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Tommyjournal  archive    May 2007

As I'd written here last month, I've made the acquaintance of Dr. Brugh Joy, who who claims to be able to sense a person's presence, i.e. by something other than their heat or touch or other well-understood process.

Dr. Joy offered to show me how it's done; I said OK. Two days ago, I met with him and (after talking about a bunch of other things) I got a lesson in sensing so-called subtle energies. The most interesting part of our time together wasn't the lesson, but rather the discussion that preceded it--but I'll cut to the chase.

In a room with subdued lighting, Dr. Joy had me hold my hands over a dark cloth, and asked me to look for faintly visible silvery streaks emanating from my fingertips. (He said it's easier to first learn to see energies rather than to feel them.) I didn't see any.

He asked if I felt a presence when he held his hand near mine. With my eyes closed, I couldn't.

The lesson lasted about 15 minutes, and ended with Dr. Joy encouraging me to practice on my own to develop the ability.

Dr. Joy had previously told me it's easy for him to sense energies, and that out of a few hundred people he'd taught, only six couldn't do it. It looks like I'm number seven--quelle surprise.

I didn't try to test his ability for a few reasons. One, he'd said that he wasn't interested in proving his abilities to anyone; he only offered to teach me how to do it. Two, I wasn't in a position to set up a controlled test; this was a setting of his choice. Three, he had spent the first 95% of the time discussing things (interesting--but largely unrelated to the lesson that followed), leaving only a few minutes at the end for the hands-on part.

For better or worse, all that was offered was instruction, not demonstration. I tried and couldn't do it. I expect that most Tommyjournal readers won't be disappointed if I don't keep practicing until I can see silvery emanations from my fingertips.

Dr. Joy has a good business leading conferences and study groups, but having a following is not evidence that the energies he claims to work with are real.

I don't think Dr. Joy (or anyone else) has these powers. (If anyone wants more explanation of why I'm skeptical, just ask.) What I wonder is, how much does he believe it himself. Are Dr. Joy's standards low enough and is his capacity for self-delusion great enough that he believes in what he's teaching, or is he pulling a fast one? I wouldn't be surprised either way. It's hard to tell in this case, he's crafty.

After Jerry Falwell's death, Anderson Cooper and Christopher Hitchens had this exchange on CNN:
Cooper:Do you believe he [Falwell] believed what he spoke?
Hitchens:Of course not. He woke up every morning pinching his chubby little flanks and thinking "I've got away with it again."
Cooper:You think it was a complete fraud, really. ... Whether you agree or not with his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in what he spoke?
Hitchens:No. I think he was a conscious charlatan, and bully, and fraud.
I would've been interested in hearing why Hitchens was convinced Falwell was a fraud, but he didn't say.


A while back, I wrote
The way business works nowadays, Adam Smith's invisible hand isn't necessarily giving us the most effective products, but rather the most effectively marketed ones.
Similarly, democracy as it is practiced in the USA nowadays only gets us the most effectively marketed candidates and ideas (at least, when rigged elections don't interfere).

I would hope it's obvious that this is not a wonderful state of affairs. I think most people would rather have a reliable car than be convinced with questionable statistics that their car is reliable, and most people don't enjoy being duped by weaselly and/or deceitful politicians.

And so it bugs me that someone as smart as Stanley Fish published an essay like The All-Spin Zone this week, which asserts that spin is no more than "the pronouncing of things from an interested angle"--as if spin as it's practiced in politics didn't also include a measure of deliberate obfuscation and/or deceit.

I also disagree with Dr. Fish's assertion that humans simply cannot "think wordlessly". That is true only if word is intended in so broad a sense that a term like concept or image would be a better choice. For example: if I take a mechanism apart to see how it works, I get a feel for what the parts are and what they do without describing them in words--and in some cases without knowing the mechanical engineering jargon for the parts I'm looking at. It's easy to see how a part slides or rotates or engages another part without any words like "slide", "rotate", or "engage" coming to mind.

More on Fish's essay here (where I first heard about it), here, and here.

And I also call to your attention the fact that Dinosaur Comics totally rocks today. I bought the RAM but now I can barely even enjoy it, indeed.

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan introduced an anecdote about HIV patients in a hospital with the line
I remember a story told by a friend during the plague years.
The implication is that the plague years are behind us.

I'm glad you're doing well Andrew, and I'm glad we have better treatments than we used to (and I'm glad I can take them). But not everyone is getting the drugs, and the degree to which they work varies from person to person.

I wish I were feeling well enough and that the epidemic were well enough controlled worldwide to talk about plague years as if they were history.

And to make a linguistic comment, I'm fascinated by how Sullivan's statement places the plague years in the past without explicitly saying so. The phrase "during _____" can also apply to a situation in progress, yet in this case that's obviously not the intended message.

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