Saturday, August 31, 2013

A spooky story involving time shifts and synchronicity

Tonight at the lodge, two members related a recent experience that sounded quite strange as they told it... Only to become more strange as I pondered the impossibility of it. It involved an answering machine recording of lengthy phone conversation between two people--a conversation that occurred two years earlier.  It is a true "Twilight Zone" experience that is reminiscent of many of the stories in early "Fate" magazine.

One late night, Jack noticed his old skool answering machine click on as an incoming call arrived. It activated several times until it finally began recording a message. The "message" turned out to be a two-way call between fellow lodge brother Ned and an acquaintance as they made elaborate plans for a dinner for an upcoming event. The answering machine recorded a lengthy discussion between the two--who would cook what, who would bring what--even though neither individual had "called" Jack's machine or otherwise recorded the call, a call which had in fact occurred two years earlier.

Ned well recalled the conversation as well as the event, but he could not explain how the call mysteriously appeared on Jack's answering machine many months after the fact.

One of the listeners was a lodge brother who was once employed by AT&T as a network installer, and he had no explanation for the event; and neither did I--though I quickly considered, then discarded, the possibilities... "Maybe the call had been recorded somewhere by something and then..." No.  "Maybe there's a ghost in the NSA machine, and a recording made somewhere was inadvertently forwarded..." Nah. Then Ned held up his new Droid and showed us how Jack was listed as frequent call-ee, even though he had never called Jack on this phone. "Possibly," I thought, "Ned's new cell had imported earlier call data from an account or a cloud service..."  Possible, but not likely, and it still didn't explain the ghost answering machine recording.

The recording is by no means supernatural--it does not defy currently known scientific laws. In fact, the skeptic would argue that the event has a simple explanation:  Someone obviously recorded Ned's call, and then later forwarded the call to Jack's answering machine. While this is of course possible--and, depending on your perspective, probable--I don't buy it. There is simply no reason why anyone would go through the trouble of recording Ned's call, and then, two years later, forwarding this call to a bemused Jack. Both lodge brothers are in their eighties and well past the age of any such intrigue.

What this does remind me of is the oft-reported phenomenon of "phone calls from the dead," where deceased individuals somehow manage to call the living on telephones as well as leave messages on their answering machines. It is a quintessentially late twentieth-century phenomenon, as the "dead" seem to be able to traverse various analog networks (not to mention, voice carriers) and leave audible artifacts on legacy hardware.

Occam's razor suggests, to me, that there is strong synchronicity involved, and that "time" is, as Seth suggests, simultaneous, and not sequential. Events are ordered by the strength of association, and not by cause-and-effect. An event happens to Ned and Jack, lodge brothers. Had the experience happened to two people unknown to each other, it would have been either ignored or not actualized. Instead, it was noticed, and discussed, and now--recorded and published. Meaning and purpose?  Unknown, at least, for now.

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