It should be fairly obvious by now that I am not a woman of religion. I don't subscribe to the promise of eternal life or find solace in the comfort of a large book with far too many negative attributes. I like science. I like science so much that I am writing a young adult novel just so I can get science (and progressive themes) into the hands of young people everywhere. I curl up to facts at night, and whisper sweet nothing into logic's ear before falling asleep. In short: I don't buy into mysticism, in whatever form or label it comes in and this has, at times, earned me the label of cynic, which is not only untrue, but unfair as well.
I have had experiences that could easily be attributed to something mystical, and just because my explanation for them is based in science, doesn't make them any less fantastic.
For example, up until college, one of my main arguments for my own belief in God, was the way I felt when listening and singing along to music in church. It was like an emotional orgasm, complete with tears and hand flapping. The music penetrated my soul, filling me up with every crescendo, every descant, transcending that which my mortal body had experienced thus far. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that Queen's I Want to Break Free had the same affect on me. Some people feel music like this. We feel the notes actually reach down inside of us and rearrange our chemistry, making it so our ears hear the music exceedingly well. A form of synesthesia, I'd say.
Even with this knowledge though, I held fast to my Christian beliefs and my love for contemporary Christian music. By saying that I felt God while raising my hands up and singing my heart out, I felt like I was a part of something. Something accepted, something special. Ironically, the tears running down my face as Freddie Mercury sang about falling in love and breaking free of societal constraints, reminded me that I definitely wasn't.
No, hearing and feeling music as if it is both tearing you to pieces and sewing you back together at the same time, is not a spiritual experience. I mean, it can be if that's what you want it to be, but in reality, its very scientific. This study (and its not the only one) found that dopamine (that's the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy) is released when someone is listening to music. So, that feeling of being light as air and high as a kite as you listen to your favorite song? Yeah, you're actually kind of high. (That study is a fascinating read btw, I'd definitely recommend reading it)
Many experiences we have are usually blamed on the big guy upstairs, but they can easily be explained by science. The music example was simple and easy enough to explain. However, there are some aspects of humanity's interaction with the unknown, that are far more complex.
Let me give you another example.
Last week, while I was sitting in a waiting room, I looked up from my book and peered out the glass door, where a woman was approaching. My brain immediately supplied her name for me. It was Nancy, a woman in my UU fellowship. However, as she opened the door and stepped through it, it wasn't actually her. It was a stranger. Her coloring was similar, both her skin and hair, but the stranger was much taller than Nancy and their facial features weren't that alike at all. I actually laughed to myself for having thought the stranger was my friend. I blamed the error on a lack of sleep and then continued reading my book. However, not two minutes later, my friend Nancy actually walked through the waiting room door.
It was one of those moments where time kind of stands still and you examine the truth of what you are seeing. How incredibly odd it was that my brain suggested to me that Nancy was there, even though she wasn't, and then Nancy actually did appear. Was it a premonition? My brain supplying the future for me?
This would be a very common explanation among people. As simple mortals, we like to believe that we are capable of spectacular things, like telling the future. We claim to know who is calling before we pick up the phone. We can sing along to a song we've never heard before. We know how the story ends, even though we've never read it before. None of these phenomenons are actual premonitions. They are the result of your lifetime of experiences that accumulate into what is basically a mathematical formula, allowing your brain to predict the answer for you. You know its your mother calling because, whether you're conscious of it or not, your mother usually calls at 11:23 in the morning, on a Tuesday, when its overcast. You can finish the song because the song is a pattern. The beat and the cadence will only allow certain words into the verses and they usually have to rhyme. You can predict the ending of a story because of all the other stories you've read, and your knowledge of proper storytelling techniques. It's not mystical, its math.
Of course we have to also account for random coincidence, we can't forget that, but I'd like to also explore another theory.
There are certain things that can't be explained with the balance of probabilities. Things like my experience with my friend Nancy. Things like, déjà vu and the uncomfortable sensation of something's just not right. When you say, "I just have this feeling..." and know something bad is about to happen. This feeling is sometimes explained away by the idea of premonitions or having the third eye, but it can also be explained by science, which, as it happens, doesn't make it any less amazing.
Minkowski, and then later Einstein (and many others), theorized that time is not constant, nor is it linear. Time exists all at once- AKA, The Space-Time Continuum.
The Space- Time Continuum (Minkoswki) is the idea that time and space exist in a four dimensional model, where space takes up three of the dimensions (x, y, & z) and time takes up the fourth (t), all existing at the same time. From the point of an observer (that's you) during an event, The Space-Time continuum can be broken up into several pieces. The Absolute Past- the sum of everything you have experienced in your life up until the zero point (the event). The Absolute Future- the sum of everything that you will experience in your life after the zero point. The Light Cone- which is the actual zero point (the event) and everything that happens immediately before and after the zero point, and The Elsewhere, that which can not be directly attributed to the event at point zero. (This is a VERY rough sketch of the Space-Time Continuum of an event from the point of an observer. If you are interested in actually learning more about this, Ill send you some stuff to read.)
So, if we are experiencing both the sum of all future events and all past events, while simultaneously experiencing the event itself, and all that is unrelated to said event, wouldn't it then be possible to "foresee" the future, because your mind has access to that which it has already experienced? We don't only use 10% of our brains, as the myth continues to perpetuate, we do use all of it, but there are many things that we do not know when it comes to the human brain.
If time is not linear, as many physicists suggest, then wouldn't it be possible for our brains to have our entire lives already mapped out? If all of our past, all of our future, and everything in between is already stored somewhere inside of our brains, wouldn't that account for a lot of those, "I just have this feeling..." moments? When I thought "Nancy", as the stranger walked through the door, was it because my brain knew that Nancy would be walking through the door soon?
Some may call this science fiction, and that's fine. I call your religion fiction, its only fair to clap back. It is, however, a very plausible explanation for that which many of us find hard to explain, and yet are critical of the mystical. Many people find science offensive because it "takes the beauty" out of creation and our world, but I find this to be categorically false.
Science makes my world more beautiful. By understanding, or seeking to understand, the complex intricacies of the world in which I live, I find myself constantly in awe of its beauty. The Big Bang Theory may not sound very alluring, what with its highly dense beginning and explosive expansion thereafter, but when you think about how our bodies are composed of the very same chemistry found in the stars above us, and how the universe exploded and then managed to pull itself back together enough to create us, its all actually quite poetic. We come from an explosion of compounds that continue to expand, despite some forces trying to keep them together. Isn't that what every young adult romance novel is about? Two people destined to be together, but the world keeps ripping them apart? If you think about it, if we are all made of stars, is your soulmate a person who came from the same star as you? Each of you a piece of something desperate to put itself back together again? What is a soul mate, but someone we feel extremely drawn to? Someone who completes us, someone who fills up the hollow pieces of ourselves. Just as the stars collided to make us, we collide to make love. What could possibly ever be more romantic, more beautiful than that?
So don't confuse me for an unimaginative grump, just because I don't subscribe to your particular version of a higher-power. I don't need mysticism to find beauty in my world; I have science, and the truth of science can be far more fantastic than the fantasy of fiction.