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Alternate Perceptions Magazine, November 2019

The 11 O’clock News
Entering the Maze

by: James Dowell, with Arden Dowell

Where do I start with this…? I found out about it really quite by accident.  My assumption is probably I would have heard about it sooner or later, but it is possible I would never have heard about it… maybe at all…  Maybe that would have been a good thing. 

Last Thursday – this is the Thursday after Valentine’s Day 2018 - after I got home – this is not quite a week later as I write this - I was casually looking up something on my phone – on the internet – and I came across a reference to a school shooting on the previous day which as I just indicated in this case was Valentine’s Day.  There had been a school shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day but for no particular reason I had only just now - as I sat reading about it last Thursday – only just found out there had been another shooting.  I was surprised but not shocked; there have been so many now in the past several years most of us have simply lost count.  That in itself is quite a terrible thing to say.  I did text Michelle (my ex who I was pretty sure already knew) – and Jacklyn – a friend.  Jacklyn was shocked and hadn’t heard about it at all - like me – until I texted her.  

Now everything I have to say isn’t really about the shooting itself but has to do instead with the reporting of the news about the shooting.  That Thursday while I was looking at the news on my phone Arden (my 10-year-old son) was right next to me on the couch and made a point of making an exclamation about it.  He was a little surprised that I hadn’t heard about it…

I couldn’t tell at first when it happened.  Not all of the sites – rather strangely I thought – made immediate reference to the date and time of the shooting so I found myself kind of searching it out as Arden seemed to be under the impression it happened a few days ago.  I just plain didn’t know.

Of course, it happened on the 14th… just the day before that day I was talking to him, but he just said, “No Daddy… it happened earlier … over the weekend… like Sunday...”  There was a tone in his voice as he said this, as if he knew… and I obviously still hadn’t figured out the truth.  It was one of the more curious things about the shooting that it took place not only on Valentine’s Day but Ash Wednesday. That both this year were the same day was something that didn’t happen often. As a matter of fact the last time was in the year 1945!

Now, at this point in time, I don’t remember his exact words and we actually ended up arguing about when it happened; I started to get a little angry thinking what is the big deal… why in the world is he arguing about something like that… it just seemed like off the wall...!?  It seemed like a strangely inconsequential thing to argue about… utterly pointless.  That very thought – or something much like it - lay at the back of my mind. 

He had been sitting on the couch and had been watching something on the monitor but suddenly got up and started searching on Google… I didn’t know what he was doing at first and then I realized he really doesn’t believe it happened just yesterday.  He was looking himself for the date and came away a little shocked – bemused might be a better word - saying something to the effect he couldn’t find anything more than about two days old… which of course made sense to me but seemed confusing to him.

I couldn’t understand why at first – why he was reacting like this at all - until… he told me he had seen it on the news Sunday.  I thought to myself he is simply confused...!  I would probably have left it at that, but I asked him to give me some details and the details… well he had no trouble giving me details.  He seemed to have a good memory of what he saw on the news… on Sunday.  It was only as we were talking about it on Thursday that he began to get an idea of how weird it was that he saw something on Sunday … about the shooting… he didn’t really understand it had happened on Wednesday… at all!  All this time he was thinking it had happened on Sunday...!!!!

The news report had included something about a cop that had been killed in the line of duty and the crash of the Russian airliner in the morning of that day.  Sandwiched in between was the report of the school shooting.  Now I didn’t have to spend much time finding the other items – I found a picture of the cop – and plenty of news about the Russian plane and the number of people killed; 71 people had died in the crash and Arden had confused that number at first with the number of people (17) that died in the shooting.  Pictures too…  And Arden remembered a picture from the shooting he had seen on the Sunday news and identified that picture… uh like what!!??!!?? He also rather casually made another point about the news he heard on Sunday – need I again say how impossible this is – but he remarked, in such a laconic manner I was surprised by it, that unlike most news spots this particular one about the shooting had failed to mention a date.  He made this point to me later, after we had discussed it at some length.  I would have laughed but was too shocked at his point to laugh.

Well none of this made any sense at all.  The more he told me the stranger it seemed to get.  And he had mentioned the shooting to his mother Michelle when she woke up before they left Scott’s house – the friend they were visiting that Sunday – and she remembered what he said about the Florida shooting.  He had identified it as a school shooting in Florida… with many people dead… oh and he made this point to me more than once: it had been a student that had done it! 

Now it is true he had been expelled… still in many reports he is described as one of the students at that high school… and he had been a student there in the past...  Just so happens when he saw the thing Sunday evening everyone at Scott’s place was asleep or gone so Arden was the only one that saw the news but …  what he says he saw makes no sense. 

Now having had some time to reflect on this… I could throw in details about the other two items – the cop and the plane – I had no trouble confirming them and Arden remembered enough detail that both of those items made all the sense in the world.  But when he identified a picture (included) that seemed to have been taken Wednesday as something he saw in the broadcast – an NBC news break from the Olympics late Sunday night – well … ummm… it is simply impossible.  He mentioned later how he had almost missed the news anyway as they were going to watch a movie but ended up on the Olympics instead; if they had watched the movie as planned – he told me later – well he wouldn’t have seen the news.

I have also spent some time trying to come up with what he really saw – of course he couldn’t have seen what he thought he did – maybe there was another Florida shooting recently – well … I have been completely unable to come up with something he might simply have ‘misconstrued’ as this Florida shooting.  I even watched many NBC news reports…  He still I guess may have done that… misconstrued something… but if he did it is difficult to imagine what he really did … witness … instead… and come up somehow with a shooting in Florida to mention to his mother.

I guess we could imagine some strange clairvoyance on his part but why in the world would it take the form of a news broadcast... uh, or part of one…?  Clairvoyance has some validity… I think it exists as a real phenomenon.  It is of course a major thread in the Bible; pastors often don't quite address it directly but instead talk about prophecy.  They don't want to get mired in the questionable field of psychic phenomena…we are talking however about the same kind of thing....  But including it in his own private version of the news broadcast it seems…  well really out there.  Well … a very imaginative use of clairvoyance…   Of course, I can confirm the shooting like I can confirm the other parts of the broadcast… just that it was … a little out of place in time!!!!!!!!!

Beyond some kind of odd clairvoyance, and simply the good ole false memory thing, that in spite of everything to the contrary the memory is not a real one but some strange ‘confabulation’, and as we are right next door to the impossible it is very hard not to just give in and say… yep that’s it… can’t be anything else… but beyond those what do we have?  Retro-causality, time travel, parallel world nonsense… in short nothing in the repertoire of the rational seems to make sense of this thing…oh.  It’s just one of those things… that would do fine and dandy! 

Of course, I have left out … collusion.  It could be a trick.  They could be tricking me… it’s not impossible. We are divorced...!?! Though I would place this possibility in another parallel world; even though yes, we are divorced!

Well it occurred to me that some people might think I left plain ole lying off the list; of course, lying can be independent of collusion.  So, I guess that is like a really far out thing too... again I would throw that into another parallel dimension.  Don't think that is what is going on... How about magic...?  I don't really know how it might function in this context, I have no extensive knowledge of magic... maybe I can say maybe being so basically ignorant about the particulars... and since I have heard 911 might have been a ritual sacrifice for a magical 'operation' or 'working' no telling what may or may not be possible. Opening a window into another dimension, inviting spirits to sup at your table, this is magic stuff...

Last but not least is yet a further out consideration and I feel like it... well its further out than what it’s trying to explain.  Is there even the shade of a possibility the shooting in Florida was in some way .... planned… or staged...?  Really even if this were so the things that would still have to happen to bring something to the TV in advance of the actual shooting... how planned could it possibly have been?  It would seem not that planned... just not possible.  Just too far out...

Out of all these possibilities, and ones I may indeed have missed, the only ones that make any sense are clairvoyance, collusion, and some kind of confabulation.  It is quite easy just to imagine... well of course he didn't see what he thinks he did... and he is a 10-year-old kid... now that shouldn't count against him but you or I probably wouldn't have been confused... would we...?  Out of all the possibilities of course what makes the most sense is he - somehow - didn't see what he remembers now to have seen Sunday... something else happened.  And it’s easy to substitute confabulation of some kind.

I had thought just maybe I had seen a TV show when I was a whipper snapper that used this trick of seeing the future on a TV show – and maybe I did – but haven’t been able to come up with whatever it was I might have seen.  Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond, Science Fiction Theatre… or something else… who knows??

Not Tying Anything Together

When I first wrote this, I was just trying to describe something that happened and the utter strangeness of it. When I thought about it in my own mind it seemed as if something completely impossible had taken place.  Though the idea of ‘clairvoyance’ seems to give a ‘patina’ of possibility - even plausibility - to this event, because of the way it comes into play it doesn’t seem very convincing at all… well to me.  Still it is the only beginning of an explanation I have.  

Now my son does lie, I have caught him in it, I have no trouble with that idea at all, it’s a very human thing, and kids are human too... but it is perfectly evident – again to me – that isn’t what is going on here.

The other curious thing about all of this is the way I had to ‘dig’ for it… it was a mystery to him.  Well not even that… it wasn’t a mystery at all at first but another news program.  Nothing mysterious there… just something that happened and until I pulled it out of … everything else that was happening – the ‘river of time’ – it was just something else that happened.

It was as though I had gone fishing in this river and out of everything had caught this weird fish that wasn’t a fish at all…  It had no absurdity until I pulled it out… and started to ‘polish’ it up… holding it up to the ‘light’ this way and that until of course I realized it couldn’t exist… and maybe I should just throw it back. 

Instead of throwing it back … I am doing this thing... just trying to describe 'it'...  but maybe it would be better if I throw it back.  I started to think about Jung, the collective unconscious, synchronicities… was this a synchronicity...?  Well it didn’t seem like it…  yet I guess at some level one could think that.  Arden himself might have thought that if he had realized what he saw on Sunday wasn’t real; so, when Wednesday came round… oh yeah, I ‘dreamed’ about that… but it wasn’t a dream.

We have this thing called the Mandela effect now; however, I tend to think it isn't something real at all but something that simply covers things we are too inattentive to notice; it doesn't seem to have much to do with our subject at all.  Yet I think it has a profound comment to make about attention and memory and life... Still Jung had an experience that to my mind… though its details are utterly and completely different from what is going on here… is strangely still the very same thing…. The Ravenna experience.

But of course, Arden didn’t see works of Art, didn’t spend time studying the broadcast, yet he can recount to me in some great detail all the spots on the show (except the one or two he may have missed not seeing the entire program) especially the one out of place…  and it seemed like just any other show! Just like Jung’s mosaics!

It is curious to me that television itself is nothing but an electronic mosaic so there is that parallel too. Arden having heard about school shootings many times, well it was just one more.  And he had a witness, a sort of witness even if his mother only heard a part of it from him and didn't see the program itself at all.  And Jung had his witness...  “The lady who had been there with me long refused to believe that what she had ‘seen with her own eyes’ had not existed.”

What he didn't see... well what he saw but proved not to exist when he did the 'seeing'... from Memories, Dreams, Reflections (from Ravenna And Rome):

"The fourth mosaic, on the west side of the baptistery, was the most impressive of all. We looked at this one last. It represented Christ holding out his hand to Peter, who was sinking beneath the waves. We stopped in front of this mosaic for at least twenty minutes and discussed the original ritual of baptism, especially the curious archaic conception of it as an initiation connected with real peril of death. Such initiations were often connected with the peril of death and so served to express the archetypal idea of death and rebirth. Baptism had originally been a real submersion which at least suggested the danger of drowning. I retained the most distinct memory of the mosaic of Peter sinking, and to this day can see every detail before my eyes: the blue of the sea, individual chips of the mosaic, the inscribed scrolls proceeding from the mouths of Peter and Christ, which I attempted to decipher. After we left the baptistery, I went promptly to Alinari to buy photographs of the mosaics but could not find any. Time was pressing this was only a short visit and so I postponed the purchase until later. I thought I might order the pictures from Zurich.

When I was back home, I asked an acquaintance who was going to Ravenna to obtain the pictures for me. He could not locate them, for he discovered that the mosaics I had described did not exist.

Meanwhile, I had already spoken at a seminar about the original conception of baptism, and on this occasion had also mentioned the mosaics that I had seen in the Baptistery of the Orthodox. The memory of those pictures is still vivid to me. The lady who had been there with me long refused to believe that what she had "seen with her own eyes" had not existed.

As we know, it is very difficult to determine whether, and to what extent, two persons simultaneously see the same thing. In this case, however, I was able to ascertain that at least the main features of what we both saw had been the same.

This experience in Ravenna is among the most curious events in my life. It can scarcely be explained. A certain light may possibly be cast on it by an incident in the story of Empress Galla Placidia (d. 450). During a stormy crossing from Byzantium to Ravenna in the worst of winter, she made a vow that if she came through safely, she would build a church and have the perils of the sea represented in it. She kept this vow by building the basilica of San Giovanni in Ravenna and having it adorned with mosaics. In the early Middle Ages, San Giovanni, together with its mosaics, was destroyed by fire; but in the Ambrosiana in Milan is still to be found a sketch representing Galla Placidia in a boat.”

Well it occurred to me it was as if I were to visit Six Flags, wanting to experience the newest ride, had waited in line and even taken the ride... but once I got home had learned they hadn't finished its construction and there would have been simply no way I had gotten on the ride.  Of course, if I had gone through the experience of the ride itself, I probably would need special convincing of its unreality.  What would I really think happened?  Something unbelievable, impossible.

Recently we had dinner at a local IKEA store and I took advantage of all of us being together to talk about Jung and his Ravenna experience.  Both Michelle and Arden found it interesting - I left out many details trying to concentrate on the essence - that the mosaics may have existed many hundreds of years ago but when Jung was there those mosaics simply were not there - anyway neither of them reacted with the shock I still experience thinking about the good doctor seeing something that wasn't there.  It has the shock value that realizing the constancy of the velocity of light - in all reference frames - has for me still - it is just completely counter intuitive.  It simply doesn't even seem possible.  

My wife seemed to simply accept all of it … still I thought about what had happened off and on for some time afterwards. Really, I couldn’t ‘fit my mind’ around what happened. It seemed utterly and completely impossible.  

Time Travel

There are many things I haven't mentioned concerning my son Arden that might or might not have something to do with this narrative.  One of those things, which I consider only ridiculous, and meaningless, but still curious enough to mention is he has been rather obsessed off and on with the idea of time travel. Dr. Who is a favorite but Back to the Future too; Michael J. Fox is supposed to show up at the next comic convention in our area... almost at our doorstep here in Dallas!

Well I am thinking I am going to have to make room too for this visitation and get a ticket for myself to the next con; I have tremendous respect for Mr. Fox and his foundation!  One of my very favorite Dr. Who episodes is Blink; there is a time slip in that episode.  The main character's friend finds herself transported into the past; she leaves her friend a strange missive by way of her grandson - trying to explain to her friend some of what happened - but it is at first for her utterly confusing and impossible.  Her grandson shows up the very day she goes missing!

Now I don't think Arden's obsession has anything to do with what happened to him but he has had other 'paranormal' things become part of his life... something for another time but I do remember him mentioning the idea of 'time slips' explaining his strange witness.  He even knew about 'time slips'...  Now there are many kinds of time slips but what happened to him didn't really seem to fit into any of them.  Yet if I would include Jung's experience in this weird category of things, I would perhaps then have to include this experience of Arden's as well.  

And it is as though events had been shuffled, re-shuffled, somehow ending up out of order for a short period of time, until I suppose, being straightened out again... by whoever or whatever might be doing such straightening, shuffling, etc.  There are other examples of so-called time slips and it has its own place now in the Fortean world.  Of course, it has for some time; Fort himself had such examples.  There are several blogs about time slips... 

Probably - if time travel has a reality - the reality of it and our ideas about it one can guess may not be identical; not difficult to suppose they are probably far apart.  That distance may even explain our inability to find them.  Perhaps they have been with us and gone back to their world many times... and if we do live in a multiverse then each world line created by such traveling might be different.

Of course, there are people that have claimed to be bona-fide time travelers.  They can usually be dismissed rather easily.  One of those, John Titor, left an impression on the web users of the time - around the turn of the century - and some of his parting words are interesting:

"... “If time travel is real, where are all the time travelers?” In the past, I have stated that quite frankly, you all scare the Hell out of me and I’m sure other temporal drivers would feel the same..."

How unlikely is it that Mr. Titor was the real McCoy, a time traveler?  I don’t think we have good statistics that might even begin to measure something as – perhaps as remotely improbable as that… Mr. Titor did have a few things that made many think more than twice about his strange story.

He had pictures of his machine – and no it didn’t look like the remarkable model from Wells’ Time Machine… it was if anything closer to that thing from Back to the Future if for no other reason than Mr. Titor kept it installed in a car.  Pictures are worth a thousand words…

He had a manual of operation for his machine.  Not a lot in there; however, many manuals of operation don’t reveal a lot, do they?  He had a good story and a purpose for his travel.  Really his story made me think a lot; some may not have thought much of it but I thought he had a pretty good story… considering…

He had predictions and an explanation for why they might not play out and those reasons they might not were entwined with the theory of operation of his time machine.  Frequently none of the theory about how things work find their way into manuals and so this manual was just like that.

His explanation was just good enough most people couldn’t follow most of it… he knew details about the many-worlds explanation of quantum theory most of us might not and the details involved Einstein, Tipler, Hawking… a couple of other scientists a little less noteworthy but they gave him credentials … and it was obvious he knew something about what they said.  He understood some of this theory… as far as that could go... as far and maybe just a little further than he needed to keep his story ‘in play’… Most time travelers might not be prepared to tackle all these fronts… not that we have a lot of them… but Mr. Titor was prepared!!

Some of his story may have evolved over time… there do seem to have been a few changes, but it seems minor ones.  The little time his voice had a sort of ‘stage’… I suspect it was designed and the idea was to plant a sort of seed and see what happened… I do think his stage was carefully chosen… the fledgling internet and they filled in the right blanks.  Mr. Titor may have been more than a single person… but the parts of the story coalesced in such a way … and his ‘voice’ and what he had to say had just the right measures of dissonance and consonance… people are still talking about him…

I do tend to think it isn’t the real deal, but the other side of that coin is if it isn’t a few people took some time and thought preparing his passage into our world… not meaning that he came from anywhere else only that there was some degree of careful preparation.  Whoever did it they did a good job… and his story has some mysterious edges that … can foster belief… in short, he has his critics but his believers too.

If you take the time and weigh everything that seems to have been placed in his court and are honest and thoughtful in your consideration, I think you will come away scratching your head.  I am not surprised his predictions didn’t for the most part seem to come to pass; but what does surprise me is how well thought out they really are.  I think his predictions hold much truth about where the USA has been.  Whether they happened for real or not they are still interesting.

I suspect John Titor was an experiment in implanting 'seeds' and 'controlling' the media.  His story not only intrigued but took a rather firm hold of some ideas re time travel.  His story was, up to a certain point, very convincing.  He had pictures of his machine, reasons and purposes for his travel, and of course the many worlds interpretation that he championed - which at the same time rather too perfectly explained seeming contradictions - it was either true or a very well-designed story.  And at that time the multiverse wasn’t what it is now at all, the many-worlds interpretation wasn’t exactly common knowledge.

This isn’t in defense of Mr. Titor … or even Arden.  John Titor’s story is basically unbelievable, just as unbelievable as what my son claims. You could say the Titor story is further out… but think about it.  What Arden says happened to him is basically impossible as far as we understand things.  I think they are both equally far out… Mr. Titor has probably a better story.  Now I am stuck in that maze again measuring degrees of impossibility.  


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