Thursday, February 23, 2012

My story about lucid dreaming and lottery numbers

Last night I played the Texas Lotto with numbers I had gotten in a lucid dream, and half of them were correct. It probably doesn't mean anything. 1:250 odds, for that. Pretty weird, but not burning bush weird. I had gone to bed with the silly plan to do this, based on a whacked-out probably-not-true theory about time and the subconscious. Getting a weird fluke 1:250 event as the outcome of a deliberate experiment with time probably at least merits me doing the experiment again. It probably also justifies writing a blog post.

My facebook page is at, if you want to confirm this.

I want to talk about the theory, and my experiment. But first let's talk about my childhood.

When I was a kid, I believed I had precognitive dreams. They were usually about buildings. When I recognized a building from a dream, adults usually told me it was deja vu. It may have been. But I was convinced enough of myself that I got really serious about trying to prove them wrong. I wrote out detailed descriptions of all the weird buildings I had seen in dreams but not yet found in life. I wonder today if this journal still exists somewhere. It'd be mind-blowing if I found it and there were sketches of my current workplace, and the hotel in Toledo where we spent our honeymoon, etc. I don't expect that this would be the outcome, but it's fun to imagine.

When I got older, my dad told me about a book that C.S. Lewis and his whole Oxford posse were really intrigued by. It's called An Experiment With Time.

If you buy it, do it here so Amazon will give me a couple of cents.

The author purports to have precognitive dreams. He starts journaling them, and to his own satisfaction disproves the explanation of "you just made that memory up." He goes on to invent a theory of physics that can permit for such a bizarre phenomenon. He's not a physicist. His theory is ludicrous. It's really, really confused and bad. I walked away from the book thinking that all of his conclusions were untenable, but that perhaps his experimental data was still valid. There's no way of knowing. He could have made up everything in the book just to impress a girl and make a buck.

Later on in life, the brilliant Richard Morgan made me watch Waking Life.

It's a trippy rotoscoped indie movie about lucid dreaming. It's freaking fantastic. So I had now been exposed to lucid dreaming. I started to practice. I'm still not very good.

Lucid dreams are dreams that you have where you know that you're in a dream. When this happens, and you're naked in high school again where everybody hates you, you can smile, stand up on your desk, start singing a song for people, and then fly away.

There are a lot of cool things you can do in lucid dreams. If you need a sandwich or a weapon, you can reach out of your field of vision, know it will be there, grasp it, and pull it into your field of view (I got a revolver when I was being attacked in London this way once, and it was really useful).

So I started to think this: What if the crazy Experiment With Time guy is right in his argument that our subconsciouses have access to both future and past memories? What if by lucid dreaming, we can effect a bit of conscious inquiry into this data? What if, say, for example, I realized I was in a dream, and reached out of my field of vision to grab the Handheld Future Machine, which listed lottery numbers and earthquake coordinates?

It's utterly far-fetched, and I don't believe it, even as I experiment with it. There are just too many things that wouldn't make sense. For starters, I'm convinced that someone with even a little bit of precognitive ability could essentially take over the world and rule it as god/king, like Jones did in The World Jones Made. I figure that at least a few of the 100,000,000,000 people who've ever lived would have pulled this off by now, and we'd all definitely know about it.

There are other considerations. What about time's arrow? What about everything we know about neurology and memory formation? You can add your own what-abouts. They're innumerable.

So it was just a fun idea. Something to imagine about for funsies, like a ghost story.

Then I met Duña.

Duña Littlefield was a Peruvian woman who had married an old racist anglo for her citizenship. He didn't speak Spanish, and she didn't speak English. That started to make things complicated in their marriage, so he enrolled her in my class (I'm an ESL teacher).

Duña had the most outlandish ideas about la metafisica, and the moon, and tarot. It made classes interesting.

So one day, Duña comes to me and says (in markedly less fine English), "I woke up from a dream last night, and all I can remember are the numbers 311. I think it means something. What is God trying to tell me?" I quipped, "It's called Pick Three. Go buy a lottery ticket after class tonight and you'll win $500. You owe me half." We laughed and we continued with class.

She literally screamed, that night, when the numbers were drawn. She hadn't bought a ticket. She reported it to me and I verified it. 311. I was inspired.

So. To the present. My experiment.

I was talking with my son about the Duña thing two nights ago, and I told him that we should each try to lucid dream, and try to get lottery numbers. I promised I would play any numbers he dreamed. I left a sheet of paper and a sharpie by his bed. He didn't have a lucid dream. I did.

I didn't pull a Handheld Futuretelling Device, but instead a piece of paper. 

The paper was covered with numbers. I picked a line at random and started committing them to memory. As per the strategy I had developed with my son that night, I made up a song and sang the numbers to myself, so it would be easier to remember them when I woke up. I have a really hard time reading in lucid dreams (in fact, blurry illegible text is a dream sign for me: something that tells me I'm not really awake). I finally got the line down woke myself up, sang the song, and entered the numbers into my phone.

Which is appropriate, because the sequence of numbers I dreamed looked like a phone number. Depressing. I had to break it up into 1 or 2-digit numbers to play. 

I dreamed:

635     771     0538

It was depressing because I obviously couldn't play something like 635. I could play 6, and 35. or should if be 63, and then 5? Shit. Someone on facebook gave my their favorite break-down, and I ran with it. It had a 77 in it. The lotto balls don't count up that high. *sigh.* I let the gas station lady pick her own favorite number to switch out with the 77. (I had actually really, really, struggled to read that middle portion in the dream.)

They drew last night after I went to bed. The winning numbers were:

3 5 6   12   38 50
(you can verify here

It looks like a dyslexic reading of my numbers (with the 77 switched out, of course). What impresses me most is that it's even alike in sequence. My final chunk -- 0538-- looks a lot like that 38 50 over there. Same 635 and 3 5 6. Completely discarding the similarity in sequence, something improbable happened: I got half the numbers right. My 1:250 fluke paid off a disgustingly disproportionate $3.

Directions for further research

I have to try again, obviously. What will happen is that I'll get nothing right. And then try again, and get nothing right. And then quit.

Unless I get another almost. Maybe I'll use a machine that speaks the words to me so I won't have to struggle with reading, and maybe I'll get all but one number right, or all of them.

And then, happily, when we're celebrating at Video Bar in San Juan, they'll ask Levi, "So, how did you retire so young?" and he'll answer (truthfully), "I hacked the stock market."

They'll turn to me and say "And you? You too? What about your fortune?"

"I hacked the universe." 

You can RSS me if you like me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What I believe. For Dad, and Jeff.

Me and Meg have been outed to my parents as polyamorous. Folks from church saw our outrageously cute 50s night quad picture and went to the bishop with it. My dad is the bishop. He's the badass /r/christianity bishop of "Hi Michael" fame. Him and my mom have been sobbing all night and day about me and Megan.

Last night, we had the posse over.

God I love you guys.
The sage (Jeffy) asked me how I could still identify as Christian. And more importantly, why not just leave it all and be free?

Some hours later, when we were having "the talk," my dad asked some similar questions. He also asked if we could sit down sometime and talk about my beliefs in detail. This post probably won't supersede that glorious impending conversation, but it would be good for me right now to at least try to paint the broad strokes.

I believe that when civilization came, a lot of pain came with it. I believe (with Marshall Rosenberg, author of the life-changing Nonviolent Communication),  that when complex human societies got underway, with all the slavery and violence that made them so good at growing and winning out in the long term, our language and education took a turn for programming us to be better slaves. A lot of false dichotomies emerged that distorted our thinking. Laws and morality were codified and internalized in a way that made us believe in some absolute wrongs and rights that run quite outside of the scope of "love thy neighbor," and sometimes run right against it. These were useful for the overlords, the still-free. Like Nietzsche says, every moral doctrine has its root in its opposite. Every prohibition for the masses was born of the prerogatives of the few.  As state-level civilization picked up, this led to massive violence and hurt. Where transferring our moral responsibility from our consciences to the law of the elites allowed us to stone adulterers and feel good the next day, transferring responsibilities to banks and governments soul-less corporations (who have now come to have "personhood" in modern legislation) allowed us to literally maim, kill, and humiliate at an unprecedented scale, and not even know we were doing it. Organized religion evolved as a part of this control system, and it served its purpose well.

Judaism actually seems to mournfully acknowledge this all. Pre-civilized man lives naked and with a single rule: don't eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He walks with God. Then he eats from that tree of codification and transference, and henceforth slaves away from the sweat of his brow.

The law is decreed. It's explicitly impossible to keep (whether it's from God, or not). Maybe this is God's brilliantly ironic retort to the people's insistence on having a law. Maybe it's just the slave-system hitting fever pitch.

Whatever the case, the Israelites do some inexcusably evil stuff. Stuff I can't and won't call Godly, ever. Genocide.

But then, in Christianity, the narrative twists breathtakingly. 

Nietzsche thought that Christianity was a dysfunctional religion, because even the elites were subdued by it. It still made slaves, but it didn't allow for anyone to be free. It is a weird-ass religion. 

Revisiting it, after I started to be more truthful with myself, I started to see in it a powerful story of freedom. God becomes a human, and works on the Sabbath, touches unclean people, hangs out with whores and breaks just about every law he can. He ordains apostles who literally call righteousness under the law "shit."

After all this insult and injury to the law, we're commanded to love each other. The Spirit will guide us and convict us. God dies on Tree #2, and we're back to something like the old rules.

This, surrounded by a thousand errata and contradictions and cultural moorings, is the basic narrative of Christianity. It's anarchistic, freedom-loving, and powerful. If there were a religion that could be read in such a way as to be liberating and empowering and ennobling, I think it's this one.

And if life isn't random, and things do happen for a reason, and we as individuals have a purpose, then the discovery of this probably has something to do with the reason I'm here.

You can RSS me if you like me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Tendencies

People need totems.

They really do. There's this primal yearning for a team to play on, with its own flag or jersey or ancestral god. Lots of kids' summer camps have a "color day," when the kids are divided into teams and get to run relays and stuff against each other. The kids get into it, and talk about it for years, ever holding their allegience to their bygone affiliations. Having a team is like having a name. It's humanizing.

Sneaky capitalists have used this to promote brand loyalty. When Coke and Pepsi, in the '90s, started bashing each in other taste-tests, it became clear to me that I was, in my heart, a Pepsi person. Because I'm not stupid, like those normal Coke people. 

I think there's an interesting thing that happens when you get too many people of the same totem together, though: it splits. Get a thousand professors together in a room, and no one will feel like they're on an elite task force with a special destiny just because they're a professor. A physicist will quip that non-physicists are glorified stamp collectors, and the teaming up will start.

Anarchism is a lot like that room of professors. It's split up into "tendencies," which can be defined, variously, by the goals of an adherents' anarchism, the methods they think will take us there, or what kind of party they're going to have afterwards.

Here are a few of our cool-ass teams:

Some goal-defined tendencies
"when we get there, there's gonna be no patriarchy"
"when we get there, it's gonna be like it was before governments"
"when we get there, we'll be free to change our bodies, and transcend this species, and  throw off the very shackles of death"
queer anarchism
"when we get there people, all genders and orientations will be able to do as they please"

Some method-defined tendencies

"we won't use violence or coercion to get there"
"cryptography can help get us there a lot faster, and we need to pursue the hell out of it"

So far, I can identify with every single tendency I've listed. I can wave the whole rainbow of flags. But here's where it gets hard. Here's where all the big fights happen. Get ready.

Afterparty tendencies

"when the state is abolished (or before) (or already!) I'm going to join a re-distributive syndicate"
"I'm not"

Team Edward, meet Team Jake.
"Why capitalism is what led to this mess!", the reds say. "Anarcho-capitalism is an oxymoron. Don't you know that corporations kill people and deprive them of their rights? Ever heard of Monsanto?"
"Re-distribution necessarily invokes the power of the state," the golds scream back. "Anarcho-syndicalism is an oxymoron. Don't you know that communists kill people and deprive them of their rights? Ever heard of Stalin?"

If you wave either of these flags, you are already spewing forth eloquence against the utter bullshit of one of the above statements. If you're really heavily methods-focused, and haven't signed up for either team yet, it's probably easier for you to see the malarkey in both.

I'd say this: lets beat Franco first. Let's even revel in the fact that we disagree. When we're all in some forum together, it becomes too easy to draw lines between each other. But when the sentinels are coming, even Xavier and Magneto team up. And it's sort of bad ass.


Addendum: Dear /r/anarchy, why are so many of you guys meanies?