Can we know in ways that go beyond our understanding? Can we be guided by some mysterious sense of what's about to happen?
My father was carrying heavy bands of ammunition strapped all over his body. He was already a big target, at six feet three or four, taller than most of the men with him that day on Okinawa. Or was it Saipan? It had rained the day before, and as he walked toward enemy territory, he noticed a deep tire mark up ahead that a jeep or truck had made in the mud during the rainstorm, and that the rut had dried. As he approached it, and was going to pass just slightly to the right of the hole, he suddenly shifted his movement and put his left foot into it, a few inches down, as he took his next step forward, but for no conscious reason. The split second that he did this and his body, as a result, tilted to the left, a bullet whizzed by his right ear. Had he not stepped into the rut, the bullet would have gotten him in the head and he would have died on the spot, and - to make matters even worse, at least, from my point of view as a boy first hearing this account - I would never have been conceived or born. He told me this story several times. He always asked, "Why did I step into that hole?"
Let me now quote three short paragraphs from the book American Sniper. Chris Kyle reports:
One time we were in a building and we were hosed down by the insurgents outside. I was out in the hallway, and as the shooting died down, I went into one of the rooms to check on some of my guys. As I came in, I jerked straight back, falling backward as a shot came in through the window at my head.
The bullet just flew over me as I fell.
Why I went down like that, how I saw that bullet coming at me — I have no idea. It was almost as if someone slowed time down and pushed me straight back.
What is this? How does it work? We have senses like sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. We also have one called proprioception - the sense that tells you the position of your body, the orientation of its parts in space, without your having to look, or run your hands over, say, an arm or leg to find out where it is. Every sense can be developed. Artists see in a distinctive way. Gourmet chefs taste with remarkable discernment. Great musicians can hear things that most of us miss. Top athletes and dancers and martial artists seem to have a vastly enhanced sense of proprioception. They are aware of the position and movement of their bodies in space in ways that escape the rest of us.
But can proprioception go beyond the body? Can we sense the position of other objects in space around us, even then they're not connected to us in any obvious way?
I was eight or ten. My dad was throwing horse shoes in the back yard of our house. They were regulation iron or steel shoes. He had just thrown some down toward the stake in the ground farthest from the house, and I think he had gotten ringers. He then walked briskly down to fetch them and throw them back. He was about half way to the far stake, which was forty feet from the one where I was standing, when I reached down, picked up a shoe, and pitched it hard toward the other stake. Dad was off to the right about 4 or 5 feet off the course of the throw, as he was walking, so it was safe for me to pitch the shoe. But suddenly he crossed over to the left, not looking back to see that I had just thrown. It was going straight for his head. In that moment of my horrified realization about what was happening, he turned his head toward me, while simultaneously raising his left arm and hand ... and he caught the horse shoe mid air. No harm done. I was completely shocked. First, you don't catch flying iron horse shoes. But at that moment?
How does this spooky stuff work? There are some findings in the spookier areas of physics that seem to suggest that objects at a distance in our world are, however far apart, somehow also connected. Is there another dimensional grounding for everything, however different and distant things may seem in this realm of existence? Can we then put ourselves into a position where we are able to utilize this connection, perhaps through extended proprioception? And in other ways? Was that what my dad was doing? And Chris Kyle? But it's not always going on. Not even for the top champions, or for my father.
Scotty Pippin, or someone on the Chicago Bulls basketball team during their glory days with Michael Jordan, once was quoted as saying that during some rare games, time seemed to stand still and the ball would just go where it should be. No one was having to think to themselves, "Ok, Michael is about to get open, I should throw in about a second" or any such thing. There was this magical dance of perfect movement and timing and a flow experience of joyous participation which was almost indistinguishable from that of a spectator, but where looking and doing seemed to merge. It was all happening, as if by independent forces, and the players were caught up in a movement that just had its own flow. They knew without conscious awareness. They acted without deliberate effort.
What is this spooky sense that sometimes guides us, and positions us? And how can we gain more control over it? Is it possible to use it at will? Can this work in business? In life generally?
What do you think? Have you ever felt it, or seen it in action?