“Guess what I’m reading next if I tell you the name of a drink,” said my son. He’d called while I was working and my mind was elsewhere as I finished typing the sentence.
“Pan-galactic gargle blaster,” I replied.
“Wha… how… whoa!” he spluttered. “Random as…hmmm…” There was silence for a moment, then, “How do you do that?” It was, after all, the third time I had pulled some seemingly random thought from thin air to ‘read his mind’ that day. Nothing straightforward or obviously predictable, but, given the way his mind works, just random things.
He and his brother are even worse and have always shared an ability to predict each other’s most random thoughts and deeds before they happen. It could be simply a familiarity that goes so deep, knowing each other so well, that they are able to ‘read’ each other like a book… except that no-one in their right minds would write that particular book; they have done and said some truly random things.
As their mother, my own ability to ‘read’ them has come in very handy over the years… at least from my perspective. My sons may have other thoughts entirely on the matter…
I have often wondered about that ability to ‘read each other’s minds’. Although we tend to think of it in terms of supernatural ability or the product of close association, the Oxford dictionary defines telepathy as ‘the supposed communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the known senses’, which is rather open-ended. When I was a child, only the five basic physical senses were taught and recognised. These days, science recognises a whole, long list of physical and physiological senses, as well as a handful of non-physical senses… and the list continues to expand. Telepathy, therefore, becomes even more removed from accepted reality as the list of ‘known senses’ grows.
But then again, as science expands our horizons, ever more aspects of the ‘supernatural’ are being explained. The Oxford Dictionary defines the term as referring to something ‘attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature’. The laws of nature are continually unfurling new marvels as our ability to explore them evolves, allowing a far greater ‘scientific understanding’ than ever before.
Many things that were once attributed to the realms of magic are now part of our accepted reality. Even the internet, where we can communicate instantly across the globe, forge friendships with people we will never meet and share stories, images and pictures at the speed of thought, would have been considered an impossibility not so long ago and even within living memory. Slip back in time a century or so and it would have been called magic.
Human flight was only for legends or witches… and they were burned at the stake. Travelling through starry space was the preserve of the gods and talking to someone who was not present would have had you committed to an asylum or calling an exorcist. yet, these days, even my three year old granddaughter can use a mobile phone.
While it is true that those examples speak only of advances in technology and our changing acceptance of what is possible in that realm, technology is also allowing us to explore the physical realm in ways we would never have been able to imagine a few hundred years ago. Sometimes, it is proving that there is truth in beliefs once considered ‘supernatural’, as, for example, when magnetic resonance imaging allowed us to see the physical changes that meditation creates in the brain, proving that mind can influence matter. Meanwhile, geneticists are busily proving that we may carry the fears and even memories of our ancestors, encoded in our DNA.
I have to wonder what revelations the next hundred years or so will bring, and how many seemingly ‘supernatural’ things will be explained and thus brought into the scientific fold of acceptable respectability. Will telepathy be explained by adding ’empathic awareness’ to the official list of human senses? Or prescience by our changing understanding of the nature of time? The next few decades may see many more of the concepts of the magical world brought under the respectable wing of science, yet does understanding how a thing happens change whether it happens? Or does it just make it safe to believe in?
Either way, I predict interesting times ahead.