other things, as if they are hearing voices in their heads -- from your head, like radios tuning in other people's thoughts. You can imagine why a person who has access to such a stream of thought might go crazy. The brain could not handle a stream of other people's real thoughts, often very ugly and disturbing, and in such quantities, any more than your digestive system could handle being force-fed foie gras, or your brain could handle having your eyelids taped open to watch A Clockwork Orange repeatedly. Or could it be the other way around, that the mental door that shuts out future memories and collective thoughts is thrown open when the person's mind begins to decline? It seems important to be able to shut out or turn off psychic sensitivity.

I think of a late afternoon, years ago, sitting down on a park bench in Beijing. A man who is already sitting at the next park bench proceeds to tell me every place I have been to all day. I conclude that this is the capital of China, I have done some unusual things with people who I have met while traveling, like borrowing bicycles and visiting the front gate of the palace at TienAnMen square at three o'clock in the morning (this was one year before the TienAnMen massacre) and gathering wild herbs, and there are enough people in China to assign one to follow around each tourist and see if they are really tourists or foreign agents, radioing ahead to the next government informer about what the foreigner has been up to. That was how I explained that incident to myself, but is the idea that the person just vibed what I had been doing a simpler explanation?

I had similar experiences in India, where strangers suddenly begin talking to me as if we had been talking all along. "Oh, you shouldn't feel that way about it. They had to do it, you know." I know the person is talking about the Gulf War, but feign ignorance. "What are you talking about?" They ignore what I say and go on. "They really had no choice, you know." I also want to know why the sadhus always looked happy to see me and wanted to share their charas with me. They can't do that with everyone, right? I wasn't in India long enough to figure that one out.

Japanese people are more aware of ki and spirits than are many other people, including Chinese, who should be qi masters, but the ability is distributed widely and evenly in Japan but concentrated in a few in China, as most don't believe and ignore it as the materialist Marxist philosophy has displaced traditional metaphysical belief structures. Look at the back of someone's head at the opposite end of a crowded train and see how many seconds it takes them to notice the ki if you want to test their sensitivity.

I also have had the experience of leaving a person's apartment, and several minutes later, as I walked down the street, sensing, almost hearing a whooshing sound at one point. I looked around to see what had happened. Had a streetlight suddenly burned out? Had a noisy machine, maybe a vending machine, suddenly stopped making noise? No. I took a few steps backwards and could see back in the distance, my friend on the balcony, watching me. The sudden cutoff of energy had been the loss of ki focus as I passed out of visual range.

Quantum entanglement is beginning to provide a theoretical framework that could explain some of these psychic synchronicities. Being unable to explain phenomena should not deter us from observing them and recording them. Phenomena such as lightning and auroras have only been explainable for a brief segment of human history, yet they were observed and noted, and hypotheses (myths) were put forth to attempt explanation.

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