Today’s phone is a peculiar thing. It is a perceptive appendage that knows how to send and read invisible signals. When my phone rings or buzzes or dings, it’s not due to anything I can see or hear or touch. No, the phone has an ability to perceive invisible waves of energy. And what makes it truly amazing is that it not only reads invisible waves of energy, it not only processes and makes sense of them, it knows which ones are for me. Think about that for a moment. The air is inundated with information and this device tucked in my pocket parses it, filters it, and finds which signals are meant for me.
Of course, this is something we do all the time — we, me, this body, not my phone or computer or any gadget, widget, or gear. We make sense of an endless stream of information, data, signs, and signals that are invisible.
And, just as the phone processes invisible signals from across space, much of the data we process is not streaming from bodies directly in front of us. Throughout the course of any given day, I pick up signals from people — and sometimes things and places — across the world and, sometimes, across time (people who have died, places I lived long ago). I’ll get a flash of a face, a sense of a person. This can be swift, there and gone. It can persist in my peripheral vision for days. Usually, it’s a series of flashes, the same face appearing in bursts over several days, a rock skipped over the surface of my consciousness.
I rarely ignore these visits, these whispers through and of the ether. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not believe that they have a special meaning as if the universe were trying to tell me something: She was my lost love! That’s silly. No, I believe that these flashes of communication are just that: flashes of communication. There is no meta-meaning, no secret kernel of knowledge. The universe is its happening, its becoming; it has no secrets per se. It goes as it goes and we go as we go. And when we experience communication from afar, it has no significance other than communication from afar. But that in and of itself is significant!
Twin Peaks‘ Dale Cooper tells us never to ignore a coincidence — not because it has some secret meaning but because the coincidence itself is significant. In Twin Peaks, Lynch gives us an alternate epistemology, ways of knowing the world based in dreams, intuition, synchronicity rather than linearity, logic, and physical evidence.
Look at it this way. We answer our phones when they ring due to invisible waves sent half way around the globe. Then why wouldn’t we answer these signals which come to our bodies and minds?
This “answering” can take many forms. Usually, I just let that communication play across me. I lean into it to make sense of its intensity, its affect. This is a well known thing with parents when something bad happens to their child: they wake in the night startled and know something is wrong. In this case, the communication is quite intense and infiltrates the body, declaring itself clearly. More often, the communication is less resonant, less urgent: a more or less simple hello from over yonder. And so I reply with an invisible hello back. Sometimes, I’ll call or send an email.
We’ve all had that experience of thinking of someone and just as we go to call them, they call us. Whoa! The first thing we say is: How weird! But there is nothing less weird. This is what’s happening all the time, day and night, to everyone.
And, to be clear, little of this is what we might call “conscious.” We emit despite ourselves. Such is life: it is fundamentally communicative. When I get a flash of some past lover, it’s not because she’s sending me lovey dovey juju from afar. These waves of communication are not as mired in the social politics of language and all too human relations. They are often inchoate even if pointed and are rarely, if ever, conscious the way a phone call is.
We can pay more or less attention to this relentless stream of invisible communication. We can lean into it or not. Most of us ignore it. We tend to the barrage of shit that is daily life, the narcissism of modern neuroses. We tend to the perceived dings and rings of calls, texts, and emails. But we ignore the flashes of faces, the whispers in the wind, of those not here. We brush them off so casually that some of you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about.
Meanwhile, other people spend time and energy leaning into the chatter of the cosmos. We might call some of these people psychics. I’ve never been to a psychic as I don’t trust someone else reading the chatter coming my way. I like to read it for myself. (It’s the same reason why I never read so-called secondary literature on an author: I don’t trust some pedantic academic. Plus, it’s usually boring. No, I want to make sense of it on my own.)
Certain drugs can be highly effective in amplifying our receptivity of these communications. These drugs are a technology, much as a smart phone is: it lets us perceive things we might not ordinarily perceive. Without my phone, I can’t read your text. Without DMT, I might not be able to hear the breadth of cosmic whispers streaming my way.
I have a good friend who has engaged various technologies — mushrooms, DMT, breathing exercises — to open up his perceptive channels. And he’s heard, seen, and felt communications not just from people he’s known and places he’s lived but from other dimensions, other life forms, other universes. You can doubt and scoff and mock but the fact is: the universe — the cosmos, not just the earth and human life — is relentlessly communicating. Everything is there to be perceived. Just as the phone lets us communicate in strange, mystical ways (however much we take it for granted), we are always communicating this way. And some people, and some drugs, amplify these voices.
As Marshall McLuhan says in The Medium is the Massage, technology is an extension of the human body. The wheel is an extension of the foot; the book is an extension of the eye; electric circuity, an extension of the central nervous system. The smart phone is an extension, a repetition, of our ability to reckon — to receive, process, and send — invisible whispers across the cosmos. If we only remember to answer the call.