Monday, December 17, 2007

The Sixth Sense

One of the best books I use for teaching private lessons is called "Impact Issues". Each lesson contains a story meant to open up discussion on a particular topic and a page of opinions that students can agree or disagree with. The topics cover a broad range of issues, but one of the most interesting lessons is called "Flight 77". In this particular lesson, a man talks about how he was about to board an airplane and decides not to after a voice tells him that he should not get on the plane. The teacher and student then discuss the potential origin of the voice.

This topic is good because it opens up the floor for spiritual discussions, but tends to avoid the overall topic of religion. While Japanese people aren't especially religious (on the whole) and it's unlikely that an uncomfortable discussion would develop on the topic, they also don't have much knowledge about religion and tend not to be overly interested in it. Spirituality, on the other hand, is something they do have their own notions about and can discuss with varying levels of enthusiasm.

As part of the discussion of this lesson, it's usual to ask the student if he or she has ever had any sort of metaphysical experience. While most of the students I've spoken with believe that the "voice" in the story in the "Flight 77" lesson is not a product of the author's imagination (and was a genuine spiritual warning), only one of them has said she has had a similar experience. This particular student told me a story from her childhood which was remarkably similar to the one in the textbook.

When she was a child of about 7, my student was playing a game where she and some friends pretended to be "invisible". As part of this game, one person kept her eyes open and the others kept their eyes closed. In this instance, my student and another friend were walking around with eyes closed while one other friend directed them. The friend who could see would tell the other two what to do as they walked "blindly". The "seeing" friend was preoccupied with the other person as the three of them approached a street. My student was just walking along with her eyes closed when she heard a voice (in her mind) clearly tell her to stop walking. She stopped and opened her eyes to find she would have walked in front of a car if she had continued on.

Oddly enough, my husband had a relatively similar experience when he was 15 years old. He was standing at a light waiting for it to turn green so he could cross a street. No cars were coming and the light turned green. Just as he was lowering his foot to the curb, he had a very strong feeling that he should not step into the street. He didn't hear anything and couldn't work out why he should feel that way so he looked up the street and soon saw a car speeding down the street which ran the light. If he had completed that step, the car would have hit him and possibly killed him given that it was going about 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. In my husband's case, he didn't hear a voice but received a strong "message" from his body nonetheless. He was being told to freeze and not step out.

When I asked my student why she thought she received such a message and many other people die in accidents, she said that she felt that it wasn't her time. She felt that she was meant to hang around on the planet and learn and experience life for awhile longer so she was stopped from prematurely making her exit. I feel that the same was the case with my husband. I think he and I were meant to journey through at least part of our lives together and it was very important for both of us that it be this way.

I know many people don't believe in this sort of thing and will concoct some sort of "logical" explanation (e.g., they both heard the cars and reacted to the sound on an unconscious level) and that's okay. If someone is so frightened of the idea that the world and our experiences may not be defined entirely by sensory stimuli and neurological processing of that stimuli, they can make up any explanation they want to sooth themselves. However, making up experiences that didn't happen in order to more comfortably explain what actually did happen is just as fanciful as speculating on the metaphysical. It's just a matter of being open-minded about the possibility of "sixth senses" or not.


Emsk said...

Hi Shari.

I'm a big supporter of intuition, which I think is rarely wrong. I don't credit it to any exterior force. I believe that the voice in our heads is truly meant to be there for biological and scientific reasons. I imagine that intuition saved many people from attack by wild animals and other humans, and these days probably translates into stopping us from stepping out from the kerb too soon.

It also warns us about lesser perils, I think - annoying people, bad relationships, situations where you're being taken advantage of.

Sadly, many of us don't listen because we pay heed to logic, which we need too, of course. We tell ourselves that there's no reason to not trust someone or a situation. I would counsel always listening to intuition and in the case of non-life threatening cases reviewing them afterwards. On the occasions when I haven't listened I've kicked myself.

Anonymous said...

That's truly interesting. Firstly, I must look into that text book as I do some private teaching also. And secondly, I believe strongly that signs are all around us, just like codes hidden within a math quiz.

I remember one time I was cycling home back in the UK at a rather fast speed. I told myself just to slow down a notch, what's the rush... a few seconds later, a car came speeding from round the corner - I immediately calculated to myself, that I would have been about right in front of the car.

Another indirect scenario, was when I was much younger and my mother was taking me to school, I ran up ahead of her... but a moment later she called me back, at which I stopped, turned around and skipped back towards her. As I was skipping, a lorry fell over onto the pavement/sidewalk right behind where I would have been. It was a scary and shocking moment - I even took the day of school, and a journalist from the local newspaper came round the next day to write about my near-to-death experience.

I remember my mum clearly saying, that something told her to call me back and hold her hand.

Our lives could be being saved everyday, and we don't even know it. Interesting planet indeed. :D

mjgolli said...

This is pretty interesting. I have this happen nearly daily it seems. I do not watch the news or listen to traffic reports in the morning, yet when I approach the end of my street, and have to turn right or left, I occasionally have a "premonition" or a feeling that I should go one way or the other.

If I turn right, it would be my regular way to work, albeit going through "malfunction junction" where there are sometimes pretty serious accidents that hold up traffic, especially in winter. If I turn left, I have to take the back roads which is half again as long length and time-wise, but rarely are there delays or accidents.

Generally if I have a feeling to take the back roads, I find out later that there was a serious accident on the highway that would have held up traffic for hours, making me late for work.

In addition, there have been times that there has been a serious accident that would have been exactly where I would have passed based on the time I left home.

So, yes, I think there is some "divine perception" involved.

Luis said...

I had an experience like that only six months or so ago. I was driving my scooter back home. Near the end of my trip, there was a blind intersection where I had the right-of-way, the other street having stop signs. Usually I would simply drive through, but that one time, I drove more cautiously than usual, slowing down almost to a stop--and a large van blew past the stop sign at high speed. I would have been clobbered and almost certainly killed had I driven normally. I followed the other driver for a bit to alert him to the lethal manner of his driving, but he was one of those types who clearly knows he's doing something asinine and doesn't give a rat's behind; he ignored me when I honked loudly, signaled for him to pull over, pulled up beside him and made myself clear, etc. Okay, fine, I suppose. He'll kill someone or himself one day and the problem will be solved either way.

But for a while after, I kind of wondered what it was that made me slow down. The distance, large building blocking the view, and the helmet I wore, along with my own bike's noise, made it highly unlikely that I caught any sound from the van that far ahead of time. So... coincidence?

Shari said...

Luis: Personally, I think we are connected to all things in some fashion which our technology cannot yet detect. It may be energy fields of some sort or something completely different. At the moment, the concept seems rather "airy-fairy", but I'm sure a lot of things which are now measurable had unknown relationships which were once perceived as fanciful.

While I believe these connections are part of a different form of reality which exists concurrently with this one (multi-dimensional, if you like) and is part of what many people (including myself) perceive as the spiritual aspects of existence, one can frame this possibility anyway one likes including as a scientific theory of energy or particle fields interacting in currently unmeasurable fashions.

Sometimes, I believe we have moments where we are tapped into those connections (for reasons one can speculate on but not prove) and act on them consciously or unconsciously. That's not to say there aren't coincidences but some things are more unlikely to be coincidences than others.

The experience your brother had was palpable. It was a perception of danger without any basis in external stimuli to back up that perception. It was so acute, he wondered where the feeling came from. While the hesitation at the right moment could be seen as coincidence, the accompanying emotional component could not.

I hope you're having a good time in the U.S. :-) Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

dearest shari-sama/sensei/sister -

how are you today?

i often read snippets, odd bits & pieces and some topical articles inside your blog.

until this morning ive always done so from my keitai - usually whilst waiting for trains, or for people in public, or when queuing up for something.

quite possibly i first came across your blog via a link from another. i was attracted to your online journal instantly as i had great curiosity to see how other gaijin ladies are enjoying their lifestyle here in japan. ive come to know that we both share very similar philosophies on a number of issues. although my opinions and ways of dealing with cultural situations are rather different to yours, im so happy to know that there is a lady with true strong unwavering spirit who is courageous and proud to stand by her actions and words whilst giving readers reasons and offering solutions to daily tokyo happenings. i admire your spirit, energy and honesty very much.

congratulations to you shari - on your gambaro efforts, insights and works and also on winning a grand prize at christmas time last year, too!!! well done!!! cheers to you and your sweet husband, family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, students and all people about you, as well.

so as im at an internet cafe today and able to view your diary on a proper computer screen - i read your profile clearly for the very first time - and got an amazing surprise!!! watashi mo x lots! wow wow wow!!! im a gaijin girl - have worked at nova - born a dragon virgo and came to japan not long after you - in 1992!!! sisters in spirit, ms shari, we are!!!

today i wandered into your world by way of - japan probe - i think??? after reading your essay and comments on charisma man. two weeks ago i taught 3 strips of that comic book in my lesson. also gifted the book to a very good japanese friend for her bonenkai present. if i write my thoughts on him now it shall take far too long, however.

mainly i am writing to tell you i am glad.

please enjoy a gorgeous day, dear shari!!! its happiness to meet you!!!

Shari said...

Anonymous: Hi there and many thanks for your kind and very warm response. I appreciate it (and your taking the time to read) more than words can accurately express.

It is an amazing coincidence that you were also born in the year of the dragon and are a a Virgo. I can't say I know much about what such things mean, but it's always rather neat nonetheless.

I haven't actually bought the Charisma Man book yet, but I plan to once I get my lazy act together!

BTW, if you have a blog of your own (or start one eventually), I'd very much like to read it, so please leave me a comment letting me know.

Thanks again!