Saturday, 17 December 2016

Where have I been…? Perhaps farther than I thought!

Hiya folks! As we are now hurtling toward that key transitional period of the year - when all things seem to take on a bizarre level of significance for many people - it felt like a good time to catch up with you all and bring you up to speed on my absence. Some of you (especially those who I have had contact with away from this blog) may be wondering where I have disappeared to. Some people have emailed me or left a message in the comments (prior to comment approval) asking how I am, what I have been up to, etc. Others may have given up on waiting to hear from me! If any of this applies to you, then I am so sorry for not having got back to you and I want you to know that, despite my absence, I truly appreciate your concern and kind comments. So let’s get into the reasons for my absence.

There is a generic reason for why I seem to have largely vacated the planet throughout 2016. It is health related – however the circumstances surrounding my health (which I will elaborate on in a moment) created a “side-effect” which figuratively catapulted me into the proverbial “Twilight Zone” earlier this year and it seems that every time I have attempted to pull myself out, I have been unceremoniously flung back in! I have spent nine months trying to make sense of my personal experiences throughout 2016 and concluded that there now needs to be a major change in my attitude toward my experiences if I am ever to move forward. In this blog entry, I will attempt to recount my experiences for you. This is an uncomfortable experience for me as I live my life in a very pragmatic, no-nonsense kind of way and the experiences I have had seem to be anything but. Although I do have (for want of a better word) a “spiritual” core – grounded in notions of energy and consciousness, but not any form of dogmatic, organised religion or belief system – I insist that any notion must be, at the very least, quantifiable before I entertain it. I’m not prone to flights of fancy or considerations of every single concept that could be dreamt up by the human mind. Although I am very open-minded, you might be surprised to learn (considering this website addresses the ideas of conspiracies, cover-ups, the esoteric, and alternative knowledge) that there are some matters that I cannot engage with. My search for quantifiable and evidential answers gives me no choice but to rule out certain subjects from any consideration if the evidence is conclusive to the contrary – case in point: why do many people continue to insist that a case can be made for a “Flat Earth” when the evidence to the contrary is so easily demonstrable!?

I know the kind of raised eyebrows and knowing smirks that people often give when confronted by paradigms that simply seem too “out there” – I have even fallen victim to a wayward smirk myself from time to time. I also realise that some recounted “experiences” are “fodder for the cannon” when it comes to sceptics and naysayers. As somebody who researches alternative knowledge, I am quite prepared to be called a “wackadoo” – so long as I have some good evidence with which to counter the attack. However, with the particular experiences I have had this year, I have no means of proof. I have only my word to give you. If I were mounting an evidence-based case to prove something, I would be laughed out of court. As I have said many times over my years of writing this blog: I will leave it for you to decide. Writing this blog entry is uncharted waters for me. Up until now, I have shared the full details of my experiences with three people only… and only with those people because they are open-minded, I trust them, and they know me enough to be certain that I am not in the habit of making crazy shit up!

First off, I will get the easy to explain stuff out the way: my health. After several years of serious problems with my back, I was finally admitted to hospital in March of this year for spinal surgery. As my regular readers and supporters will know, this surgery didn’t exactly turn out as I planned. Although I initially had high hopes of success and eventually moved myself back into a largely regular day-to-day routine (circa early summer), with a positive attitude toward “life”, I still remained dogged by persistent pain. I had to move forward and spent a brief period of time (in hindsight prematurely) preparing interviews with fellow alternative researchers, readying public talks for the latter part of the year, and researching subjects for my next batch of writing projects. I was desperate to get things back on track. I had already postponed a number of projects by a considerable number of months and didn’t want to keep messing myself or other people about. The pain still remained. By now, I had tried any number of alternative treatments as it seemed that the mainstream medical route had failed me. The alternatives seemed to be just as ineffective. Then, on top of all this, I once again began having stretches of time where I couldn’t stand and walk about. Again, I couldn’t even sit to write or read. I would spend hours on my back (and not for the nice reasons!), metaphorically twiddling my thumbs and getting evermore frustrated that I wasn’t doing the things that I wanted to do. Eventually, weeks would go by without my contacting people (in the case of some people, many months). I felt sure that some researchers, who I had a great deal of respect for, had just given up on me and may now be considering me as a “Johnny Fly-by-Night” – who only gets in touch with people when it suits me! (I couldn’t be further from that type of person, by the way!) It may seem like a simple matter to send somebody an email but when sitting at a computer for even a few minutes (I don’t have internet on my mobile phone) becomes as painful as climbing a rock face, you start to realise just how cut off you are from many people. Things got worse after the summer and I found myself constantly back and forth from Doctors and hospital, absent from work, not getting anything substantial done with my life, and constantly being buzzed by strange experiences in “The Twilight Zone”!!!

As I mentioned before, the complicated events of this year began for me in March when I was admitted to hospital for spinal surgery. During the procedure, I was under general anaesthetic for about an hour or two. I have had general anaesthetic several times in my life so I knew what to expect. During the procedure, I became aware of watching myself being operated on. I was face down as the surgery obviously involved approaching my spine from the back. However, I knew it was me as I recognised a small but very noticeable birth mark I have part-way up the outer side of my left leg. There seemed to be a lot of commotion going on around me but I was more distracted by a banging / knocking noise on a door in the operating room. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention to this banging and so I walked around the room to the door and opened it. Beyond the door was a beach – not a tropical beach; just one of those you would typically find along the East coast of England – very flat, murky water, grey skies, drizzle in the air, and very cold. A short distance away along the beach was an old man (approx. 80+ years of age), dressed warmly and leaning on a walking stick with a brass “duck head” handle. He called me over to him and I became immediately aware that this man was an old-aged version of myself. He told me that something had “gone wrong” with the surgery and that my number was pretty much up. He then said that it would be okay, that I would be “going back”, but that “things would be different.” The conversation was very brief. A nurse patted me on my shoulder, who led me back through the door to my hospital environment. She asked me to lay down on a trolley (which was located in the recovery room adjacent to the O.R.) and shut my eyes. I opened them again and was told by another nurse that the operation was completely fine and there had been no complications or problems.

At this point, for the sake of being pragmatic, I must point out that I have dreamt about meeting an old-aged version of myself on an English beach on several occasions throughout my life. In these dreams, the “old me” usually imparts “pearls of wisdom” and portents of the future – one or two of these did come to pass but most were codswallop! Many years ago I described the walking stick of the “old me” to a close friend, who then subsequently spotted one identical to the stick I had described at a car boot sale. She brought it for me and I still have it at home! But I digress…

All of the aforementioned I could actually file in my mind as a curiosity and leave it at that, had it not been for what followed. During my “recovery” period from the surgery, there wasn’t much that I could do with my time other than rest and ease myself into an exercise regime that would strengthen my body and aid recovery. I spent a fair amount of time with family and close friends, often nattering away the hours. With nothing much going on in my contemporary life, we would talk about our shared experiences and I quickly noticed that something was really wrong. My recollection of personal events and experiences was seriously off-kilter with the recollections of my friends and family. There were many memories that tallied with mine, but others just seemed plain wrong. This occurrence began to escalate, even to the point where my memory of a distant past relationship with a girl was seemingly forgotten by everybody but me (I did try to contact her for confirmation but I couldn’t seem to find her for love nor money!) In other cases, my friends and family talked about things that I had done and experienced that I still (even now) have no memory of. I will honestly admit that I feared slightly for my health during this period, as this phenomenon seemed to be happening daily (often hourly) and caused much confusion and a number of arguments! As I was still (what they call) “under” the hospital where I had my operation, my post-operative care required follow-up appointments with my consultant/surgeon and I was able to address my concerns about the continued amount of pain I was in and the possibility that something in my spine had been affected or damaged that could perhaps even cause neurological side-effects. After a follow-up CT/MRI, I was reassured that there was no more damage and nothing that could cause other (such as neurological) problems. In any case, despite the reassurances of my consultant/surgeon, both the pain and the bizarre experiences continued. Unlike the pain, the experiences did begin to lessen – probably because I tried very hard not to pay any attention to them. I’m a big believer in the idea that the more you focus your attention and energy on something, the more you exacerbate the phenomenon. This is great when it is something positive or constructive, but not so much if it’s something negative, disturbing or uncomfortable.

By late August, I was largely ignoring my “memory” experiences. Then something happened that kicked everything into high gear again. First though, a little context. I have a bit of a “soft spot” for my dog! I love taking him for walks (not really since the operation though) and sitting in the garden with him! I have quite a large back garden (long as opposed to wide… no innuendos about size please!!) and get quite a bit of local wildlife in the form of birds, hedgehogs, frogs, cats, etc. My dog is a bit of a maniac when it comes to other animals! As much as I try to discourage him from chasing the wildlife, it is inevitable that he bounds off in pursuit of a cat or bird sooner or later. With my current back pain, he gets away from me in seconds flat. Fortunately, he has never attacked or cornered an animal… he just loves the chase, I think! His favourite pursuit is a snooty pigeon who comes and perches himself on a low branch (about six feet above the ground) at the very top of the garden. When the pigeon appears, my dog sets off like the clappers and I’m always reminded of the opening credits to a famous British cartoon about an animated dog called “Roobarb”!  (See:
) This imagery has returned to my thoughts for the last several years - every time my dog chases the pigeon. In my head I see Roobarb running and this has always prompted another bit of nostalgia – that of “Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines” chasing the pigeon in the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Viewers of the cartoon will recall that it had a fantastic and funky theme tune. I remember it well and have on occasion found myself singing the tune in my head whenever my dog has set off in pursuit of his pigeon foe!

Anyway, late August of 2016, sat in the garden with the dog, pigeon in his sight, I found myself thinking of the tune again: “Catch the Pigeon, Catch the Pigeon…” I thought that I really must revisit the theme tune at some point and that it would be easy to find on YouTube somewhere. Unusually, “Catch the Pigeon” lodged itself in my head for a little longer than usual that day and I decided to look it up. I asked a family member to use their laptop and type in the words “Dastardly and Muttley”, “theme song”, “catch the pigeon” on YouTube and this is what I found:
As I sat there watching, I was perplexed by Dastardly repeatedly singing “Stop the Pigeon”. My memory was apparently wrong – yet again! I noticed immediately below the video, in the comments section, that somebody had written that they also remembered the theme tune as “Catch the Pigeon”. There were numerous other comments repeating the notion. One comment said that this memory recollection “error” was an example of something called “The Mandela Effect”. I had not heard of this term before. Initially, I wondered if I had stumbled onto a phenomenon that could somewhat explain what I had been experiencing.

Here is what a cursory internet search for The Mandela Effect will usually turn up: “The Mandela Effect is a term for where a group of people all mis-remember the same detail, event or physicality. It is named after the instance in which a large group of people all shared the same memory that Nelson Mandela died prior to his actual 2013 death, usually sometime in the 1980’s. The effect exploded in popularity on the internet when a peculiar example popped up where a majority of people seemed to have recalled the Berenstain Bears books as being spelled as “Berenstein” or some other variation, differing from the actual spelling as presented by evidence. The effect is somewhat different from a false memory as it effects large groups of people, seemingly without many connections and without the same emotional factors present. It also seems stronger and harder to escape the feeling that it’s simply a mis-remembering of a detail, which is why people are so adamant with claims of their memories. As such, it’s often been hinted at that the Mandela Effect is closely related to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can be mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds beliefs, ideas, or values and is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Please note the use of “can be” as there is many purists that don’t accept the broader definition and scope of cognitive dissonance applying to memory versus reality. Many Mandela Effects are usually trivial details about an oddly specific set of categories. These include things such as the how and when of celebrity deaths, misspellings (usually replaced or removed letters), placement of geographical locations, quotations within media, or alternate imagery. It is also related to misconceptions in general, although, again is differentiated due to the obscure nature and odd feelings resulting from learning the reality. The solutions, explanations and reasons for the misconceptions are also cryptic and often misrepresented or unknown altogether. The term it fits most with is “confabulation” which is a disturbance of memory which produces fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about the world, without the explicit or conscious intention to deceive others. People who confabulate in this way produce incorrect memories about the most trivial details (as seen with most Mandela Effects) but range up to more complex fabrications as well. They are generally extremely confident in their recollections and will typically resist any contradictory evidence.”

More recently, I have come to the conclusion that the generic paradigm of “The Mandela Effect” and all the discussions surrounding it are nothing more than “internet noise” based on flimsy reasoning and half-baked theories (i.e.: the notion that people are remembering events from “parallel universe” realities… where is the hard proof of this?) I also have some evidence that the paradigm (like the “Flat Earth” noise on the internet) has been perpetuated (perhaps even entirely conceived) by parties looking to distract and discredited those who have serious questions about the nature of reality and the unseen world around us. For these reasons, I have some serious misgivings about the whole “Mandela Effect” paradigm and what it is possibly being used for. With the exception of my “Catch the Pigeon” snafu (and another song I seem to remember that no one else does), all of my memory “experiences” have been entirely personal and have no relationship to pop culture references, geography, everyday imagery, etc. Some of those people who discuss the proverbial “Mandela Effect” are convinced that there has been a mass consciousness “shift” / experience building over recent years and that this phenomenon has been most prevalent in 2016. I do find it curious that my experiences have wholly occurred in 2016 (since my operation) and that, as far as I can recall, I have not experienced anything remotely like it at any other time in my life. Unfortunately, the mass notion that such a phenomenon is happening more now than ever before is seemingly based on nothing more than guesswork or theory. It doesn’t seem to have any basis in quantifiable evidence – at least not at the moment. That said, 2016 has been a very strange year – not just for me, but for many people I know. Many of my friends and associates have had incredible misfortune this year. I have lost track of the amount of people I know who have lost close loved ones (of all ages) to a sudden illness or death in 2016 – far more than any other previous year. I have to accept that this may just be pure coincidence, but I also acknowledge that it is strange all the same.

As for my own experiences, having overcome the nagging feeling that this year has been somewhat jinxed for me personally, I have to move forward positively and constructively. I have memory filed my experiences for future reference but put them aside in order to not let them dictate my future. If there is any significance to what I have experienced, then I am sure the true meaning of them will be revealed in time – but I won’t be dwelling on them. The most important thing I can do now is start fresh and 2017 seems as good a time as any to do this. Yes, I am still in great pain. Yes, I’m still having occasions when I’m stopped in my tracks by my physical health problems. Yes, I may disappear from view for periods. But none of this can be helped. No one is more frustrated by this than me!

For now, I just want to thank you all for your understanding and continued support and positive thoughts. Once again, my apologies for the lack of blog entries this year, the postponed arrangements, the lack of contact with fellow researchers. I will endeavour to put all this right in the year to come… at least try my best in any case! To you all, I give my best wishes of the season and positive thoughts for a prosperous and healthy new year.

Until next time!