Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 19 May 2012
Seeing is believing
Another post in what had become my 'Phantom' series - Part the First. Maybe it's the beginning of a slow run-up to October 31st, when such stories become the meat and drink of the blogosphere, as the Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness kicks in, finishing sometime around the Twelfth Night.
I have already told this tale, but - as every fire-side kid knows - the stories get better through repetition.
Most people think that ghosts only go abroad at night, but that is because they are not noticeable as such in bright sunshine. In fact, they prefer to wander the streets using broad daylight as a cloak of invisibility, remaining incognito as they visit their old haunts of earthly existence. We all know that, when carrying out daylight robbery, it is much better to wear a DayGlo safety jacket with matching hardhat, than a self-concsious attempt at blending in. By being so vividly visible, most people don't give you a second glance.
Also, most people think that ghosts glow in the dark, but that is only a trick of the light. How else does your brain explain the way you see them in darkness so complete, that you cannot detect your hand in front of your face?
Yes, I know that the brain is capable of firing off signals which produce the same effect as millions of photons hitting the back of your retina, but how does it arrange them so perfectly, as to produce the exact likeness of someone you have never met? That's the great thing about science - it's full of paradox.
We, as humans, tend to use light as the absolute touchstone of reality - the template against which the existence of things is measured as either true or false. In fact, our brains work a lot faster than the speed of light, and our innate intuition operates a lot faster than even that. Infinitely fast, in fact. You can take a trip round the universe in the blink of an eye, when it takes mere light thousands of years to travel to your eyeball from an object which - in the scale of astronomical things - right in your back yard.
There are a group of scientists who have come to believe that the photons that emanate from stars millions of miles away, would not have started their journey of several thousand years if they did not 'know' that someone would be there to greet them with their eyes - someone who was not even born when they set out. Don't ask me how it works, it's all a bit Schrodinger for me to get my little head around on a saturday morning. I do know, however, that if you set up two sensors side by side and fire an equal amount of photons at them from a short distance away, the particles seem to opt for one sensor over another, even as they fly in absolutely straight lines. Not only do they seem to make a 'decision' about which way to veer toward the preferred sensor, but they make it impossibly quickly. Faster than the speed of light, in fact.
Anyway, I was working in my old workshop on a hot and sunny saturday about 20 years ago, and I was making a lot of noise and dust by using an air-hammer and chisel on a large lump of stone, when I became aware of a presence at the entrance to my workshop.
I used to work saturdays in those days, because - being in the middle of town - many people would visit the yard for recreational purposes, and I would usually receive an order for a fire-surround or piece of stone sculpture by hanging around and meeting them.
So to see an elderly couple standing at the threshold and quietly smiling at me was not an unusual event. What was unusual about it was that the couple were my parents, both of whom had been dead for quite some time.
I turned the tool off and put it down, all the while looking at the old man and woman, who just stood smiling wordlessly at me. I took off my paper dust-mask, expecting to find my own smile beneath it, but my mouth - though closed - remained expressionless.
We stood staring at each other for - I suppose - just a few seconds before they turned away and walked out of sight. Not a word spoken. I didn't bother to go after them, they would not have been there when I caught up in any event. Most likely I would have found two living strangers in their place.