Stick with me for a bit. This one’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride but I think I might have a point. Be prepared for woo woo. I’ve only ever told one person all of this. People know bits and pieces. I don’t need to be burned at the stake or drowned for witchcraft. But I’m telling you. Tl;dr it has a happy ending.
They say that mystic visions are just epilepsy. They think that bipolar disorder and epilepsy are related. They say that left-handedness is just microtubules in the brain that fundamentally wire the leftie’s brain’s white matter differently than the 90% of humans who are right-handed. And that left-handedness is linked to schizophrenia. They say delusions come with schizophrenia. I’ve told you about the links between autism and dyslexia and white matter in brains. All this brain science that gets reported but never really talked about in conjunction.
They think. But they don’t know. What if the owner’s manual everyone has been using was wrong? What if scientific hubris got in the way of actual knowing? Just wonder with me for a couple minutes.
These essays that I write…sometimes they seem like they’re organized in a certain way that’s clever and thought out. They’re not. Usually a single sentence comes to mind, I pick up my phone (and now my new laptop with the Man or Astro-Man? sticker I got at their show at Market Hotel a couple weeks ago) and I start to write. And when I am done, a half-hour later, I hit publish. No editing. No outlining. No sketching. No concept of overarching themes or agendas. No planned wittiness or analogies. That’s obviously not a brag. Clearly, I don’t think my writing is of the quality that deserves bragging. It just is what it is.
My mentor Day worked a lot with this concept of the artist as ‘vessel.’ As an artist, your job isn’t to come up with brilliant ideas to starve off writer’s block. It’s to work on yourself. You have to become hospitable to the ideas and then they can flow through you. That means taking care of yourself, making your vessel super comfy, not getting distracted by fear or anxiety, and then just seeing what comes through. Sounds easy or maybe kinda zany, but it worked for me.
But where do these ideas come from? I couldn’t tell you, but I think the answer comes from a woo woo place that not everyone is ready for. I think there is something to this divine inspiration. I think there’s something to claircognizance.
Claircognizance (literally “clear knowing”) is when you know something without reading or being told about it. This is the metaphysical/psychic sense that allows you to know something is real or will be, though you have no way to back up this knowledge. You may be unable to figure out why or how you came into that information. Ideas pop into my head all the time and I don’t know from where.
I’ll be listening to music or day dreaming or riding the train and looking at the MTA map on the wall to avoid eye contact. The idea will be something I have never studied intentionally. Like the role of tuberculosis in the migration of Americans from the East Coast to Los Angeles. The idea comes fully formed as visions, most closely illustrated by Sherlock’s mind palace (that you hopefully watched), old timey photography and video. Graphs. Charts. A web-like network analysis of how things interact. And a timeline. The same way James Burke’s Connections series plays out (check YouTube…that’s a link you have to earn, but it totally worth it and will blow the right minds).
The network analysis for that one works something like:
…people immigrated to America with their diseases. They lived in close conditions with poor sanitation and little fresh air. Tuberculosis spread. People with means moved west…all the way to sunny California, even before the movie industry found it…and whom did they displace? How did disease and poverty and and a first wave of migration affect a giant metropolis that caused further migration, displacement and the foundation of a second migration? And where were they displaced to once that real estate got monetary value? From Hollywood? And then then Dust Bowl migration of Oakies that came during the 1930’s? It came in waves that seem so perfectly timed from the back end, doesn’t it?
And what does that say about what happens with climate change and the pilferage of natural resources? People lose their way of living. People get sick. People have to fight over limited resources. People kill. People die. People get scared. People flee. Wars ensue. Mass migrations start. There are winners and losers. But where do those people go now…as in modern times? As we’ve spread out to all the comfortable corners of the world and displaced indigenous populations, there are fewer refuges with sparse populations and welcoming natives. And by natives, I mean Italians. I mean Americans. Mexicans. Australians. I mean the internal migration within Africa. Where are people going to move to and what are the consequences?
This idea comes fully formed into my head. Without once glancing at a news article or Google search. I don’t keep up with the news with any regularity like I used to. Not from disillusionment, but because I just know things. I usually do a quick Google search after one of these visions and everything that was in my head is out there. It’s all confirmed by history and science and photographic evidence and charts and maps. It’s all real. Only I’ve never seen any of this stuff before. Or I did when I was 10 or 23…once…and remembered it with near perfect accuracy. The point is that my brain is connecting things in an interdisciplinary way.
Not so woo woo, you say, at least if it’s in a BBC show.
The woo woo comes next. The woo woo is when the visions come.
I was sitting on Rockaway Beach (we didn’t hitch a ride, we took the train) on hot Sunday afternoon last August, surrounded by people, drinking a beer and looking at the very cute can art:
Cute, right? Life couldn’t have been peachier. I looked up at the shore between two breaks of volcanic rock. And the quickest flash came into my head.
The sky is desaturated and yellowed. The beach is completely empty except for soldiers. There is barbed wire lining the beach like in WWII. And my stomach hurts.
I ask myself if this is something in the past, but it isn’t. Because the soldiers’ uniforms aren’t anything like what they wore back then. And their weapons are modern but something I’ve never seen actually carried by American or European soldiers. I don’t know why, but these soldiers are patrolling the beach to keep people out. Not armies. But actual civilians. And maybe trying to keep people from leaving.
The vision was gone before I knew it. It only took a split second. But the feeling stayed. I didn’t let on to what I saw. I drank my beer and hung out with my friends. We packed up our stuff a while later and got pizza a block away. As we left the pizza place, another vision, only this one takes a little longer.
The sky desaturates again, and I see the actual place I am in, only it’s empty. It’s quiet. It’s not just empty. It’s abandoned.
Winter? I think to myself as I try and place this? But it doesn’t feel cold. It feels just slightly cool. Like Spring. Only I’ve never been to Rockaway Beach in Spring.
It’s not always dystopian like that. Sometimes it’s quite happy stuff. These are just examples. The point is that this isn’t me obsessing about something until I have the full picture and then start getting anxious about the future. This is stuff that comes from somewhere I couldn’t force. I wouldn’t know how to. It’s just a knowing.
It started happening around fourth grade. But not very often. It started picking up speed in my mid-thirties. I didn’t invite it. I didn’t believe in psychic powers and I couldn’t have told you the first thing about them. But I can tell you that every major paper I’ve ever written since high school has been written this way. The idea came fully formed and then I had to go in search of the sources to substantiate what I already knew to be true. And back in the day, there was no Google search. I would have to walk the stacks, find books, open them and look for quotes I knew existed. On topics I didn’t even know were valid let alone important.
This is how I knew that Carlos Slim would become the richest man in the world. I wrote about it in my senior thesis in 2001. It wouldn’t be reported by Forbes until 2010.
This is how I knew I had autism. How I linked things together in a way before there was any publicly available peer reviewed science on all the things I’d been experiencing. I had to wait years for the things I knew to start showing up in journals and online. I’m still waiting.
I never really put this skill or gift or talent…whatever you want to call it…to professional use. I had these huge thoughts that very few people were able to understand. And my writing was hampered by undiagnosed dyslexia. My thoughts were too far ahead and my writing was too far behind so it just looked sloppy. I was easy to dismiss as irrational. So I gave up on it.
This knowingness has saved my life several times. I tell people they were coincidences or little hunches or whatever will satisfy their curiosity when when they are amazed by my close encounters with death and my incredible luck. It works all the time.
But how do you think I ended up in Tucson with close to $200k in liquid assets, travel insurance, a moveable ticket, and plenty of options in March 2020 while everyone back in NYC is legitimately freaking out? I’m not lucky because I’m here. I’m lucky because I saw something happening and I worked accordingly. I couldn’t tell you it was going to work out this way. I couldn’t tell you right now that it will work out.
All I can tell you is that in July 2018, I got very agitated and I knew I had to start making plans to be agile. I wasn’t even living in NYC at the time. I was living in Tucson. But what I saw coming down the pike was something that I couldn’t share with anyone because they’d call me crazy and maybe have me locked up. Because visions look like epilepsy and schizophrenic paranoia and bipolar mania.
They still drown witches, don’t they? Not with heavy rocks anymore, but with prescription drugs and defamation and in the obscurity of cold psych wards.
But let me tell you the happy part. As I stopped trying to control my life to make it respectable and to manage my anxiety, life got easier. I leaned into the unknowable. I let go of the wheel. My kung fu grip on the future relaxed. And I started to just enjoy it. I woke up every morning, eager to meet the day, grateful for what I had, and bemused by the world and how things just seemed to work themselves out. I went to bed without the crippling worry that used to consume all my energy. And that vessel I talked about. It opened up and the writing flowed.
I don’t know the whole future. That’s not how my gift works at this moment. It’s an ever evolving thing…well, both the future and my gift. All I know is that I’m not worried. And nothing is wrong with me. I come from a culture that both recognizes the ephemeral connection between magic and realism and the connection between the living and the dead. I am Mexican. We were woo woo before woo woo was cool.
Death isn’t the end. And it comes for all of us. I meet the day knowing this. I meet the day knowing that I have purpose and I am not in control and that there are signs everywhere that reassure me that it is all going to work out however it was intended. I don’t worry.
I’ve come into contact with others like me. We use different vocabulary. Our gifts are slightly different. You’d never guess who we are from our exteriors or jobs or proclivities. The only way you’d ever know us is through our inner sense of peace. And maybe through our non-linear lives.
It might be the end of the world as we know it, but honestly, I feel fine.