The Edge of the Unknown

Several years ago, I encountered a middle-aged French poet who was a regular speaker on France's cultural talk-show circuit. Now, it so happened that she was delivering some poetry lectures near the school where I taught, and was a friend of a friend, so we eventually made contact over some expresso and dark chocolate in a crowded café to chat about writing.

In the course of our discussion, I learned that she --like myself-- had suffered from migraines. However, she was proud to note that she no longer had them. Always curious as to how others avoid them (they are often caused by certain types of foods, or environmental conditions), I asked her how she overcame that curse. Her response was clear and straight-faced: "I was cured by a psychic." She then got up, walked behind me, firmly gripped my head, and started moaning aloud.

You see, despite the fact that her poetry was quite well-received by the literati, it was her new calling as a psychic that lured her out of bed at noon and dominated her dinner conversations among the black turtleneck crowd. At that moment, with dozens of coffee-sipping Francophones staring curiously at us, she decided to psychically "extract" my pain. Hence the moaning. Apparently, it hurt.

Unfortunately, that cure didn't actually work. (I did manage to keep a straight fact, though --thanks for asking.) However, a few months later I did actually meet someone who claimed that her arthritis was cured by a psychic, and another that claimed a similar end to his back pain.

This incident came to mind recently because I've been researching (i.e., reading in bed) how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dedicated the last 14 years of his life to promoting Spiritualism. That's "Spiritualism" with a capital S, which was a world-wide quasi-religious movement that hit full stride after the First World War. Basically, it claimed to have scientific evidence, mainly through documenting the experiences of mediums and "ectoplasmic" photography, that there was a world beyond this one, and that spirits regularly came back to communicate with us. Of course, while many people actually believed in the power of seances, including a goodly proportion of those who conducted them, the movement was rife with chicanery and the thousands of swindlers who lightened the wallets of those unfortunate and gullible relatives grieving for their newly departed. (In fact, the magician Harry Houdini made it his mission to reveal these fraud artists and their dirty tricks.)

It's difficult for many people to think that the creator of Sherlock Holmes, a character who espoused the importance of data and logical deduction, could be lured into becoming the world's leading spokesman for a faddish movement filled with charlatans promoting ghostly contact. How could the man who inspired forensic procedure and science all over the world also champion the faked photographs of two young girls cavorting with fairies? How can one person lean so heavily in two different directions?

Many of the most intelligent people to walk this Earth have also been deeply religious: it would be complete ignorance of human history to deny this. Logic and strategy aren't mutually exclusive from faith and spiritual belief. One side can complement the other, and frequently does.

In fact, I'd posit that planning in itself is useless without the ability to conform to a vision. Now, that vision doesn't have to be of an angel or religious icon; it's simply an ultimate destination, one you can imagine and believe in. It is the power behind a strongly worded mission statement. It is the power of the creative visualisation of a positive outcome. It is the power that motivates us, keeps us going when our best-laid plans are torn asunder. It's the power of focus.

Verbalise it. Write it down. Read it often. Let it greet you in the morning and guide your day, and bid you goodnight and guide your dreams.

True, my migraines weren't "cured" at the time (although thankfully I've largely grown out of them), but I did meet several people whose faith reduced their pain and allowed them to live normal lives. After literary fame, financial success, and a hundred other fleeting causes, Sir Arthur finally achieved a sense of real fulfillment and purpose which had been lacking all his life. And yes, most of those gullible people who paid money to hear that their soldier-sons were at peace --well, they were perfectly happy too.

It's all about believing in an end result. Let the planning come later.

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Map of Life...

At the top of my Personal Mission Statement (PMS) are the words "You are here". Life is, as they say, a journey and if this true we should plan for it. My PMS contains an overview of that journey. This in turn translates into Projects, Potential Projects (GTD - ('someday/maybe') and the Harmony Templete. I think of each one as a leg in my master plan. The everyday nuts & bolts are written as Actions (GTD - next action), Waiting For(s) and shopping lists. I still use an 'Academic Diary ' (runs August to July), Notes and Reference sections. However, as I mature and my focus hardens, so my planner adapts. Allen's GTD is great for geting things done yet nothing beats D*I*Y for visioning at 50,000 ft.