In the late eighties, when I was in high school, there was a kid named Wylie who sat in front of me in Washington State History class. I wouldn’t say we were friends, but casual acquaintances. Wylie got in a serious motorcycle accident and spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital. One morning right before I woke up I had a dream that Wylie was standing on the offramp of the Starbird Road exit near my house, waiting for someone to arrive from the south. I woke up from this dream and groggily walked into the kitchen right as my dad was coming in from getting the morning newspaper. When he laid the Skagit Valley Herald on the table, I saw that the picture on the front page was of Wylie, standing at the Starbird Road exit. The story was about how, after he was released from the hospital, Wylie waited at the northbound offramp to reunite with a friend.
One day in November of 2016, I took my kids to Mount Vernon to visit my parents. On the drive up, I started daydreaming about taking the kids to see the movie Dr. Strange that night at the Cascade Mall. I imagined walking into the lobby of the theater and running into my childhood friend, Epi Sedano, in front of the concession stand. I got a warm feeling, thinking how nice it would be to see him after not having seen him for many years. That night, we went to the movie, and lo and behold, Epi was standing there, in precisely the place I had imagined he would.
One day last summer I was talking to my employer, Paul Hubert, at his R&D lab in Redmond. Our conversations tend to meander through a variety of topics, and for some reason I got on the subject of a weird subgrenre of ‘70s pop music, the trucker song. I mentioned a 1975 novelty song called “Convoy” by C.W. McCall, which features a lot of trucker lingo. The next day, I went to yoga class, and waiting in the lobby I picked up a copy of Harper’s magazine. The first article I turned to was about the song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall. I thought this was a weird coincidence. Later that day while heading to pick my kids up from school, I turned on NPR, just in time to hear their story about the song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall.
A couple weekends ago, I went to Mount Vernon with my girlfriend, Lisa. On our way back to Seattle, we stopped by Sky Muse Studios in Stanwood to visit my friend Ron Jones. As we pulled into the long driveway, Lisa asked me when we’d been here before. I replied that this was the first time she’d ever been there. She insisted that she recognized this place. I shrugged and said that maybe she was just experiencing a memory echo from the future. I immediately recognized that my response was weirdly matter-of-fact.
These are just a few instances of the times I have experienced what Carl Jung called synchronicity, or meaningful coincidences. Everybody I know has experienced these uncanny moments. You’ll think of someone you haven’t thought about in years and run into them on the sidewalk hours later. Most people seem to have experiences with déjà vu and have strong feelings about the future.
One day when I was about thirteen I was watching a high school football practice, thinking about the gallows humor that accompanies peoples’ fortieth birthdays—the black balloons and “over the hill” messages. In a flash, it struck me forcefully that my fortieth year would be awesome. I couldn’t wait to turn forty. I had this feeling that my life would become incredibly exciting and eventful in my forties, and over the years I mentioned this feeling to a fair number of family and friends. My intuition about the future turned out to be spot-on. My forties have proved to be the most eventful and fascinating decade of my life by far.
I’m thinking about this stuff as I’m attempting to digest a very dense and thrilling academic paper called “Consciousness in the Universe is Scale Invariant and Implies an Event Horizon of the Human Brain” by two Dutch professors, Dirk K.F. Meijer and J.H. Geesink. Here’s what I understand of the theory, and I readily admit that I could be misunderstanding it.
- Consciousness is the result of our brain interfacing with a field that resides in a dimension outside of the brain.
- The mechanism by which our brains interface with this field involves quantum entanglement (by which particles separated by distance nonetheless interact as if aware of each other) and quantum tunneling (in which particles can penetrate barriers in ways that classical physics would have us believe are impossible).
- The shape of this field can be represented geometrically as a torus. In other words, donut-shaped. The properties of this torus are hyperspherical. Basically this means that the outside borders of the object contract while the interior expands, so that what was once the content becomes the context and vice versa. I’m not explaining this very well. Wikipedia, take it away.
- The properties of this field of consciousness may allow for instances of retro-causality, or future events having influence on the present.
Ready to get really weird? Okay, here we go.
Let’s suppose it’s true, that human consciousness connects with a larger, universal consciousness. This would seem to jive with various religious and philosophical traditions. Yesterday in yoga, during savasana, I brought into my mind the image of a hypersurfaced torus. This image competed with some thoughts on whether or not I should have tomato soup or a sandwich for lunch. Nonetheless, I found myself closer than I have been in a long time to attaining a sort of egoless state, which didn’t last very long. I quickly remembered that I was lying on my back in a yoga studio, my consciousness yanking me back.
The concept of a universal consciousness also feels congruent with my experiences as a creative artist. My whole life I’ve felt that my writing comes from outside of me, from some other place, and that the essential substance of it simply gets presented through the symbols that I apply to it. When I was little I started talking to my writing as if it were a trusted friend and independent consciousness, and I still do. When I taught creative writing, I devised a series of exercises in which my students would write letters to and from their writing itself, which seemed to unlock their creativity in fascinating ways. Part of me recognizes that this sounds wacky, but I have long ago stopped caring because it’s an effective way to generate more and better work. Whether it reflects an scientifically sound cognitive method or is just a handy trick strikes me as beside the point.
In 2007, I had an opportunity to have lunch with David Lynch. Between his Diet Coke and chicken parmesan he talked about the concept of the “unified field” from which ideas percolate. As is widely known, Lynch is a proponent of transcendental meditation and likes to say ideas are like fish that can be caught with the net of the mind. Expanding the size of the net means you can catch bigger fish—better ideas.
Artists often speak of this feeling that ideas come from a place beyond them. Paul McCartney famously wrote “Yesterday” in a dream and was convinced, when he sat down to play it the next day, that he was remembering a song somebody else had written. The Greeks spoke of the muses, deities who provided poets with their songs.
So there may be evidence of truth in the notion that creative expression comes from “somewhere else,” which resonates with my own and others’ experiences in seeming defiance of logic and science. What’s fascinating is that this “somewhere else” could be a cosmic space donut.
I haven’t gotten to the really weird part yet. Hang on.
Just for fun, let’s agree that this cosmic consciousness exists. Now let’s assume that other sentient life exists in the universe. Could it be that aliens also interface with the cosmic consciousness? Could it be that we can communicate trans-dimentionally with them, and that these communications provoked our astonishingly rapid evolution to the point that we are now on the verge of developing technology—quantum computer-powered artificial intelligence–that can communicate with this field, and these beings, in an even deeper way?
As one tends to do, I plunged down a rabbit hole on the Internet and discovered another concept called xenolinguistics, the study of hypothetical alien languages, a concept brilliantly explored in the recent movie Arrival. Speaking of movies, the other night I happened upon a clip from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the scene of the space ship communicating with the earthlings via music. Perhaps it’s music that is one key to communicating with alien intelligences via the cosmic space donut. Which, by the way, is echoed in musicology via something called neo-Reimannian theory, which can be represented geometrically in the form of—wait for it—a torus.
I admit that these speculations set off my solid state, cosmic hippie bullshit alarm, a security system rigorously developed during my years as an undergraduate at The Evergreen State College. As a fiction writer, there are certain ideas that don’t have to be empirically true to be valuable—it’s only necessary that they be interesting. In the end, the real purpose of these thoughts seems to be that thinking them is fun.
Another thing to consider is that the words you’re reading are the product of an individual, fallible human brain that’s curious about how itself works. These words are communicated via a global information storage and retrieval system, accessed by some dude on his laptop in a café in the twenty-first century, a dude who is currently debating whether soup or a sandwich sounds better for lunch.