Saturday, September 15, 2007

Jung in Boston

Let me state I am generally skeptical of paranormal anecdotes and research. I am trained in the proper use of statistics, and have used statistical testing and modeling in my professional career. I am aware that the most amazing coincidences are to be expected in large populations: no supernatural explanations are required. I have seen more than a few strange coincidences in my own life, none of which bothers me much, but the following experience continues to make me wonder.

I was staying in a hotel in Boston on business. It was my first visit to Boston, and I had been looking forward to doing some sight seeing. One thing I particularly wanted to see was the Old North Church. As a child, "Paul Revere's Ride" was one of my favorite poems. I had been captivated by Longfellow’s imagery of the church at night:

“A moment only he feels the spell,
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread,
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;”

I talked about the possibility with friends until they were tired of hearing about it. Unfortunately, I did not have as much free time as I had hoped, and I had to cancel my plans for sight seeing.

I had a meeting scheduled with a business associate who lived in Cambridge. We had been planning on meeting for dinner at his house, but it was Halloween night and his wife and children were busy with "trick-or-treat," so he drove into Boston instead. He suggested a North Boston restaurant, and after dinner we decided to walk to a bistro on the next block for coffee and desert. Along the way, we came to a street corner where local youths -- dressed in black and with faces painted white -- were throwing eggs at passing cars (apparently a local Halloween tradition). Afraid that pedestrians might also prove tempting targets, we decided to backtrack and detour.

We made our way to a courtyard that seemed like it might be a shortcut through the middle of the block. It was a warm night for late October and there was a light fog in the air. We walked past a college-age couple who sat on a bench in the courtyard studying. The place had an other-worldly, "stage set" feeling, like a film-noir street scene. At the end of the courtyard was a short flight of steps that ended in an iron rail fence with an alleyway to each side. When we reached the top of the steps, I noticed a plaque on the fence. It was an historical marker that began: "The Old North Church…"

I had somehow, through a series of coincidences, and in a bizarre setting, obtained the object of my quest without trying. And not only that, but as in the poem: at a secret hour and seemingly under a spell. It's difficult to express, but the experience had a numinous, scripted feeling -- as if I were a character in a book or movie. It's this feeling of the whole thing being "set up," I think, that haunts me even more than the event itself.

To commemorate the experience, I bought an "Old North Church" souvenir coffee cup at the airport. It has yet to do anything strange.


Friday, September 14, 2007

New Year's Eve, A Diary

From a diary, New Year's Eve 1991-1992


December 31, 1990* – New Year’s Eve

3:00PM – I should have started this diary a year sooner. 1990* was an eventful year. It opened with the United States about to go to war in Iraq, and has closed with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The world has changed radically during the last 3 years**, and the next three may prove as tumultuous. I’m not sure what we expected from the downfall of communism in Europe, but what we got was a range of effects, from economic turmoil to bloodshed. The patient was almost too far gone when the resuscitation was applied, and has come back choking spasmodically and still in serious condition. A rise in nationalism has led to fighting in some republics of the former USSR and Yugoslavia. Russia, which was fairly strong of old, and the center of the USSR, is doing surprisingly well. There is some apprehension concerning Yeltsin and whether he may yet prove to be a dictator, or conversely, whether he can control the military if the country revolts in the face of exploding prices.

10:00PM – It’s after midnight in Moscow and the Soviet Union is no more. Here in _____ it’s windy and rainy, after a cold and windy day.

11:15PM – I plan to take a photo of myself at midnight.

11:58PM – Bye bye 1991.

12:02AM – The first minutes of 1992. What will this year bring? I should do like _____ [a friend] and try to wonder where I’ll be this time next year. But for now I’m tired and I will go to bed.


I did not continue the diary much past this point. I do still have the photo I took of myself.


*These errors are in the original, both should read 1991.

**The length of time I had been living in the city in which I was writing this diary.