I am of the belief that everyone believes in something. There wouldn’t be any reason to live if we didn’t have something to believe in—life itself, the care and welfare of our families, work, love, hope, whatever. The concept of believing is accepting something without absolute proof of its existence. This is what is known as faith. When we have proof of something, we say, “I know…” If we can’t prove it but accept it to be true, we’ll say, “I believe…” Since everyone does not believe in all the same things, it’s not fair to criticize or negate other people’s beliefs. We all should have the right to believe what we want and we mustn’t regard other people’s beliefs to be any less or more important than our own.
Some people contend that if they personally have not seen or experienced something, then there must be no such thing. I am not much of a skeptic, in terms of proven world phenomena, and I am humble enough to accept the fact that just because I don’t know something or have not witnessed it with my own eyes, does not mean that it does not exist. I have not seen the actual Taj Mahal, for instance, but I believe it to be in India, as I am told it is. I have never seen a comet or a duckbilled platypus, for that matter, but others have claimed that they have. How does anyone expect to see and experience everything there is on this earth and beyond, let alone the Universe, in the course of a single lifetime? So many things we just have to accept on faith.
I am a pretty good judge of character and can usually recognize bullshit when I hear it. So, although I’m not a gullible person, I don’t always have to see something to believe it. I tend to let logic and probability guide my beliefs. Then there are those who when they do encounter incredible sights, they still won’t believe it. They would rather think that they are crazy or delusional. So seeing isn’t always believing. There are just some things in this world that we cannot yet explain. It is erroneous to say, “There is no such thing as …” and then call it by a name. Simply, if there is a name for something, then it must exist, even if you yourself don’t believe in it, it is something merely theoretical, not yet experienced, or something dreamed up in one’s imagination (which I’ll discuss in a moment).
What do the following things have in common: Barnard’s Star B, black holes, brown dwarfs, cosmic rays, the earth’s core, the complete electromagnetic spectrum, francium, gravitons and quarks? They are all scientific objects that never actually have been seen. Then how do we know that any of these things really exist? Everything is not visible or tangible. Does anyone doubt the existence of love or truth just because we can’t put a finger on them? Some people are arrogant enough, though, to deny the existence of something just because they themselves don’t believe in it. Someone might say, “I’ve just seen a ghost!” Then the skeptic might reply, “Oh, you couldn’t have. I don’t believe in ghosts. You must be imagining things.” Well, just because you don’t believe in them, doesn’t mean that this person didn’t see one! We often hear this common movie line, stupid and hypocritical as it is: “What’s wrong? You look as if you’ve just seen a ghost!” Well, you say that you don’t believe in ghosts, so how do you know how someone looks when they’ve just seen one?
I happen to believe in all sorts of supernatural beings and the paranormal. I believe in guardian angels (I am sure that I have at least one of my own), ghosts and other spirits (although I don’t think that I’ve personally seen any), demons and demonic possession (I have known individuals who seemed to be possessed by some evil influences), dybbuks, incubi and succubi, extraterrestrials (how do we know for sure that we haven’t met any, since some of them are supposed to look just like us?), gargoyle protoypes (those figures must be modeled after something), sasquatches or Bigfoot, yeti (the Abominable Snowman), even the Loch Ness Monster. There are scientists who even study these elusive creatures. They are called cryptozoologists. If none of these things are real, are these people wasting their time and money on nothing then?
And I don’t deny the existence of the fairy world either, including your elves and gnomes and the like. I’ve never seen a leprechaun or a banshee, but then, I’ve never seen a real shamrock either. I believe that these supernatural beings and creatures simply exist on another plane, and most of us, I suppose, just are not attuned to their special world. The people who deny the existence of unseen and speculative societies and civilizations do so because they don’t want people to regard them as crazy for believing in such things. But since I acknowledge the fact that I am a little crazy anyway (but that’s not necessarily a bad thing), I don’t care if people think that about me. And what’s the harm in merely believing in all these things? People should be allowed to believe in whatever they want to without judgment or negative criticism from anyone. We all have that right.
What is real, anyway? Reality is a state of mind. If we think it, then it is. If other people claim to have experienced certain psychic phenomena, for instance, who am I to doubt their word? I believe that everyone has some degree of psychic power, and although some persons’ extrasensory gifts may be more highly developed than others, most neglect to use their power out of fear, skepticism or mere unawareness. I am certainly aware of my own psychic ability, but probably not its full potential.
Here is something that happens to me much too often for me just to discount it as mere coincidence. Numerous times I’ll be sitting at home and a name will come into my head for no particular reason, and just seconds later the phone will ring and it’s the very person that I was just thinking of! Apparently, when the person decided to call me, it sent a telepathic signal to me to let me know. Sometimes I will think of someone while I am out on the street, and however unlikely, they will immediately appear! There is a common expression, “Well, speak of the Devil! We were just talking about you!“
There must be a great bunch of living psychics out there, in this country alone, judging from all the psychic companies that used to operate by telephone, although I don’t hear much about them anymore. Then there are your Gypsy fortune tellers and “psychic readers” everywhere you turn. I don’t know how people can throw away good money on such nonsense as that. It’s not that I don’t believe that there may be some bona fide psychics somewhere, but consider what you are paying for. What do they really tell you? Mostly things about yourself that you already know. And they give you general fortunes, not unlike those that you might find in Chinese fortune cookies. “You are going on a trip and will meet a stranger.” Well, everybody goes somewhere at some point, and we are always meeting new people. That’s not a unique prediction. “You just made a major move … You like working with your hands.” “Wow, she’s good! How did she know all that?!”
But even if they are accurate in their assessment of you, so what? Why pay somebody to tell you things you already know or even what you don‘t know, for that matter? “I see death in your future.” Well, duh! I also see death in your future! Everybody dies at some point. Give me an exact when and how. Now that’s a prediction! If something is destined to happen, it’s going to happen whether I have fair warning of it or not! Besides, most people pooh-pooh the future anyway. They tend not to heed the warnings of psychics and fortunetellers, until their predictions actually come to pass, then it’s too late to do anything about it. They are convinced only after the fact. You should have listened!
I have a theory about precognition. I believe time to be a pre-ordained continuum, that all of life’s occurrences are already laid out. You know, what will be, will be, unless somebody does something to change it. But as life is based on a series of choices, an attempt to change a past event would prove to be chaotic, if not catastrophic. Everything we do affects the outcome, especially dealing with people. For instance, if I had never been born, like if my parents had not gotten together, then every contact that I have had in my life with another person would never have occurred. Everybody’s life would have taken a different path. That concept applies to every single person. Therefore, every person’s mere existence has an affect on the world in some respect. That makes us all important to somebody.
Moreover, we think of memory as being able to recall only past events. But why couldn’t a person remember in the other direction? Memory could be a two-way street. Just as one can recall the past, some people could be able to recall the future as well. If we accept that everything has a place in time, then one person’s future is also somebody else’s past. So then these so-called psychics are receiving “memories” that have not yet occurred in their present place in time but in the future. Then, too, it is possible to alter the future, as nothing is absolutely set in stone. If we interfere with an event that was originally supposed to happen, it then becomes a new past or future memory. For instance, if a person gets wind that a certain plane that they are booked on is going to crash, and they decide not to take that particular flight and tries to warn others about their vision to no avail, and the plane actually does crash, at least they are spared by not being on it when it happens. They may not be able to prevent the event itself, but they can keep themself from being victimized by it. So if I suspect that that building is going to blow up or collapse, I’m going to keep my butt out of there!
I also have always been fascinated by time travel. I would like to visit past periods in history when desired, but only as an unseen observer. There are many times and places that would not be conducive to my presence or safe for me to be there, if you know what I mean. I am a bit more apprehensive about the future, however. New technology we will know about soon enough, as we are experiencing it all the time, but I don’t think that I would like to be privy to the fates of people that I know and care about and not be able to do anything about it. Imagine being like the character of Gary Hobson on “Early Edition,” knowing what’s going to happen a day ahead of time. I don’t think I would enjoy running all over the place trying to prevent disaster before it strikes. That would really work my nerves! I’m no hero. I think there should be some mystery to life. For me, it keeps things interesting.
I believe in faith healing, to a certain degree, the power of prayer and the power of the mind. I’m not much of a prayer myself, but I don’t doubt that it works for those who do. All prayer is, in essence, is wishful thinking—you know, wanting something badly enough to will it to come true. The human mind is a very powerful, as well as dangerous, thing. There is even a branch of research being conducted now called Noetic Science, which explores the power of the human mind and its potential to change the world in real physical terms. For example, I believe that sick people can think themselves well if their will and faith are strong enough.
Here is my theory about faith healing. Imagine that we are at one of those tent revival meetings with a charismatic evangelist at the fore, and they get to the part of the service when infirm members of the congregation are encouraged to go up to be healed of their particular malady. A man in a wheelchair rolls up, and Brother Whatshisname lays his hands on the man’s head and says, “Be healed, my son! Get up and walk!” The man, because he wants so badly for it to work, actually gets up out of his chair, stands, then takes a few steps towards the evangelist. “It’s a miracle! Praise the Lord!” But what if the man was already able to walk, he just didn’t know it? Maybe he was told that he would never walk again, so he never even tried prior to tonight. He could have been walking long before now if he had had the positive encouragement and belief in himself to do so.
We had a Ouija board in the house back home in South Bend, Indiana, where I grew up. I used to play with it with my mother, brother and neighborhood friends. And you can believe what you want, but those things really work! When we asked the board a question, the planchette would actually move without our guiding it. I think it has a lot to do with mental influence and will power. My stronger-willed friends could make the thing answer the way they wanted it to just by willing it so with their mind, even if it’s their subconscious at work. I think it’s similar to how a lie detector works. The wires that they hook the person up to are affected by their nerve impulses, which, in turn, move the needle on the polygraph. By the same token, by touching the planchette, we transmit impulses from our brains to the board via our fingertips. There is nothing magical or supernatural about it. It’s all neurological and mechanical.
I believe in the possibility of telekinesis, pyrokinesis and channeling. I believe vampirism and lycanthropy, as well as boanthropy, cynanthropy and galeanthropy, to be mental conditions (I didn’t say “disorders” because that would be a judgmental assessment), where a person has the delusion or takes on the behavior of vampires, werewolves, oxen, dogs and cats, respectively. They may drink blood and sleep in coffins by day. I believe in “Cogito, ergo sum—I think, therefore I am,” so if a person thinks that they are a vampire, then they are a vampire!
I do have a hard time accepting corporal transformation, though—you know, people actually turning themselves and others into things. To me, that defies the laws of natural physics. How can anyone rearrange their atomic structure at will? Evolution is a very slow, indiscernible process. I have already accepted the fact that just because I cannot actually see something, does not mean that it’s not there. So invisibility is a real thing. I even accept the possibility of unassisted levitation. Since I contend that the human mind is powerful enough to counteract gravity, and that the mind may be able to move objects along a plane and possibly catch them on fire, then why wouldn’t it be able to lift things as well and make them float around the room?
I am fascinated by teleportation—you know, the process of transferring the actual physical body from one place to another. I love to travel, but I don’t like the time it takes to get to faraway places. Like on “Star Trek,” I would love it to be possible for Scotty to beam me over to Australia in a matter of seconds. I admit, though, that I am somewhat leery about the process itself. It involves completely disintegrating one’s bodily molecular structure and then reassembling it exactly (hopefully) in another place! Whew, that’s scary! What if something goes wrong in the process? Remember The Fly movies? As incredible a phenomenon as that may seem, I believe that some day it will be a reality, if it isn’t already.
I am not a superstitious person at all. I’m not afraid of black cats (some of my pet cats were black) or of walking under ladders, the number 13, breaking mirrors, spilling salt, or any of those other silly old wives’ tales. How can common, everyday activities, like opening an umbrella in the house, whistling in a theater dressing room or merely uttering the name “Macbeth” cause any kind of cosmic upheaval or influence anyone’s luck?
There are even certain religious aspects that border on superstition, like the ritual of baptism or christening, for example. Some people are firmly convinced that by sprinkling or pouring plain, ol’ tap water on a baby’s forehead or immersing their whole body in water will guarantee their place in Heaven. And not to do it, then that person is doomed for Hellish damnation. How preposterous! There are some Catholic TV detectives who, whenever they encounter a dead body, will cross themselves. I’ve seen it done by real life people as well in other situations. What is that supposed to do? That gesture has no more effect than to knock on wood or to clutch one’s pearls.
By the way, I hope that you are not one of those who fears the number 13. I find it pointless and stupid to omit the floor numbered 13 from apartment dwellings, hotels and other buildings, just because certain superstitious people are wary of living or rooming on that floor. Just because they call it something else, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Since the next ordinal number after twelfth is thirteenth, the floor now numbered 14 is still the 13th Floor, no matter what they call it! I may not like the number 9, but these same people don’t avoid it for my benefit. There may be more people who consider 13 to be a lucky number rather than unlucky, so why leave it out for those few others? The guilty parties that comply with the omission are only perpetuating the silly convention that it is by playing into people’s irrational triskaidekaphobia. They should always include it, regardless, and just let those phobic people deal with it.
I recently learned that a Las Vegas hotel (the Wynn) omits the 4th floor in deference to its Asian guests who deem the number to be unlucky. Apparently “four” sounds a lot like “death” in Japanese and Chinese. Now how stupid is that? If some Asian customers have a problem with the number 4, just put them on another floor. The builders didn’t have to leave it out just for them. With that absurd thinking, “nine” is “no” in German and their “six” sounds like “sex,” so why don’t they leave out those floors as well? Haven’t they learned that you can’t please or satisfy everybody?
I do believe in the powers of witchcraft and voodoo. These people would not be practicing these things for thousands of years if there was nothing to them. Actually, a lot of people have the wrong idea about voodoo. Thanks in part to Hollywood movies, voodoo has been characterized as an evil practice of casting spells and curses on innocent people, demonic zombies and sticking pins in dolls, yet most Voodoo practitioners actually do it for good and helpful purposes. The word itself is West African in origin (from Dahomey and Togo via Haiti) and means, “God, Creator or Great Spirit.” So there.
I have actually known persons who claimed to be witches and warlocks. People who don’t believe in witches are denying an entire religion, or science, called Wicca. This, too, has more to do with naturalism and earth worship than with casting evil spells on people. There are always individuals who will use their special powers and influence for evil, but everyone is not guilty of ill will.
Most so-called supernatural beings have possible scientific explanations. I believe that ghosts, for example, are restless spirits that have unresolved issues or other unfinished business on earth. You may have heard of those haunting ghosts that make regular appearances in the same place (usually where they actually died) and do exactly the same thing each time. One explanation that seems plausible to me is that they are manifestations of some sort of ethereal recording, if you will, that merely replays itself over and over again. It’s sort of like a hologram.
I, myself, have never seen an actual ghost or spirit, but I would welcome the experience. I would regard such a sighting with interest and curiosity rather than fear and dread. Why do people freak out so to something that is basically harmless? I don’t expect that an ethereal apparition can cause one bodily harm, and reports say that they don‘t make actual contact with you, so what are you so afraid of? I would try to communicate with the entity to find out what they want or how I can help them to pass on. Maybe one of the reasons why they remain is because those who encounter them usually freak out and flee instead of trying to find out why they are there.
I am a fan of ghost stories. I have noticed that in movies about haunted domiciles it’s usually the children who first become aware of the supernatural presence(s) on the premises. Their innocence makes them more susceptible, and depending on their age, they have not yet been taught that they should fear the unknown. They regard monsters and other strange creatures with natural curiosity and fascination. That dead girl becomes the child’s friend and confidante. But then they have the problem of convincing their parents and other adults that there really is something present. Little Mary’s “imaginary playmate” is not real, she is told. But what if it is? Just because you can’t see it or hear it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Of course, evil spirits abound as well that do intend to distress us, but they usually make their intentions apparent from the get-go. They don’t bother first to try to win your trust before they inflict harm on you. They probably won’t even give you prior warning.
The same can be said of religiously-devout parents who talk to God on a regular basis and claim Jesus to be their good friend, but will turn right around and try to convince their young daughter that her “imaginary friend” is not a real entity and only in her head. “So, Mommy, you can have your fantasy confidante, but I am not allowed to have my own? That’s not fair! The thing is, though, my friend is real–she is standing right over there. Where is this Jesus guy of yours that you talk to all the time?” (Ooh, shade!)
I am a fan of magic shows and illusionists, and although I realize that they perform tricks that aren’t real, I enjoy trying to figure out how they do certain things. There is always a simple explanation when you know how it’s done. But there are some guys in the business who I believe to be real wizards, if there are indeed real ones in the world. They are Criss Angel, Mat Franco and Shin Lim, to name a few. These guys perform what appear to be impossible acts of magic. They seem to defy the rules of physics. I have seen them accomplish telekinesis, unassisted levitation and even teleportation. Instead of employing coverings of some sort, I have seen them change things right in front of our very eyes. I am not easily fooled, as a rule, but the things I have seen them do goes against all logic and possibility. Maybe magic is a real thing and there are actual sorcerers living among us. Well, witches are real. People believed in them enough that many suffered execution because of it. So why can’t sorcerers be a real occurrence, based on original, actual practitioners?
My friend, Lloyd, is a pooh-pooh naysayer when it comes to real wizardry, but as a self-proclaimed “Jesus Freak,” he does buy into all aspects of the Christ Mystique. He believes all the miracles and incredible events that are reported in the Bible, especially those having to do with Jesus himself, but hypocritically will tell me that magic is not a real thing when it refers to modern-day, practical application. He never witnessed any of those Biblical accounts but accepts them all on faith, and then will discount an act of magic performed before his very eyes.
He even contends that the magicians that disappear in one place and then reappear in another place have identical twins helping them. They all can’t have twins. How could they keep them secret? Somebody would know if they had a twin or not. The brother would not have a life of his own. He would have to stay hidden all the time and emerge only during his brother’s performances. I don’t think anybody would agree to that, even if it were possible.
I have dabbled in numerology only as a curiosity. I once took an Enneagram Test online, which asks a series of personal questions whose responses then determine one’s personality assessment. Not surprisingly, I turned out to be a Type 5 individual. In numerology, 5 is the Pentad, or Great Mystic Number, and the letters of the alphabet all have numeric value. The letters of my full name just happen to add up to 5, making it my special Life Number. I arbitrarily always choose 5, or multiples of 5, as my “lucky” numbers. Suffice it to say, I really am a five, okay?
I have concluded that the number 5 has been a prevalent recurrence throughout my life. I was born during the 5th hour of the 5th day of the standard workweek on the 5th day of the month in the 5th decade of the century. I have five genetic siblings (that I know about)—four brothers and a sister. Although my sun sign, Virgo, is the 6th sign of the Zodiac (I missed it by one), there are five letters in its name. The name I go by primarily, Cliff, also has five letters. I made my stage debut performing, thus beginning my life’s career, when I was five-years-old. My symphony consists of five movements.
Those who were alive at the time remember where they were when President Kennedy got shot. I was in 5th period music theory class in high school when I first received the news. Sadly to say, I have been incarcerated five times in my life. I hope that is all. I am not a criminal, mind you, just an occasional victim of unfortunate circumstance, due to unwarranted police harassment.
I have only a casual interest in astrology. I think that there is something to it as a science, but I don’t take it too seriously. I don’t let the stars rule my life, by any means. I believe that there is something to personal biorhythms, though. I’ve done my chart periodically, and they have been amazingly accurate. I truly believe in what I call “karmic justice,” that what goes around, comes back around. Therefore, I am not a vengeful person. I don’t need to be. If someone does me wrong or causes me harm, I don’t bother to seek revenge. I just sit back and wait for them to get theirs. And they always do too, somehow.
I believe that more than one person can come up with the same idea or invention or even make up a word or coin a phrase, often simultaneously, it seems. I once was explaining the plot of a movie that recounted the events that lead up to a previously-written story. Since this sort of thing should have a name, I made up one of my own, or thought that I did. Since a sequel follows succeeding events, I frivolously coined the word “prequel” to denote those events which precede the already established. It was my own personal word which I had not used in public, so I was quite surprised when very soon after, I heard the media use that same word! I thought, What?! That really is the word for that?! What makes this more of an amazing coincidence, if that’s what it is, is that the first film with which I associated the term was 1972’s The Nightcomers, starring Marlon Brando, which introduced the characters who later became the ghosts in Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. When I looked up prequel in the dictionary, I found that the word had come into common parlance in 1972, the same year I first used it!
The same thing happened again more recently. One of the female houseguests on the fifth season of the TV reality show, “Big Brother,” one day decided to give herself a mohawk haircut. You know, that’s the one with the straight patch of hair across the middle of one’s head, leaving the rest of the pate all bald. Well, this girl, Jennifer (aka Nakomis), did not cut off most of her hair but only shortened it on the sides. I considered her new ‘do more of a “faux-hawk” than a real mohawk. I thought to myself, Hey, I just made a clever bon mot. Then just a couple of days later I came across a magazine ad touting a new hairstyling product, saying that it is suitable for short hair, crewcuts and…faux-hawks! Well, I’ll be damned! Somebody beat me to it again. I guess great minds do think alike. I made up a word to describe a person who is not up on all his rules of proper grammar and syntax: a “mal-literate.” Let’s see how long it takes for that neologism to catch on in the media.
But the one that really blew my mind is an occurrence of my seemingly-influential will. This is what happened. It was late February 2008, when I was looking at the Arts and Leisure section of the Sunday supplement of The New York Times, specifically the various reviews of the shows currently playing on Broadway. One of the articles cited a website to which users can suggest shows and parts they would like their favorite actors to perform. Madame Arcati is a character in Noel Coward’s comedy farce Blithe Spirit, who is an elderly, eccentric, psychic medium who rides a bicycle and who is held responsible when she inadvertently conjures up and then subsequently tries to exorcise the pesky ghost of the lead character‘s dead first wife. For a while at the time I had the notion that Angela Lansbury would be perfect for that role. There is also a musical version of the play, called High Spirits which played on Broadway in 1964 and starred Beatrice Lillie as Madame Arcati and Tammy Grimes as the Ghost. The 1945 film adaptation stars Rex Harrison as the harried husband, and Margaret Rutherford is a hoot as the moxie medium. Geraldine Page played the part in the 1987 Broadway revival of the play. I love her, too.
So anyway, I visited the interactive website and submitted my idea about Angela coming back to Broadway in a revival of High Spirits. I received a response from someone saying that due to her recent unsuccessful stint in the play Deuce, Ms. Lansbury would not be returning to the stage any time soon. Oh, well. I just thought I would put it out there.
So now it’s about eight months later when I was watching a Walt Disney documentary on TCM, narrated by Angela. TCM’s commentary host was the late Robert Osborne, who introduced, as well as offered bits of trivia and information about the features shown, and on this occasion, after giving us some of her career credentials, mentioned that Angela would be back on Broadway in the spring starring in Blithe Spirit! Now could that be merely a coincidence when I had made that very suggestion only months before? Did someone close to Ms. Lansbury mention my idea to her which prompted her interest? Of course, I had suggested the musical, but maybe Angela didn’t want to take on the musical version and opted for the play instead. Even so, it’s the same role that I wanted her to do.
When I went to see her in the play, and I would have waited for her at the stage door of the theater after the matinee, but Lloyd, whom I was with, didn’t want to wait around until Angela came out, so we didn‘t stay. I wanted to ask her how this project came about for her and to find out if I was in any way responsible. So until I learn differently, I am claiming to be the one who advanced her career by willing the great Angela Lansbury back to Broadway, which resulted in her winning her fifth Tony Award in the process! She is tied with the late Julie Harris, who also won five Tonys. Audra McDonald now holds the performance record with six Tonys to her credit, tying with the now-deceased director Mike Nichols. The record for technical achievement goes to Oliver Smith, who has won 8 Tonys for Scenic Design, and Jules Fisher also has 8 for Lighting Design. But the all-time record is held by producer-director Harold Prince, who has won 21 Tonys!
Incidentally, someone was really wrong about Angela’s not wanting to do Broadway again, because even after Blithe Spirit closed, she next starred in a revival of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music with Catherine Zeta-Jones, in which she even sang, followed by a revival of Gore Vidal’s play The Best Man. Now maybe I can get someone to produce a biopic of Pearl Bailey, to be portrayed by Queen Latifah.
In theory, I suppose that nothing is absolutely impossible. We just don’t know how to do everything just yet. It was once believed that human aviation, for example, was an impossible feat. How is a vessel that weighs 82,000 tons able to float effortlessly on the surface of the water? That still seems pretty impossible to me. Then consider all the other “impossible” things that humankind has accomplished over the centuries. Realize that at some time in the past, everything we now have was once impossible, until somebody figured out a way to do it. What we call science fiction is fiction only in the sense that the actual events of the story may not have yet taken place. The specific elements used in the storytelling are usually quite conceivably plausible, as in any tale of fiction. So then, it is more likely to be precognition on the part of the author or artist. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet, but it could or will someday.
Author Jules Verne wrote about space travel and modern submarines long before they came into practical being. Writer Arthur C. Clarke introduced videophones, e-mail, laptop computers and space communication satellites to the literary world years before we knew that someday there would be such things. And all those once fictional stories about robots, genetic engineering and cloning have now become a scientific reality. The new hands-free vacuum cleaner and sweeper that we see advertised is merely a modern version of Rosie, the robot maid from “The Jetsons” TV cartoon series decades ago. They even now have hospital robots that do the work that orderlies and candy-stripers used to be responsible for. Just like in the movies, doctors are now experimenting with brain transplantation, as well as transplanting the face and even the whole head!
In Fantastic Voyage (1966) a medical team was miniaturized in a submarine to microscopic size and injected into the blood stream of a human body, with the intent to localize a cancerous tumor (I think it was) somewhere in there and eradicate it. Now only 43 years later, instead of a submarine, they have come out with a “smart” pill (it’s called the iPill) that has been infused with computer circuitry along with medicine and programmed to target a specific malady in the body and fix it. Pretty amazing, huh? Fantastic, indeed! The fantasy films Christine (1983), The Love Bug (1969) and its sequels feature automobiles that are able to drive themselves. Well, now we actually do have a robotic car that drives itself. Is it scientific progress or demonic possession? We have also seen movies that feature cars that fly, and somebody has come out with an actual flying car! And do you remember Michael J. Fox’s Hover Board that figured prominently in the Back to the Future (1985-90) films? Well, that is now a reality as well.
A TV episode of “Elementary” did a story about a genetic research genius who found a way to manipulate certain genes to use to infect people with fatal genetic diseases. He was even able to duplicate DNA, which he used in order to frame someone else for a murder that he had committed himself. I wonder if the writer of that episode knows someone who can actually do that? If that is possible, which I don’t doubt that it is, it will get so that we won’t be able to trust even DNA evidence anymore, which, up until now, has proved to be so reliable in crime-solving. We now know about computer viruses and worms that are created to wreak havoc and even destroy our personal computers.
On an episode of the “Scorpion” series somebody has gone a step farther by which a vengeful cyber genius has found a way to infect a specific computer with a mysterious pathogen which makes the user deathly ill. Again, I wonder about the validity of that method of murder, or are these show plots giving people ideas? Visualization is the primary impetus for invention, discovery and wish fulfillment. An unforeseen concept must be thought up before it can be realized. Designers and architects usually sketch their ideas then create the tangible item from the drawing. I wouldn’t be surprised if those exotic, eldritch creatures in the Cantina scene in Star Wars (1977), for example, all really exist somewhere in the Universe.
I didn’t believe that our world would end on December 21, 2012. For one thing, I don’t see how the ancient Mayans could pinpoint a specific future date that accurately. But even if something does happen during my lifetime, I don’t think that it will be a matter of world destruction. The word apocalypse means “revelation” or “an unveiling.” Some believe that it may be the coming of the Age of Enlightenment. Interestingly, though, I find that I do believe in the legend of the Antichrist. There are several theories and opinions on who or what the Antichrist is. Most agree, though, that it’s a powerful political figure, but it may refer to more than one specific person. It could be someone in public office or in a high position, a world leader, like a Chief Executive or even the Pope!
From what I know about it, the events that will supposedly lead up to Armageddon are, in my opinion, quite plausible. There is already tangible evidence of global domination via our ever-increasing technology. It is entirely possible for a person in power to woo the people of the world to be his faithful minions and force us against our will, even those who don’t want to follow him. There may come a time when none of us will be able to buy or sell anything unless we have received the “Mark of the Beast,” which could be accomplished in a number of ways. For example, there has already been talk of implanting microchips into people’s children and pets (and adults, too), to be used as tracking devices, in the event that they ever get lost or abducted. But that would mean that they could always be located, even when they might not want to be. There would be no more privacy, even less than what we now enjoy.
Suppose they make it compulsory, that if we don’t accept the tracking implant, we will be imprisoned or killed. Or we could be recruited through our home computers. They could set up a certain seductive website, and when we log on to it, they would have our number, as it were. Already we are subject to numeric identification everywhere we turn. All our corporate dealings require account numbers, I.D. numbers (PINs), Social Security numbers, telephone numbers…numbers, numbers! Then with all the national unrest in the world, a major cataclysmic holocaust is certainly feasible.
The creation of artificial intelligence is also an inevitable probability. If they haven’t already, someone could figure out how to make a computer think for itself, without human influence or control. And as all knowledge can always be used for evil, what if someone programs a machine or robot with their own nefarious agenda? Maybe that will turn out to be the Antichrist. It would be acting on its own, and it would be virtually impossible to stop it. You can’t kill it, because it’s not a living thing; it’s a machine. Remember the Terminator films? Also, Dan Brown’s Origin touches on this issue in a frightening way. What did I say about so-called science fiction’s not really being fiction? Those films, as well as Transcendence (2014), can be perceived as frightening cautionary tales, which I can only hope that the Powers-That-Be will take heed and govern themselves accordingly. I only hope to be long gone by the time all this comes to pass, if or when it ever does.
What is imagination? The images created in our minds must come from somewhere. I believe imagination to be random access memory, particles of matter floating around in space that eventually make their way into our mind’s processing unit. That would explain how more than one person can come up with the same idea. There is nothing new under the sun. I believe that everything has been thought of or experienced by someone else before us. Everything we encounter or “invent” is merely a reoccurrence, discovery, a variation or modification of pre-existing knowledge. All those monsters and creatures of fantasy and mythology that artists and writers conjure up for literature and visual media may be the result of pre-existing phenomena from somewhere in the Universe.
The unicorn, for instance, at least the equine variety, does not seem all that incredible a creature. The reason that we don’t see any around today is because perhaps they have been rendered extinct, like the dodo and the mammoth. Unicorns still exist, however, in the true sense of the word, meaning “having one horn,” in the guise of the rhinoceros and narwhal, also known as the sea unicorn.
Similarly, I don’t deny the former existence of dragons either. They have figured throughout medieval folklore and history by disparate cultures divided by time and distance. Could they all have imagined the exact same thing? Were all those people who spoke and wrote about them for centuries making the things up? St. George was said to have battled a dragon. If he was a real person, might the story be true? The dragon is a predominate symbol and cultural icon of the Chinese, in particular, and they even include it in their zodiac. All the other animals used are real, so why not the dragon as well? Even the ancient cartographers, when depicting uncharted or unknown regions on their maps, acknowledged their existence by writing on there, “Hic sunt dracone–Here be dragons.“ Maybe the traditional ones have all died out, have been killed off or the remaining few are in hiding somewhere. Although now endangered, we still have the Komodo dragon, which is very real and could be merely a smaller species of its much larger ancestor.
Dinosaurs did not completely die out either. They only evolved. Birds are really your modern-day dinosaurs, according to the animal scientists. Also similarly, I consider merfolk (half-human, half-fish creatures) to be a somewhat reasonable plausibility. They could be some kind of evolutionary, amphibious anomaly, perhaps the result of one of the instances of extraterrestrial cross-breeding or mutants from Atlantis, perhaps. Maybe they have chosen to remain elusive because of the common people’s reaction to them. Look at how they treated The Creature from the Black Lagoon, upon revealing himself, when all he was looking for was a girlfriend. There are many sea creatures that I have never seen live and up close, but I don’t deny their existence. Our oceans are vast and virtually limitless and unexplored. Nobody knows for sure what’s under all that water.
I don’t know what purpose your zombies serve, even if I believed in them. But if a supposed dead person can be reanimated to get up and walk around on its own, then they must not have been really dead. A body needs brain activity to motivate itself. The same goes for the legendary vampire who is supposed to be dead yet alive and immortal. I don’t believe in physical immortality. Nothing is forever. The earth someday could be destroyed by outside forces. It’s possible that even our own Sun will burn itself out some day, as all stars eventually do. Of course, I expect to be long gone if and when it does.
Dying is a part of life and is the only thing in life that we all absolutely have to do. It used to be that the only things we had to do were to die and stay our color, but, of course, the latter is not true at all, as people are forever changing their real color all the time. Another life’s certainty is that we all have to pay taxes. But do we have to? If a person never received a pay check or never bought or owned anything, they would not be subject to income, sales or property taxes. It would be difficult to get through life that way, but it is possible, I suppose. As far as I know, no one has been able to conquer death completely.
So then, I guess that dreams must work on the same principle as imagination. We are responsible for our own dreams because they are conjured in our own minds. An indication of my mental stability is that I have never had a real nightmare—you know, the kind that causes one to wake up screaming or bolt upright in bed. I have had rather disturbing or unsettling dreams, but none to the point of terror or audible distress. People love to blame everything that they don’t understand, or what they are unwilling to accept, on their dreams. It’s a vehicle for Denial. A little girl might tell her mother, “Mama, Daddy got into bed with me last night.” “Oh no, he didn’t, honey. You must have been dreaming.” But maybe he did. Were you watching your husband every minute last night? “I got up to look out the window and saw Aunt Hortense down in the garden.” “But your Aunt Hortense is dead. You were just dreaming.” “I don’t care if she is dead, I still saw her! And I wasn‘t asleep either.”
Aren’t people able to tell when they are awake or not? When I go to bed and then awaken hours later, I know that whatever I thought I experienced during that time must have happened while I was asleep. I can settle into my dreams, but I am always aware that it is a dream. I often dream about my parents and other dead friends of mine. I will go along with the dream, not even think that something is not right about it, but then it will later occur to me, ‘Wait! My father’s dead. Why is he in my dream?’ My dreams always occur in various locales and situations. I know that I am not in those places. I’m wherever I was when I went to sleep, lying in bed with my head on my pillow, for instance. What’s to question? Now, I often experience feelings of déjà vu, when I can’t remember if it really happened before or whether I dreamed it. But if I’m out walking around on the street and I witness something strange or incredible, I don’t have to ask myself, ‘Is this a dream?’ or, ‘Will somebody please pinch me to see if I’m awake?’ I know when I am awake.
I was at a party once where a group of people were discussing dreams, and somebody asked if we dreamed in color or in black and white. Such a question would never occur to me because I naturally assumed that everybody dreamed in color, just as I always do. Apparently, that is not the case, and I learned that some people do dream in black and white. So, why would a person, dreaming in black and white, think that what they were dreaming could be real? That would be like watching a black and white movie. At least in color, the dream would seem more realistic.
I am certainly not ready to die, as I do so much enjoy being alive. But although I do want to stay here for as long as I can, I am not afraid of death. It’s an inevitable reality to which we all eventually have to succumb. Our life is whatever we do with it, but we have no control over death, so it can’t be such a terrible and frightening experience. What would be the point of dying, other than to maintain the balance of nature and population control? I believe that death is merely another phase of existence. I contend that we do “pass on” to the next phase. I do wish that I could live as long as I want to, and choose to die when I am ready to. I don’t want to be 300-years-old and in poor health and physical condition, however. If I did get to live a long time, I would want to be able to enjoy myself and do things, or what‘s the point? I believe the people who claim to have experienced out-of-body episodes and those who have actually died and come back to life. There have been too many incidents of this phenomenon, with similar reports, just to discount it completely.
Moreover, I do believe that our souls and spirits (which are forms of energy) take on other forms after death, so I do believe in reincarnation. I don’t entirely understand how it works, though. There are several theories about it. Some believe that we keep coming back as other people, that we all were somebody else in a former life. There have been claims of people experiencing past life memories, which I think could be possible. Another theory about dreams is that they may be memories of past lives. For myself, I feel as if I might have been an Italian peasant woman in some previous life. I occasionally get images of a buxom, blousy, earth mother (ala Sophia Loren or Anna Magnani), standing over a stove, cooking, with a bunch of young children all around. That would explain my penchant for Italian men.
Some believe that they come back as other creatures, but I’m not sure if I buy that one. Why would I go through this lifetime as an intelligent, productive human being, then come back later as a lowly earthworm or something? Along those lines the Buddhists believe that if a person lives a good, moral life, they will come back as human, but if they were bad, then they will come back as some kind of animal. Another school of thought is that each time we die, we attain an increasingly higher level of intelligent existence, until we are eventually one with God. You know, just keep coming back better and better until we get it right. I like that one.
That would go along with my theory about the Meaning of Life. I believe that every living creature was created for a reason. Nobody asks to be born, and we have learned how to prevent it. So now that I successfully made it into the world—and I’ll be dead soon, relatively speaking—what will I do during the short time that I am alive? I think that I should contribute something to the world at large, or why else be here, not doing a damn thing except taking and using up precious space? So the meaning of life to me is, “Don’t just sit there…do something!” As a creative artist, entertainer, educator and writer, I believe that I have made and continue to make a significant contribution to the world. That’s indicated by the vast number of people over the years that have come up to me after my various performances and have actually thanked me for enriching their lives with my talent and gifts. I receive written notes and letters on a regular basis thanking me for my artistic participation in their lives.
I have conflicting opinions about suicide. On one hand, I consider it an act of cowardice—that someone should be so afraid to face certain adversities of life that they would kill themself as the easy way out. But on the other hand, I could look at it as a very courageous thing to do. I think it takes great nerve and courage to murder yourself. I suppose that both schools of thought are valid. We get both kinds; it depends on the individual and the circumstances. Some just get tired of living, as in the case of very old, sick people. But how can a 15-year-old suicide victim be tired of living already when they’ve hardly done anything yet? Some feel that their life has become too much to deal with. They don’t seem to realize, however, that whatever they are going through right then will eventually pass. Just have a little patience. Death, on the other hand, is permanent.
I don’t think that I go as far as to consider suicide a crime, though. No one asks to be born, so one should have the right not to live, if continuing to live is not their desire. People should be in control of their own lives, with regard to the right to die. Nobody has the right to forbid another person to take their own life, if they choose to do so. We can counsel them and try to talk them out of it, but if they really want to do it, they will. Therefore, I condone self-requested euthanasia, but only in extreme cases, when the patient’s situation is definitely hopeless, and it’s only a matter of time. If the patient is in dire pain and discomfort, for example, with no hope for recovery, this may be valid grounds for euthanasia, but only if the person themself gives their consent to end it all for them. I would be wary about coma patients, however, since they have been known to recover after many years, in some cases. And then, too, they didn’t give their explicit permission to “pull the plug.”
While we are on the subject of suicide, here is an interesting bit of trivia. In my decades-long quest of collecting records and songs, I have come to the conclusion that there is a song for virtually every situation of life. You can name any topic or idea, and there will be a song somewhere written about it. Suicide is no exception. In 1933 Hungarian pianist-composer Rezsö Seress published a song entitled “The World Is Ending.” When Sam Lewis put English lyrics to it in 1936, it turned into “Gloomy Sunday” and became known as “The Hungarian Suicide Song.” One line in the song proclaims, “My heart and I have decided to end it all.” An urban legend abounds that listening to the song has caused an incredible number of suicides over the years, as if they needed an excuse. Seress himself eventually committed suicide in 1968. The song was once banned from radio airplay, but even so, there are numerous recordings of it and by major artists. I have several versions myself, including Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and Bjork!
If I were ever to off myself, which I don’t think that I will ever do—but I have learned never to say never—I would do it in one of two ways. I would simply take sleeping pills and just go on to sleep—no muss, no fuss. Or I would take the more dramatic approach by getting real stoned and throwing myself, appropriately, off of a high cliff. Consider it bungee-jumping without the cord. I love the sensation of falling, and if I am still conscious by the time I hit the ground, I can only imagine the feeling of my body being dashed to bits on the jagged rocks below or splattered on the pavement at that speed. Ooh! What a rush! I saw an absurd tabloid story one day about a man who supposedly had tried to kill himself about ten times and had failed. He declared, “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to commit suicide. Even if it kills me!” You go, boy!