Why are we so desperate to believe in something beyond the logical or concrete existence we live in?
This question puzzles me a great deal. I don’t pretend to be a religious individual, I have my doubts in just about everything. The only times I’ve ever found myself in a state of prayer was concerning either a family members’ health or amidst a Red Sox game. I have always been skeptical about any discussion of the afterlife. In the last year or so I’ve wrestled with the existential crisis of oblivion, of how when we die all that we have strived for disintegrates. Every book that I’ve read, all of the knowledge I have taken the time to accumulate during my lifetime, will vanish. That is a depressing notion. I would assume that is why everyone is consumed with the concept of leaving a mark on this world, whether it be through a child or an idea or an invention, etc. Why do we so badly want people to remember us after we are gone? What does that actually accomplish for us? I may never know the answer to this.
On the subject of death and the precious time leading up to it, I contemplate something more metaphysical. Today I was discussing with my partner in over-analytic crime (and best friend) Josh about the human ability of intuition. I posed the question: “Do you think it is possible for people to intuitively and subconsciously sense what is going to happen? Or do you think what we perceive as hints before the fact are just coincidence?” I asked this because on this day (July 2nd) in 1937 was the last time anyone heard from Amelia Earhart before her disappearance over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Before her fateful circumnavigational flight of the globe, in the Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, she said of the trip: “I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it.”
Josh, being the skeptic that he is, surprised me saying he believed it to be a little of both. “I’d like to think that you can grow that sense like a muscle. You just have to try to pick up as much detail as possible.” But he did imply that we may read more into what people say after historic and/or tragic events. This is an unfortunate truth, I believe. “She may have just been saying she was retiring. She may have known more, who knows.” That is certainly the easy and most accepted way to view it. I think that is why it’d have to be intuitively. Perhaps she perceived these feelings as the impression that it may be time to retire, but could the feelings be a misinterpretation of something more?
My interest in this type of phenomena dates back to many other subjects, one in particular being Jeff Buckley (a favorite musician of mine.) In the days before his accidental drowning in while swimming in Wolf River Harbor, a slack water channel of the Mississippi River located in Memphis, [according to David Browne’s excellent biography Dream Brother] Jeff spent time getting in touch with friends and loved ones. The day before his drowning he phoned his former drummer and friend Eric Eidel who was living in New York City at 5am. “Hey… It’s Jeff. I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to see if you were doing well. And to say I love you.” Eidel, in Browne’s book, explains that Jeff wanted to see that everything was good. Eidel said “It was quick, but it seemed like it had a point.” As detailed in Browne’s book, Eidel was hardly the only friend contacted in those days leading up to his death, it was simply one of many out-of-the-blue calls received. Most of which were to people Jeff had barely seen or spoken to in years. I recall reading this biography some six or seven years ago and being stricken with this passage. Could he have known? Or do I just wish for my idol to be something more than a mere man when he wadded into the water for a swim?
It is all very heavy to ponder upon. I have been a scaredy cat my entire life, I can’t even watch cheesy scary films. I can’t help but look over my shoulder as I type this. The goosebumps are numerous. I posed the question to some other peers and got varied responses. Most seemed to believe that deep within the recesses of our minds, hearts, and souls we can quantify things subconsciously that we would never be able to explain. One friend described it as a belief that certain people are better in touch with a sense of death, using JFK and Lincoln as examples.
This leaves me wondering how many would want to be in touch with such a thing?