Some years ago, I came across a story about the fickleness of human perception. A group of movie-goers were treated to an unexpected visitor in the form of a dancing gorilla spliced into the middle of their film. It appeared for only a second at a time, once or twice, throughout the movie. At the end of the film, scientists interviewed the audience and discovered that less than thirty per cent of viewers had acknowledged the inserted footage. The experiment concluded that for the majority of people, they only see what they expect to see.
How is that possible?
Easy – the human brain is designed to filter the information it receives into categories graded by usefulness in completing everyday tasks. It would be impractical for us to be consciously aware of everything around us and in reality, for the kind of lives we lead these days full of modern conveniences, there’s just no need. So, during the course of our long and complicated interactions with the world from the day of our birth we’ve been in training. Shaped by our environment and cues from our peers, we experience life on a need-to-know basis. If it isn’t important for getting to school/work or for cleaning the house we don’t acknowledge it. It passes by in our peripheral never breaking through the barrier into our perceived reality. For the movie-goers – nobody expected to see a gorilla. The frames did not match the footage immediately before and after so for most people the scene was filtered out as an anomaly, an aberrant string of information not needed for the task in hand.
Of course, some of us are more observant than others, more sensitive, more aware. Not necessarily of the whole swirling mass of information but a different portion of it. We’re the ones who see the gorilla and look around in awe at the fact nobody else can see what we see, feel what we feel. We’re wired differently and it’s okay because we’re still within the normal range of human capability. We still operate within normal parameters. There are those who can push a boundary or two across the full spectrum of human potential but for the majority of people these experiences are outside of what is classed as the normal range of experience. They fall into a category sometimes labelled paranormal and because they are not experienced by the majority their existence is questioned.
Now, hot-wired into the sorting process is the fight or flight survival instinct. Fear heightens our ability to experience the world beyond our usual capabilities, any extreme of emotion does. Maybe this is why people encounter ghosts on dark, scary roads. Why they can know something bad is going to happen a moment before it does. Why in our darkest hour we can be witness to miracles. Why sometimes people only realise they’ve seen something that shouldn’t have been there long after the incident happened – it made sense at the time, but gradually the brain fills in the detail and it falls into the ‘don’t process’ category. But we can’t un-see something so what do we do with the information? People often don’t share their experiences because they sound silly, people won’t believe them, they don’t believe themselves. We’re tied into a society that coerces us to stay within the accepted boundaries of the majority.
But you can’t hide the information forever. Sooner or later, it bubbles to the surface, exploits weaknesses in the human psyche to bleed through into our everyday lives. Myths, legends, fairy tales, stories passed down from generation to generation. Tales from the edge that pierce the veils, break through the fog that encompasses the mind, and packages the information to exist within normal limits – as make believe.
And there we have it – make believe. Products of an overactive imagination created to entertain.
The paranormal (insert favourite scary music here) often sends even the most practical people into a cold sweat. They won’t admit it. They’ll argue against it, explain to the poor deluded individuals that enjoy or believe in any such nonsense exactly why it’s all a load of tosh, but – put them in an unfamiliar place with an icy intermittent breeze and some unexpected noises and they’ll have goose bumps like the rest of us. They’ll talk themselves out of it afterwards. Convince themselves it was just adrenaline running wild but for those few moments, when the comfort zone of the familiar is ripped away from them, all the theories and explanations fall away and uncertainty gives way to a tiny bud of fear that maybe, just maybe there is something out there, something hiding, watching, planning. Something beyond our everyday experience that humanity has forgotten. Blocked from our conscious mind through a series of perception filters pulled over oneself to make life more bearable.
Just like the gorilla spliced into the movie.
Paranormal – outside the realm of the ordinary. That covers a lot of ground. Over the coming months you’ll find lots of info here, not only on legends, myths and fairy tales but on sci-fi, parallel dimensions, higher dimensions, and characters who jaywalk through them all (being particularly sexy in the process). Plato referred to a paradigm as the pattern used to create the cosmos. We’ll be playing around with alternate paradigms to the classic version and showing where – even if only in our over-active imaginations – one can cross into another giving birth to many a paranormal experience.
I’m really excited to be part of this new venture. My personal interests lie on the metaphysical side and the realms of future science. In real life, if there is such a thing, I lecture in Science and Esoteric Studies. I keep up to date with research that is pushing mercilessly at the boundaries of our understanding of the universe and how we exist as sentient intelligence within it. What I see happening in research labs around the world is the paranormal being reclassified as normal and yet… we still have so much to explore. One thing is for sure, when we know our own perceptions of reality are based on a small fraction of what we actually see perhaps we should keep more of an open mind when it comes to the make-believe of others.
I hope you’ll join us in the playground for story time and maybe we can share a few real life experiences along the way.