Monday, January 7, 2013

Would You Believe....?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  The dinner party was going fine.  (it wasn't as fancy as this one at Downton Abbey...) But we had extravagant yellow roses as the centerpiece. Lavish coconut shrimp for everyone, the lovely ginger sauce worked, the beef came out perfectly, the veggies were bright and gorgeous, the conversation was sparkling as the champagne. And no one spilled on the tablecloth.  But then--someone (out of the clear blue :-) ) posed a question to the table.

 Do you, she asked, believe in ESP?

Let me tell you, there were no "maybes." The yesses were as vociferous as the nos.  I'm a big yes---I mean, it doesn't happen ALL the time, and you can't TRY to make it happen, and you can't plan for it, but I've got to tell you, there are things that have happened to me that have no other explanation.

Others scoffed. Impossible! They said. That's not how our brains work.

So then--someone asked: How about intelligent life on other planets? Do you believe in THAT?

Again, there were no "maybes.' Everyone believed what they believed, and had all sorts of reasons why.

And THEN--someone else, it wasn't me--said: If you could absolutely know there was intelligent life on other planets, like--if they actually landed on earth-but in knowing it, you would die...would that knowledge be worth it?

The arguing got so loud I had to stop them with dessert.

But Reds, if you had been at the dinner party--how would you have answered?

LUCY BURDETTE: Well that's one heck of a dinner party Hank!

I might have to break the mold and say maybe to both...ESP? couldn't that be someone being particularly well tuned in to the people and things around them, so what they notice appears out of the ordinary? I'm not saying it doesn't exist, just that there is an explanation that's not sheer woo-woo:)

Now as for ET--I would love to meet HIM. Wasn't he adorable? But would I die to know? Absolutely not. Having too much fun right here right now.

But geez, those answers sound a little dull. Let me know Hank if I need to jazz things up to get invited to the next party, ok?

HANK: Oh, Lucy, of course you're invited. ( In fact..could you cook?) How about you, Rhys?

RHYS BOWEN: I completely believe in ESP. Being half Celt I can cite many examples of connecting with someone halfway around the world (and not via Skype). But intelligent life on other planets? I'd really prefer not to know, because it would rock the security of my spiritual beliefs. If they had three green heads would they have a different God from ours? Or would that definitely prove that we were naive to believe in a higher being?

 ROSEMARY HARRIS: Good grief...I'm trying to remember the conversations at my last get-together. Not nearly as lofty. No one mentioned celebrity weight gains or divorces but I don't recall anyone pondering the universe in quite this way.

 If Lucy thinks her answers are dull, Lord knows what she'll think of these! I don't care about ESP. I know I don't have it. (I also can't play the piano.) If I knew anyone who had it I'd probably be interested in the first few predictions and then ask them to keep the rest of their extra sensory perceptions to themselves. Nobody likes a know it all.

As far as intelligent life on other planets, I'm still busy looking for intelligent life on this planet. Seriously? Sure. Why not? But die to know...nah.

JAN BROGAN - I know, I know, I'm supposed to be beginning my hiatus, and I will after this, but this dinner party was so intriguing, I had to invite myself in.

HANK: Yay, Jan! You are always welcome, and I had a feeling you’d come back for this.. J  Anyway. You were saying?  

 JAN:  J  ESP is not prescience, is it? We aren't talking about making predictions about the future or the stock market, right? Just the being able to communicate beyond the normal bounds with other people and maybe "the other side?" Right?

HANK: Exactly. Just an—extra-sensory…perception.

JAN:  Definitely believe in it, and actually in some of my studies of the brain, I think neuroscience will support some of it - at least the ESP with living people. I think Lucy's right - there's all sorts of different brain structure and function that can account for at least some of it.  That said, I think people have also engineered quite a bit of fraud pretending to have psychic powers to communicate with the dead.

Why does discovery of life on another planet affect your belief system here, Rhys? Maybe they have their own Green God, or maybe God likes a little variety.  I'd love to know about life on another planet, which I think must be going on some where. Would I die to know? Actually die? What would be the point of that?

HALLIE EPHRON: ESP? Pfffff. We just remember the times we're right as opposed to when we're wrong because we're such egotistical creatures. Which is ALSO why we think there isn't intelligent life on other planets. How could there not be, with the universe as massive as it is and most of it unexplored by us?

I'd add the question: Is ANY knowledge worth dying in order to have?

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  I want to come to Hank's dinner parties, too! I'm sure mine are never as interesting... (Does anyone remember Steve Allen's Meeting of Minds? Now those were get-togethers to die for!  (Hank says: Here's Steve chatting with THERE'S a party)  But I'm being strictly metaphorical. I would not die to find out if there was life on other planets. There's far to much to enjoy on this planet, and far too much we don't know.

Which brings me to ESP. I don't think I believe in prescience, and I think it would be a curse rather than a gift. I would HATE to know what was going to happen, good or bad. (It would certainly take the fun out of detective fiction.) But I do believe that we sense things and communicate in ways that we have not yet managed to explain scientifically--but that makes them no less real. "There are more things in heaven and earth..." to quote Will.

Nor does the idea of life on other worlds--or other universes--interfere with my spiritual beliefs. I've always thought it was the height of human egotism to make God in our image, and to think we humans were the only thing worth his concern. (I'm only using HIS because of our awkward language restrictions. I think giving God a gender is another egotistical human construct, and obviously, a male one. Sorry, guys.)

HANK: I know, Hallie, some of what is considered “ESP” is often a micro-expression on someone’s face, or empathy, or coincidence. But like Rhys, I’ve had situations for which …well, that there was something more going on.

But I agree, about other life.  Gotta be. And that’s so exciting! Wonder if the 3013 Reds will be saying..can you believe those twenty-first century sisters were so clueless?

What do you all think? (And  hey—Shirley MacLaine—who know we know is Lady Cora’s mother! (whoa) would certainly want to weigh in on this.)

(And who will we see at Malice? ESP us your answers...)     


  1. Steve Allen’s “Meeting of Minds?” A wonderful series; seems to me it won an Emmy and a Peabody Award . . . I believe it received several nominations over the four years or so that it was on . . . .

    ESP? Count me in on the “yes” side. Intelligent life on other planets? Absolutely, In fact, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some other life in the universe. And that doesn’t rock my faith a bit . . . it seems a bit egotistical to me to think that this small planet is the be-all and end-all of everything in all those billions and billions of stars and planets . . . .

    I doubt that I’d be willing to give my life just to know the answers, but it is intriguing to consider just what one might give up or do in the pursuit of pure knowledge . . . .

  2. If I would have to die to know if intelligent life existed on other planets, and if they had been to earth, how long would I have after learning the answer before I would have to die? That would make a big difference to me. I am hoping that my knowing would extend my time in valuable pursuit of more knowledge and understanding. Oh, okay. More time to write.

  3. I knew you were going to blog about this.

  4. Darned right I believe in ESP! It's one of the many things that make life worthwhile...uh...wait. We are talking Eat Some Pizza, right? I also believe in ESPP because I loves me some pepperoni!

  5. Was I supposed to use my ESP to know that Jan was taking a hiatus?? Wht did I miss? How long a hiatus? We'll miss you, Jan.

    I firmly believe that we don't know everything. How could we? And that there are connections between people (and other entities) that aren't explained yet.

    But I don't even get the question about knowing about other intelligent life would cause my death. What's even the point in that discussion? Guess my ESP fails me on this one!

  6. Like Reine, I'd need to know how soon I'd die after learning about intelligent life on other planets. Would I have time to go on the Today Show with Matt Lauer?

  7. I'm not a believer, but I'm about to read Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock 'n' Roll Group, which involves an imaginary seance with Jimi Hendrix. If you believe in supernatural seances, then your next dinner party will be a success!

  8. ESP - yep. I do believe in it. I have experienced too many instances (especially instances concerning my mother) to scoff at it.

    Life on other planets? I've always thought there must be. We're a society bound and determined to think more of ourselves than we deserve, I think. WHY would we be the end all to life? If may be in a form we're not familiar with, but it could still be life.

    Enough of that. (I'm a "tad" opinionated, did you know??).

    Malice. I am SO bummed. I had planned on attending and had registered, but have recently asked that they "un-register" me. This is a year that HAS to be a year of frugality in the Barley home. Extreme frugality. I hate missing Malice this year but hope to see lots of pics of Reds doing brilliant things.

  9. Yes, I believe fully in ESP. But not everyone has it. It is part of the nature some are born with - like music or art or writing or dance. My own is stronger than I wish at times. Yet, a caveat, there is also false ESP - we have to be extremely canny and sense the difference at times, especially when we're dealing with extremely complex people. Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  10. Yes, to ESP. How else do you explain this one? I dated a guy for over four years, and several months after we stopped seeing one another, with zero contact, I had a dream that I went to him home and had to step over hundreds of pairs of women's shoes in the room opposite his bedroom. When I woke up I was dead certain his new girlfriend had moved in with him. Dredged out the phone number of one of his friends, and called his wife. During the conversation I casually (I'm sure) asked if Ann had moved in with Eric. By golly, she had.

    That's just one example. I think there is a universal consciousness, if you will, and we all tap into it, some more so than others. Call it electrical impulses, if you want, but it's there.

    What's the point of dying for knowledge? That does not make a lot of sense to me. But I'm with Hallie about the arrogance of thinking we're the only sentient beings in the universe. Puhleeze. (No offense, Rhys, darling.)

    As for dinner party conversation, the last time I had a lovely dinner party and invited three other couples, two of the men practically ruined it by dominating the conversation before and during dinner, going on and on about a book no one else had read and its implications for racism. Ye gods. Nothing could knock them off course until the one guy dragged his wife home for his typical early night.

    That table at the Downton dinner party was breathtaking, wasn't it? Of course, one would need a houseful of servants to manage such a thing!

  11. Oh, and YES! I will be at Malice, as a new author, no less. Excited hardly describes it.

  12. Jack, I KNEW you were going to say that.

  13. Karen in ohio---I'm with you. When I lived in Atlanta, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought--"Byron!" (The person I was dating at the time.)
    It was such a powerful thoguht that I actually called him. Middle of the night, remember.
    No answer on his phone. (This was th 80's, no machines.)
    I hung up, baffled. Called again. No answer.
    I was so terrified, I called his sister.
    Long story shorter, turns out he'd been taken to the emergency room with acute appendicitis.

    Anyone got an explanation for that one?

  14. And how about those gazillion times you're driving around, look up and see a word that you also hear on the radio at the identical split second? Why does THAT happen?

    Jack, your comment cracked me up.

  15. It's a COINCIDENCE. Sometimes things just happen.

    What's hilarious is how often coincidences really do happen in life, and yet we can't get away with putting them in fiction. Especially not in a mystery novel.

  16. KAren, I KNOW. It's amazing. ALL the time. Bizarre. Or you'll say a random word exactly when someone on TV says it.

  17. I am a 'skeptical believer' in both. What we know about the workings of the human brain is minuscule in comparison to what we DON'T know, and there have been too many times a 'hunch' has proven correct to think there isn't some kind of internal warning sense. BUT... I want to see scientifically validated proof of what it is, how it works, what it can or cannot do, etc.

    UFO's? Sheer mathematical logic says we cannot be alone in the galaxy, much less the universe. I want to believe, I really do, but - once again - I want physical concrete proof of visits. The myths and legends have gotten ridiculous, but there has to be 'something or someone' out there. If we're the Apex of Creation.... well.....

  18. Hallie. Puh-leeze. That is NOT a coincidence!

    (I agree with you about the books, though.)

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  20. Yes, William, that's the ultimate proof, right? Humans--although fabulous and amazing and incredible and complicated--cannot be as good as it gets.

    Can they?

  21. William,
    I love your term "skeptical believer" I think that might describe me in almost everything.

    Hank, I knew you knew that Jack was going to say that!!

    And Edith, I am taking - or supposed to take - a hiatus from the blog to get more time for my historical research, (you see I lack self discipline in this regard)

    but I will be putting in occasional appearances on Sundays after I am done MOVING into the city (So exciting) which is happening in February if all goes well!

  22. ESP? There's gotta be something there, no doubt. I think some people may have better control than my case, not so much.

    And about 5 seconds before I read Rosemary's comment about intelligent life on this planet, I was thinking the same thing. Let's turn the tables and say "they" do come down and find us...would we be considered intelligent life? Maybe they're just doing fly-bys on Planet Earth and say, "Ugh, look at what they're doing now! Let's get outta here!"

  23. Love this busy blog today!
    I would redefine the question of ESP, and agree with those who say that there is certainly a way that some people tap more deeply into a consciousness that connects them to others.
    But, I don't see how anyone could predict the future.
    I'm not terribly interested in whether or not there is life on other planets, because I don't see what impact it would have on our life on earth. The size of the universe scares me, fascinates me, intimidates me -- so I try not to think about it!!

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  25. Yes, Denise Ann, my brain will not handle it, either. It's almost impossible to consider. (Jan, you're woking on this, right?)

    And yes, predicting the future is different than ESP, I agree. I mean--the future doesn't know what it is, yet, right? SO how can it be known?

    Although remember the "it is written" moment in Lawrence of Arabia?

  26. . . . and what if the life from other planets mirrored the Twilight Zone's "To Serve Man"? . . . or am I just channeling the bunny in the bush, who runs away when I look at her . . . ?
    I do think we can know things without knowing why. I had a dream of a burglary in an apartment I was going to rent. I took back my deposit check without telling them why -- a month later the new tenants were burgled
    . . . and then there was that mysterious knocking sound I heard when sleeping in the lounge on the Delta Queen. Hello, Mary Becker Green . . .

  27. You all crack me up today! (I can hear theme from the X-Files playing in the background... And I was a huge fan, in case your collective ESP didn't tell you that:-))

  28. Oh, yes, storytellermary! Didy ou watch the Twilight Zone marathon on New Year's day? We saw Monsters on Maple Street! And a few other wonderful ones. "To Serve Man" is a classic!

    Who's Mary Becker Green?

    Deb, I never saw the X-files, strangely! DO you think it woudl hold up?

  29. storytellermary:
    I loved that episode of "The Twilight Zone!" Or suppose life "out there" mirrored the show’s no-dialogue episode "The Invaders" where Agnes Moorehead was the giant alien and the earthlings seemed like mice to her?

  30. Jan, you're allowed to read the blog and comment on it, even if on hiatus:).

    Hank, the Byron story is very strange...yes esp. Karen in Ohio--nightmare! I bet you won't invite them back...

    Kaye, sorry you won't be at Malice!! I'm going, looking forward to it! A big house party and always fun...(and we hope we don't get people on our panels who are related to Karen's dinner guests.)

  31. This is really strange that you bring this up. This weekend I had one of those moments. I have a friend who is very sick with the flu, and I usually check in with her in the late afternoon, after I get my day done. On Saturday, I simply had to call her at noon. The compulsion would not let me go. When I called, it seems she had been to the hospital because she was having trouble breathing, and they told her she had pneumonia. At 78, this is not a joke. I still wonder at how I knew this. This is like your Byron story, Hank leaves me wondering, and believing a little more.

  32. I think I read somewhere that humans only use about 10-20% of their brain capacity. Given that, could ESP exist? Quite possibly.

    And I'm with Hallie(?) and others who say that the universe is much too vast to definitively say we are the only intelligent life out there. In fact, some days I think the fact that we haven't seen ET is proof that intelligent life exists - because they are choosing to stay away from the madhouse! LOL

  33. Lil! Exactly. That's not nothing, I agree. (ANd I hope your friend is recovering..)

    And yes, Mary Sutton! Exactly! Those poeple who can perfectly play the piano or speak French after an injury--yes, I know it's weird synapses or something, but who knows what else is in there!

    And yes, maybe the ET's are already here. That would interesting. I know plenty of people I think are potentials..

  34. Potential aliens? Too funny, Hank.

    Roberta, they will be invited back, but not at the same time, and not for a dinner party. Both couples are some of our dearest friends--for many decades, for crying out loud.

    I just chalk it up to the usual: testosterone poisoning. Sheesh.

  35. Regarding ESP: not sure what I believe. I do think that some people have a gift for perceiving things in a unique way, although it might just be a one time occurrence. Or maybe it happens under unique circumstances. My mom, who was a practical, no-nonsense, down-to-earth person, did not believe in it. Yet she told us about an unusual experience she had when she was pregnant with me: my grandparents were having a house built and they lived with my parents for a few months before the house was ready. One night when my parents and grandparents and my uncle (Mom's youngest sibling who was still living at home) were all sitting around the dinner table having a good laugh over something, Mom had a sudden mental image of all of them, except my grandfather, sitting at the table and crying. Later that night, all of them, except my grandfather, were sitting around the table crying: a couple of hours after dinner, my grandfather was rushed to the hospital with a grave stomach ailment that nearly killed him. He ended up being transferred to a hospital in NYC, where he had experimental surgery that saved his life. Mom said that she used to wonder if her pregnancy enhanced her perceptions and somehow made it possible for her to sense that there would be a crisis almost momentarily. She was not a believer in that sort of thing ad nothing like that ever happened again.

    Life elsewhere in the universe?The universe is vast; I think there is probably some sort of life out there. Whether or not they know about us and want to visit here and whether or not we ever "discover" other life forms in the universe
    are questions I can't answer. I do believe that God is larger than any of us and that we will never be able to comprehend the entire extent of God's creation, never mind the other forms that creation may take. And I also believe that creation is ongoing - volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods all change our planet;events like these are very likely changing the forms and shapes of other planets as well. Perhaps because I am a mystery lover, I do like having these mysteries going on in life! I don't feel that I need the answers, since these questions don't involve crimes or the need for justice to be done. (I WOULD like an answer to the question of why innocent people suffer, but that's a whole other topic!)

  36. Jan, the study of neuroscience spoiled a lot of phenomena for me but never explained away my connection with Auntie-Mom, nor did it explain my mother's lifelike appearances in my dreams after her death.

    At least once a month Auntie-Mom calls me as I pick up the phone to call her, before the phone rings. We are very irregular in our calls. We don'call at at the same time of day, the same day of the week, or from the same place. She often calls me when she is on the road, so she times her calls to cell phone reception. A few years ago we stopped mentioning it to one another, we'd become so accustomed to it.

    One of my aunts in Boston calls me now and then when she has a "bad feeling" as she calls it. The last time she called all she said when I answered the phone was, "Just tell me." No hello. No how are you. "Just tell me."

    My mother sometimes appears in my sleep state. These appearances are not part of a larger dream, nor is their quality anything like a dream. Typically, she is dressed up and looking gorgeous in spiked heels, a stunning dress, and her own bright red lipstick. She strides toward me then stops to deliver a message, typically about what she has been up to since dying. It is very unnerving. I am quite sure it comes from me, yet it does not explain the messages that always go beyond my understanding.

  37. Reine, I've told you before how often all three of my daughters call on the same day (they live in MI, CO, and FL), sometimes all at the same time. This happens about once a month.

  38. Hank, you missed X-Files?! Lucky you!!! I'm sure Mulder and Skully stand up. Loved that show. Did they ever go around the bend to la la land? I don't think so.

  39. ANd it isn't always..convenient. I call my father and his wife in DC on weekends--sometimes. Sometimes Saturday, sometimes Sunday.

    But ALWAYS ALWAYS when they are on the way to somewhere else. ALWAYS.

    Okay, sure, maybe they have busy weekends. But I NEVER catch them just as they are arriving home, or when they are already out.

  40. Hank, this is a great post today! Jan, best of luck on your research during your hiatus. I'm getting spotty in checking in here and will be for a while because I'm writing the third Skeet Bannion novel's first draft. So there are days that I just don't make it here--and I miss you guys on those days. (I should take a hiatus like Jan, but I wouldn't want to miss you for months!)

    As far as ESP goes, yes. I've had too many demonstrations. One example. My beloved grandmother died when I was 13. She wasn't expected to die, but I had this terrible feeling hit me as I did my homework after school that Gran was gone. Then, the call came to tell us she had died. Half an hour later, my best friend showed up. She'd suddenly felt that something horrible had happened and I needed her, so her mother drove her out of town to where our trailer park was.

    ETs? Yes. I don't buy a human-centric, Earth-centric universe--and it doesn't have to affect anyone's religious belief. God could be their god also.

    But die to know for sure? No thanks. I'd die to save a life or lives, but no piece of knowledge is worth giving up the gift of life.

  41. YAY, Skeet! Can't wait to read it...

    Wait, I'm getting a mesage..yes! It'll be terrrific.

    And that's a wonderful story, LInda. Wish I undefstood it.

    Right, Deb and Reine?

  42. Oh, Linda, yes... more Skeet... more Skeet.

    I had a similar dream vision the night before my grandmother died. I was 9 years old. She was standing in the stairwell of her apartment building in Salem, Massachusetts, holding onto the railing outside her door. She looked down at me and waved goodbye. Just beneath her hand on the railing was a large black wreath.

    About the universe. If the universe is infinite, there must be more than us. I am sure we are not alone, but I do think centricism is built in, along with altruism, to greater or lesser degree in each of us, for preservation. Where emotions are involved, anything can get out of hand.

    Despite good evidence (objects that repeatedly return from the far reaches) that it is finite, make no sense. If there were an end to it, there would have to be something that continued to push it back. As the universe is expanding, it only makes sense that there is something beyond that barrier, otherwise there would be no space for it to expand into.

    Back to centrism. My traditional theology says that since the universe is infinite, each of us is in the center of the universe, at all times, wherever we are. It is being a part of the life circle that fills all directions and planes and gives us access to the Creator.

    Oh good grief. My captcha is 1523 Hanks.

  43. I believe in ESP because I have it. It doesn't occur very often, maybe once every few years, but it's always been quite memorable.

    My mom's birthday was Christmas Day, and one year as I was looking through a catalog I saw the perfect gift for her. It was a crystal vase etched with the image of a hummingbird at a fuchsia, two of Mom's favorite things. As I folded down the corner of the page to mark it, I heard clear as a bell, inside my head, "Don't get this, Mom won't be around long enough to enjoy it." Hmm. I set the catalog aside for a few days and when I picked it up again I heard the same admonition. "Okay, I'll wait and give this one more try," I thought. When I did I got the exact same result, so I left it

    For Christmas that year I was giving family members Waterford ornaments, and with great difficulty did not get one for Mom. I had Christmas and birthday gifts for her, but nothing extravagant. The following February, on the 8th, she died of complications of a stroke and heart disease.

    As for the rest of the dinner table conversation, I have no idea, but who am I to say absolutely not? And while there are some things I'd willingly die for, knowledge of the existence of ET visitors is most definitely not on my list.

  44. Reine, Lynda, I have no doubt. It's a very powerful thing. Thank you so much for sharing those stories...

  45. Oh, Hank. Mary. Yes! ""Next stop, Willoughby. Next stop, Willoughboy."

  46. Oh, yes, Willoughby! We saw that one! Fabulous.

    Tomorrow...have you ever attempted anything impossible? Or at least..unlikely?

    LIke--cleaning out a junk drawer. :-)

  47. I'm coming to the party late, but I had to chime in because I've also experienced "weird things," often connected to my cousin. Some are pretty coincidental - once we were discussing a child actor then turned on the tv to find it tuned to a show he was in. Another child actor was in the show and we talked about the movie she was most known for. The next morning THAT movie was playing. Once we were looking at a grocery store bookshelf and each grabbed a book from a different area of the shelf, exclaiming that we read it in 8th grade... and it was the same book. Not a typical 8th grade book, but Sacagaewa, at a whopping 1500 pages. Another time she casually commented that she was listening to a new Jimmy Buffet CD and learned a new word - ganja. Early that day I was reading and came across that same word, thinking to myself, "well, I learned a new word today." My most bizarre, though, was when I walked past her room as I left one morning, glanced in and saw a blue flocked air mattress blown up and lying on the floor. When I got home later, I saw it again, packed back in the box. No big deal, until she told me she bought it that afternoon, well AFTER I first saw it on her floor.

    It isn't just my experiences that convince me. My aunt had two ponies when she was a teenager. When they moved into town, she gave one to my family and one to another friend. A couple of years later we went out to the barn and found Pinky dead in her stall. She was fairly young, maybe 12 years old. When we got back to the house, my aunt was on the phone. She'd had a strange dream the night before in which she was chasing the ponies and they kept running away from her. She'd just received a call from the other owner with news that their pony died in a barn fire.