for my friend Shawn Chapman
Can we trust our own senses? Witnesses to the high strange reliably report all type of fanciful, unusual, and frankly unbelievable sights and sensations to those of us resting comfortably in consensus reality.
It’s easy to brush off their accounts, after all, how can people be expected to accurately take in a completely new sensory event, one for which they have no context or prior warning?
Yesterday I was standing in the dining room, looking over some bills, when I suddenly had an entirely novel visual impression. A gooey squirt of rusty brown shot across my visual field, from right to left and back to front, in high definition 3D. A rusty yellow tinged my right visual field, as the slatternly arabesque started to twist and degrade, shattering into a lazy firework that slowly dissolved over about 15 minutes, leaving me with a bazillion grey and black floaters.
At the same time I got a huge migraine aura (I’ve suffered from migraine with aura and ocular migraine for many decades) and was having great difficulty speaking (one of my typical symptoms). Thankfully I didn’t have any other signs of stroke, but I was concerned.
In fact, my sense was that I’d had a bleed in the back of my right eye, into the gel like gooey center. I called the optometrist, and an examination showed that is exactly what had happened. I had a vitreous detachment, just one of those things that happens as our bodies age. It should heal up just fine with no damage to my vision.
But it made me think of all the eyewitnesses to the high strange who have their testimony poohpoohed or equivocated over, with researchers citing various studies that prove our senses and memories are fallible. Which point I will not argue.
However, at the same time, it beggars belief that we could survive as creatures wandering the earth with no reliable means of input on the state of our material surroundings – the ability to discern food from poison, friend from foe, shelter from storm.
I’m not asking people to swallow all witness testimony whole – simply that we not dismiss it out of hand or pick away at it with various psychological studies, but instead investigate it as best we can. And to consider that a thousand years ago people no doubt saw the same thing I did yesterday, before anyone had developed lenses capable of confirming our vision.