I tell myself I am not superstitious. I say I dismiss the concept that coincidences have “meaning.” There is absolutely no reason to believe that, when I think about a person with enough focus, enough intensity, that person will reciprocate by thinking of me. It’s all magical hogwash, yes? Of course. But, still, some irrational thoughts occasionally emerge to the surface of my consciousness. Those thoughts invade what I consider an otherwise rational brain. Perhaps they are planted there by hopes and wishes and desires. Or fears. Maybe those thoughts arise simply to test the strength of my certainty about such ill-conceived frivolities.

When considering these instances of twisted magical thinking, I sometimes question just how certain I am that this reality, the one we see before us every day, is the only one. Frankly, it bothers me that I ever entertain the possibility that we may be experiencing just one of several dimensions. The idea is absolutely absurd! But it is not absurd. It is simply an untested, and perhaps untestable, theory.

The way I sometimes seem to conceive of it, those multiple dimensions blend with one another. For example, the idea of purposeful thinking as causation. Wishful thinking. Magical thinking. There must be multiple terms for it. Insanity? Maybe.

Sometimes, when confronted with my own complex—impossible-to-fully-understand—ideas, I write short pieces of fiction that incorporate those difficult ideas. That’s my way of trying to work them out in my mind. My attempts rarely succeed, at least not to my satisfaction. But at least they enable me to express them more fully in a fictional setting. I think I would be labeled dangerous and subject to commitment if I tried to express them in a real-world setting.

As I sit here, contemplating my use of writing fiction to think through such strangeness, I realize that I have many, many thoughts and ideas that I dare not share with anyone for fear of irrevocably changing others’ perceptions about me. I suppose it’s a matter of trust; or, I should say, lack of trust. This is nothing news. I think about it with some degree of frequency. And, I suppose, it’s one of the reasons I keep trying to get at the answer to the question of who I am, underneath all the layers. Another unanwerable question. I’m afraid I am incredibly complex, but not necessarily in a good way.

I do not believe finding and picking up a penny on the ground will bring me good luck. But I pick up the penny, “just in case.” The statements in fortune cookies are simply random comments on pieces of paper produced by the millions. But I read them. Do I put any stock in what they say? No, I really don’t. But… There are others too embarrassing to divulge, even to myself.

I wonder, am I sliding in and out of another dimension in which magical thinking is normal and natural? In this other dimension, is superstition an effective means of self-preservation or accomplishment? Is it possible to know the answers to absurd questions?

Four-year-olds believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and monsters under the bed. Adults should have long since grown out of the ability to entertain the possibility that an unseen dimension, parallel with our own, could exist. Yet we’ve always been taught to refrain from judging ideas unless they have been fully explored. How does one explore ideas that appear closely resemble symptoms of dementia?

Dementia. It could be. Dementia that has been progressing at a snail’s pace for sixty-plus years. Dementia that is routinely beat back by hard, cold logic and a life-long insistence on relying on measurable data. Dimension and dementia don’t have the same roots, do they? No, they do not. But I learned some interesting information about Alzheimer’s disease while exploring the etymology of dementia.

Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist, in 1906 noted the hallmark plaques and tangles of the disease in the brains of people who died of the disease. At around the same time, Oskar Fischer, another German psychiatrist, saw those microscopic plaques and tangles. The prominent psychiatrist, Emil Kraepelin, in 1910 named the affliction Alzheimer’s disease. Fischer’s contributions to understanding the disease have been largely forgotten.

As this little exercise in looking for answers demonstrates, even troubling questions about one’s own intellectual sturdiness can lead to learning. Not necessarily answers, but learning.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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