Monday, December 30, 2013

Premonitions Of Baseball Great Roberto Clemente's New Year's Eve Plane Crash

January 1, 1973, was a memorable New Year's Day for me.
My mother had been in the bed sick for several days. Christmas break from school was almost but not quite over for me and I had spent that New Year's Day curled up at the foot of Mom's bed comforting her. Thinking back some four decades now I can still recall the evening newspaper being delivered and me lying there and unfolding it to find the shocking headline among the front page's stories: "Baseball's Clemente Dies In Plane Crash." 
Well now, here was a baseball (my favorite sport at the time) superstar I had watched many times in televised baseball games and had collected his bubble gum cards over the years, someone I genuinely admired, and he had suddenly died in a plane crash while on a humanitarian effort to carry much needed supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.  
I was genuinely happy to have my mom's company at that moment. And a familiar and much discussed family saying (one of my dad's favorites, as I recall), "life is uncertain but death is sure," was considered anew.
A month after I read of Clemente's death, another story appeared, written by AP correspondent Will Grimsley, that detailed the premonitions the baseball great's family had experienced. Roberto Jr., who was seven years old at the time of his father's death, is quoted as saying to his maternal grandfather, with whom he was spending the evening, "Grandpa, Daddy is leaving for Nicaragua, but he is not coming back."
In a New York Times story many years later Clemente Jr., on his childhood experience:
"I can still remember just feeling that something wasn't right,'' he said. ''I told my mother, 'Don't let Daddy go. That plane's going to crash.' She yelled at me. I ran outside. He came out and said, 'I'll come back soon and we'll play catch. I told him, 'You're not coming back.' ''
But that is not all. Grimsley also reports that the father of Roberto Clemente had a premonition as well in the form of a dream:
"I had this terrible dream," the father said, "I saw the plane crash, and Roberto go down with it."  
What I came to learn only later was that Clemente himself seemed to have had a premonition that he would die young.
In the authoritative The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, authored by David Finoli and Bill Ranier, the plane crash is discussed in some detail on page 588. There we learn that a Pirate's teammate, Jose Pagan, was concerned about Clemente's well being and attempted to warn him about the plane's safety. The authors write:
Roberto responded by telling his teammate that he believed in the people who were preparing the DC-7 and if it were time for him to die making the trip, then he would die. Clemente had many premonitions in his life about an early death and was convinced he would never make it to middle age.
The authors then continue with the effort of another Clemente teammate, catcher Manny Sanguillen, to avoid the disaster. Sanguillen had originally planned to go with Clemente on the plane trip but backed out amid concerns about the plane being unsafe:
He tried to get to the airport in time to warn Clemente and try to convince him not to go, but he had car problems and was unable to make it in time.   
We are told that for days after the crash Sanguillen dove repeatedly into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean searching for his friend. Clemente's body was never recovered.

Again we are left to ponder "what if?" Clemente seems to have had a fatalistic streak in his psyche. Moreover, being the caring and giving individual he was, it is certain that even absent said fatalistic streak he would not have backed out of his mission. He died trying to aid suffering people.

(Photo credit:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Change In Outlook

Since youth the world has struck me as an odd yet wonderful place. Being raised as I was in a very religious environment it was only natural that I viewed life through the prism of my religious belief system. The problem there was that when I got older and lost my religious faith I had no way to make sense of everything. I moved away from the spiritual way of thinking and moved to the material.
The interest I have shown lately in premonitions, prophetic dreams, and other forms of the manifestation of what has been called a "sixth sense" (I suppose that phrase isn't as popular now as it once was) or deep intuition made sense enough when I was knee-deep in the framework of my Christian worldview, but not so much when I moved on to a freethinking and scientific materialist one.
Perhaps most striking to me was the fact that the Cosmos seems to be designed, or at least it makes a certain sense. Again, easy enough when I thought that back of it was the Christian God, harder to think about without some idea of a creative intelligence.
So when I became a freethinker I was forced by the adoption of the materialist science outlook to dismiss the uncanniness of life as an amazing chain of coincidences and nothing more. As for the organization of the universe, literally Cosmos or harmonistic system, ah, that too had to be dismissed as an astoundingly fortunate coincidence. 
I held that stance with increasing uneasiness the more I thought back over my life, the more I listened to the experiences of others, and almost just as moving, as I started documenting the experiences that others had. I came around to suspecting that the skeptic's "magic thinking" meme was more a belittling pejorative than a serious charge.
After all, it finally occurred to me that if "magical thinking" or a more metaphysical and less materialistic worldview is so widespread and has been widespread (almost universal at one time in human evolution), perhaps it is just as natural as breathing. I'm not arguing that this is a proof of the truthfulness of "magical thinking," but that at the least it is natural - say, something "hardwired" into the human mind, as has been suggested.
In fact, it seems to take a great deal of effort to deprogram one's self from the "magical" outlook.
Now it seems that a small minority, an intelligentsia as it were, has made so-called magical thinking a symbol of credulity and simple-mindedness. I would instead call "magical thinking" a sense of wonderment and mystery, an admission that our knowledge, the greatest knowledge of the greatest human minds, is at best limited in scope by the very nature of the case.  
Perhaps, I've allowed myself to conclude, the basic concept of "magical thinking" is not against what modern science tells us about the Universe. Perhaps in time some of today's "woo woo" will become the knowledge of the future. History seems to give ample reason for that suspicion.
I can only imagine how incredible to ancient minds the idea of space travel would have been. Human flight used to be solely the domain of myth. Even as late as a few hundred years ago it was deemed a scientific impossibility. Yet today humans routinely travel around the globe at astounding speeds, and of course space travel is common. These represent achievements not only of human skill and technical savvy but human imagination as well.  

The myths of yesteryear from which the great religious traditions of the world sprang have much to tell us about the human psyche. Which brings me around to the concept of mind. I've come to embrace a suspicion that mind is all there is and that animal minds are just small manifestations of the overmind, the great Logos of the Cosmos. I've come to accept that we interact with the Cosmos and that not only do we speak to and engage it, but that it also speaks to us and engages us. (Personally, I don't think that is "woo," but protoscience awaiting further development.) Myths, then, are true in the sense that they are expressions of how we connect to the cosmos and how it connects with us. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

"I Get Impressions From The Universe At Large"

I recently did a post about scientist and inventor George Washington Carver, whose story impressed me so much in my youth. Well, really Carver still impresses me. Carver expressed a sense of intuition that came to him through the avenue of the divine as expressed through nature.
Also in my youth I became familiar with another inventor scientist, Thomas Alva Edison. His name was familiar to me from youth because by great-grandparents on my mother's side of the family hailed from Michigan and my great-grandfather actually knew Edison. I never knew my great-grandparents, for they died before I was born, however my mom was very proud of the family connection to Edison and related it often. My great-grandfather actually visited Edison in his laboratory.
Thomas Edison was widely sought out for his views about almost everything. He seemed to have strong opinions of most things. He also expressed a view of intuition similar to Carver's:
I have never created anything, I get impressions from the Universe at large and work them out, but I am only a plate on a record or a receiving apparatus -- what you will. Thoughts are really impressions that we get from outside.  
Now that doesn't seem odd considering his overall outlook as expressed in the following quote:
I believe in the existence of a Supreme Intelligence pervading the Universe.
Edison was not a believer in the popular notions of God and religion. He was good friends with the Great Agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll, whom he admired greatly. But he did hold, as the ancient Stoics tended to, that back of existence there is a mind or Logos. Evidently he felt, as do many intuitive scientists, that the reason the universe is understandable is because it is meant to be understood.
That is my view, too. For many of us that is enough.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Strange Truth

It was the incomparable wit and writer Mark Twain who said: "Truth is stranger than fiction...." What doesn't usually get included in that quote is the rest of his thought: "... but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

I once had a close friend who was (except in his rare weaker moments) a strong atheist and scientific materialist.  We spent many happy hours together drinking intoxicating beverages and debating the question, "What is truth."

Once I made an offhand comment - and it was offhand and not at all meant to be taken in a strict sense - that "anything's possible." Who of us hasn't said that or at least have heard someone say it? My friend almost became unhinged and started explaining to me why "no, not anything is possible," coming at me from a Einstenian deterministic philosophical position.

I had to have a chuckle and poke a little fun at him for his almost religious zeal in defending what he considered to be orthodox truth. I didn't know then and don't know now exactly what is and isn't possible in this grand universe of ours, But coming as I did from a religious background that thought the (Protestant) Bible was literally God's Word and absolute truth, I couldn't help but recognize the similarity in people's devotion to various perceived orthodoxies.

After my friend exited my life and we lost touch, I admit that I did slowly and gradually over the years allow myself to become locked into a skeptical worldview that put me at odds with what the majority of my fellow humans take for granted - that is, that there is, for lack of a better way of putting it, a mystical, almost magical element to life. That isn't to say that now my open-mindedness has no limit. No, I'm just becoming more aware of how some people have allowed themselves to take the miracle of life for granted. I will say this: Now I'm less inclined to talk about Truth than I am truths. I'm less willing to debate and more willing to listen and exchange ideas.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"I'm Not Going To Wake Up"

Little 13-year-old Jahi McMath needed a tonsillectomy to correct an obstruction in her breathing which was causing sleep apnea. Although that is a routine surgery complications can and occasionally do develop. They did in McMath's surgery. In fact, she went through the surgery okay but developed bleeding afterwards while in recovery and then later went into cardiac arrest. As a result she is now brain dead. The family has so far left her on life support. The sad story can be read by clicking this link.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of that sweet little girl.
Jahi's uncle explained to CNN:
"The worst thing about all of this is that Jahi told my sister, 'I don't want to get this surgery, something bad is going to happen. I'm not going to wake up,' "

A child's not unreasonable fear and anxiety over a major life event or a premonition? I now have quite a collection of these types of stories (not all involving inklings of impending death). It is very hard for me dismiss this type of thing lightly now.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Those Amazing Ancients!

I'm a big fan of the show Ancient Aliens. It's fun. Now, not for a minute do I buy into the speculations of their so-called "ancient alien theorists." But I do enjoy the journey back to the age of myth. And I especially enjoy looking at the amazing feats of the ancients as displayed in the ruins of ancient civilizations.
For a long time I've entertained the idea that those folks living way back in the olden days were way more sophisticated than most folks give them credit for having been. Do you think that most people are aware that the earliest flushing toilets may date back some 4,000 years to ancient Crete? How about a battery that may date back two thousand or more years? There is still debate about when and how the pyramids in Egypt were built, but no one denies they represent an amazing feat of construction. (And it isn't odd that pyramids appear not just in Egypt but also in various places around the world, even the Americas?)  
Then this morning as I was scanning the news I found a BBC story that suggests the discovery of an ancient metacarpal bone allegedly
...provides evidence for the evolution of the modern human hand more than 600,000 years earlier than previously documented and probably in the times of the genus Homo erectussensu lato.
Interesting. And also suggestive that no matter how much we think we know about ancient history (or anything, really), there is so much we don't know.
Placing the origin of hand dexterity further back in history means humans had more time to develop the skills that left us so many amazing artifacts.

Sometimes I think we modern humans ought to get over ourselves!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Live. And Let Live.

How easy it is to become so excited about one's personal beliefs and tastes that we come close to imposing them on others. Another all-too-common human frailty is becoming so totally convinced that our views are not only correct but are also very nearly indispensable for enjoying the good life (sometime and for some folks both here and in a putative hereafter).
Live, I say, and try to do it to the best of our ability; drink deeply from the vast river of life, savoring every sweet mouthful. But don't forget to allow others to drink freely from its fathomless streams in however manner best suits them. The river is deep and there is plenty of water to taste.
I dribble on and on here at my blog about the various aspects of life that interest me. I have no theory or set of theories as to what the truth is, and to be honest, I'm fairly convinced no one else or no single school of thought has a final theory-of-everything. I only have ways of looking at things that my sampling of life has suggested to me.
So let us live. And let us allow everyone else the same privilege.
I'm probably coming around again to a view that I held early on in life (in a very different manner than I did then because I was only sipping from one well that supplied by the river of life). Then later, for a couple of decades there, I was in danger, I believe, of detaching myself from the river's depths.
Of course, I'm aware others might think folks like myself are deluded about how deep those waters are; or perhaps they just feel that we know the surface of the river so well that it is same down below no matter how deeply it flows. Perhaps they are correct. Perhaps they are not. I can only experience life for myself and draw my own conclusions. And sometimes even those closest to me don't understand.  
There is however a quote from the recently deceased writer Colin Wilson that speaks to me in a special way:
“Religion, mysticism and magic all spring from the same basic ‘feeling’ about the universe: a sudden feeling of meaning, which human beings sometimes ‘pick up’ accidentally, as your radio might pick up some unknown station. Poets feel that we are cut off from meaning by a thick, lead wall, and that sometimes for no reason we can understand the wall seems to vanish and we are suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite interestingness of things.”
Just saying....


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Unlimited Broadcasting Stations

Since I was a youth I was inspired by the story of genius scientist and inventor George Washington Carver. He accomplished so much in his botanical studies, aided humanity so much through his efforts, although he sadly seems to be largely forgotten these days. And especially interesting to me was his method:
No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing that I am to do and the way of doing it come to me. The method is revealed at the moment I am inspired to create something new.
Carver expounded on that thought in one of his personal letters:
I love to think of nature as having unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour and every moment of our lives, if we will only tune in and remain so.
That type of talk will get people to thinking you're odd. It did for Carver. Still, I can't help thinking there is a sense in which nature can communicate with us, if we allow for that to happen. Minds stay cramped and crowded by so many of life's minutiae, distractions being almost constant during our waking ours. Who takes time to be alone with nature anymore? But when we do, what insight we can glean! Does nature have, as Carver put it, "unlimited broadcasting stations"? Perhaps so. I believe it does.
Carver explained further:
More and more as we come closer and closer in touch with nature and its teachings are we able to see the Divine and are therefore fitted to interpret correctly the various languages spoken by all forms of nature about us.
Of course those who believe the Cosmos is just a gigantic accident will not and cannot be impressed with this line of thinking. I may be wrong of course, but life seems to me miraculous. I feel a part of something really special and endeavor to live every day of my life accordingly.  


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Abraham Lincoln's Premonitory Dream

Lincoln is my all-time favorite president. If you are a fan of Lincoln's you are probably well aware of the dream he had shortly before his assassination. Probably most are so familiar with this interesting tidbit of Lincoln trivia it doesn't bear repeating in detail here. I will just say that shortly before he was killed President Lincoln dreamed he was asleep and heard wailing and weeping of sorrow coming from downstairs in the White House. In his dream he got out of bed went looking for the source of the distress. From room to room he wandered but saw no one, although he still heard the crying. Finally he reached the East Room, where he found a corpse in funeral vestments lying upon a black catafalque. The corpse was being guarded by soldiers among the crowd of grievers. Mr. Lincoln asked one of the soldiers. "Who is dead in the White House?" The now familiar answer came: "The president; he was killed by an assassin." At that moment in the dream there came a loud outburst of grief that woke the slumbering president.
Now I had read about this many times. In fact, I have seen the dream reenacted in documentaries and movies about Lincoln. I always thought it would have been prudent had the president taken heed of that dream; that he should have increased his guards; that he should have lain low for a while. We can only imagine what a second Lincoln term would have been like.
What I found out only recently is that apparently Lincoln came to dismiss that dream as a possible premonition, although he was at first quite troubled and depressed by it. Close personal friend and sometimes bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon wrote a book of his memories of Lincoln (Recollections Of Lincoln), from which I take the following:
Once the President alluded to this terrible dream with some show of playful humor. "Hill," said he, "your apprehension of harm to me from some hidden enemy is downright foolishness. For a long time you have been trying to keep somebody—the Lord knows who—from killing me. Don't you see how it will turn out? In this dream it was not me, but some other fellow, that was killed. It seems that this ghostly assassin tried his hand on someone else. And this reminds me of an old farmer in Illinois whose family were made sick by eating greens. Some poisonous herb had got into the mess, and members of the family were in danger of dying. There was a half-witted boy in the family called Jake; and always afterward when they had greens the old man would say, 'Now, afore we risk these greens, let's try 'em on Jake. If he stands 'em, we're all right.' Just so with me. As long as this imaginary assassin continues to exercise himself on others I can stand it." He then became serious and said: "Well, let it go. I think the Lord in His own good time and way will work this out all right. God knows what is best."
From what I understand about Lincoln, he was a bit of a fatalist. He doesn't appear to have been the type of man who would have rearranged his life around a dream that might have been a premonition.

I have to say that I have listened to my dreams in the past, and feel ever stronger the need to do so now. I don't know exactly why I've gotten back in touch with my dreaming mind. I was away for a long time - or rather, I should say, I was dismissive. But I think I was doing myself a bit of a disservice. My instincts have always been good. The only real regrets I have had in life center on times when I went against my gut instincts.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


From an old newspaper (well over a hundred years old) came this little illustration of what a skeptic is:

"I don't believe in anything I can't see," said the young man who aims to be considered a skeptic.
The middle aged man with overalls on looked at him pensively for a moment and then inquired:
"Young feller, did you ever ketch hold of a 'lectric wire?" - Washington Star.
A number of years ago I had almost that same conversation with young man on my job. I asked if he had ever had the displeasure of smelling a foul flatus.
Now the truth is, I like good old-fashioned skepticism. I think of myself as skeptical. But I like to be an open-minded skeptic, always willing to expand my understanding of things if more information comes to light.
Contrary to the young men I mentioned above, skepticism in not to be equated with simple closed-mindedness. The annals of history are large with masters of knowledge who were proved wrong in their dogmatic understanding of the nature of things. (The Experts Speak, by Christopher Cerf & Victor Navasky, in one collection of these examples, and is highly recommended by me.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Friend's Disturbing Dream

My best friend called me dark and early Sunday morning to tell me of a troubling dream she had just experienced. She always enjoys listening to my many dreams and the way I try to work through their meanings. One of the odd things about my lady friend is that she tells me she rarely dreams (more likely, of course, is that she usually doesn't remember her dreams when she awakes). But this one was vivid. So upsetting was it that she called me right away to tell me about it.
Her dream took place in the home she used to have across the street from me. She hasn't lived there in a couple of years now. Her youngest son (who is in his early twenties) was being abducted by a group of about ten ruffians. She called her oldest son to come help. And she thought she needed to get a gun for protection. She thought that in her dream, I mean.
I lay no claim to being a gifted dream analyst or anything, but I do know this lady quite well and have had many intimate conversations with her concerning her personal life and family. I know her son has been waging a constant battle with substance abuse. I know he is losing that battle. I know it is tearing my friend apart, that she feels helpless and at times even hopeless.  
It seems to me the abduction of her son is a fitting symbol of the way she feels her son has been taken from her by the drugs. As in her dream, she feels overwhelmed and unable to fairly battle the problem.
She woke up with her dream unresolved, with her son still in trouble. The gun she wished she owned was probably a symbol of the "magic bullet" she has been searching for that would return her son to her. Sad. 

How many lives I have witnessed being destroyed by substance addiction - as if life itself doesn't present us with more than a share of challenges, dangers, and potential disasters. Watching it from up close is the most agonizing thing of all.  I fear, with my friend, that disaster is just ahead for this young man.