My son is suffering from earworms. Not that I mean to imply that he is the victim of some aural parasite, simply that the most bizarre and unlikely of songs have been taking up residence in his consciousness this week and refusing to leave him in peace. The sheer randomness of the music he is playing in the jukebox of his mind is staggering and has been cause for much merriment.
For the past month or so, my son has had no bathroom. As he still has neither floor nor door, he is obliged to ablute chez moi. This state of affairs seems set to continue for a while, but the routine to-ing and fro-ing between his home and my bathroom is usually enlivened by conversation along some weird and wonderful lines. Driving him home the other day, he admitted to the latest earworm… a popular song from his childhood by the Spice Girls. As if that was not bad enough, he then informed me that he had changed the words…
“If you wanna be my mother…” he sang. I knew the tune and, as earworms go, this was a bad one. It would also be contagious. I sighed. The damned thing was going to get stuck in my head now too. I missed the next line, but caught, “…making lunch forever…”
“Slavery never ends…” I chimed in. He laughed so much there was no getting any sense from him for a minute or two.
“How did you know?” he spluttered eventually. “Those are the exact words I chose…” I shrugged. This kind of thing is a daily occurrence.
“Be afraid…be very afraid…” we said in perfect unison.
“How do you do that?” My sons have never grown used to my apparent ability to read their minds, often at the most inconvenient moments. There plaintive note in his voice spoke volumes.
How do I do that? The same way as most mothers do… we know our children. Subtle signals, facial expressions, body language, experience and a shared history…and just being ‘on the same wavelength’… can give the impression of uncanny ability. There is no supernatural talent involved, just that ‘sixth sense’ that parents develop in self defence and for the preservation of their young.
That there are ways in which we can communicate wordlessly goes without saying. Look into a lover’s eyes and no words are needed. Emotions are writ large on the faces of the angry, happy or sad and we do not need to know the cause to be able to read the result. Add a little awareness and a dash of empathy and most of us can read a good deal simply by looking at another person.
We can feel atmospheres change too, when someone in the throes of strong emotion walks into a room. This can probably be explained simply through the extended use of our physical senses, particularly the unconscious ability to pick up and read subtle scents, such as pheromones or hear the difference in a person’s movement and breathing. Even a footstep sounds different depending upon the emotion that is in the forefront of consciousness.
We have constant access to subliminal clues and cues that we have, over the course of both human evolution and our own lifetimes, learned how to interpret and which may form part of the armoury of self-preservation. These are the talents and techniques that are used and elaborated upon by stage magicians, mentalists, scam artists and psychologists alike. A natural gift for picking up such signals can give a person the appearance of being able to read your mind.
But does that gift mean that there are no such things as telepathy, psychic ability and thought transference? Just because most things can be explained by physical phenomena that science can accept, measure and replicate, does not mean that there are not ‘more things in heaven and earth’ than we have yet understood…
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