A Long Walk Through the Fog

Hello Friends of The Extraordinary Project,

As you may be able to tell, I am a bit reticent when it comes to blogs.

I don’t want to admit this post took me weeks to procure, but that’s the truth. A friend recently asked me, “How’s your project? That thing is a behemoth,” and the words brought great relief to me. I had originally thought the idea was so simple. Why not start a project capturing the exceptional but unusual moments in our lives? Why not link them to parts of our humanity that science can’t yet explain? What a great idea! That should be totally doable, and fun!

It certainly has been fun. But much like the walk through the fog I took yesterday morning with bird songs above me, conversations around me but no visibility before me, the path of this project has been obscured by mist. I have spent many minutes, hours, weeks and months (okay years) chasing echoes of ideas and building stories out of memory, testimony, and science. I do love a good adventure, and The Extraordinary Project has been nothing short of a marvelous if foggy adventure.

Fortunately, I have become skilled at walking through the fog.

 Earlier this week, I put the finishing touches on an essay about Near Death Experiences, which I’m told will run in Salon in the near future. I am thrilled to have a new piece coming out so soon, and am so grateful my friend Greg Sklar shared his story with me. Part of my inspiration for the approach to this essay was The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison, a gorgeous collection about her experience as a medical actor for doctors, and how we engage with and avoid empathy in our lives. So much of the Extraordinary Project, I find, relies on my ability to empathize with people’s experiences. The last six months have been intricate, dedicated and very, very busy in this way, partly due to the task of understanding and interpreting people’s stories, giving them new life after taking a leap of faith.

Fortunately, I have also become skilled at leaping.

 Another new piece of mine due to run in The Sunday Rumpus at the end of the month is about precognitive dreams, an experience all people have encountered at one time or another. I wanted to ask the question, how do we know if our dreams are foretelling the future. Do they have a different quality, do they occur spontaneously or as a result of our daily behavior, and can we do anything to change them? This very personal essay was a strange but important conversation I have wanted to bring to light for a long time. With the help of some recent studies and experiments, as well as a wonderful editor, I’m pleased to have started a dialogue about our ability to know things unconsciously—and act on the insight. I’d love to hear from any of you who have had similar experiences with precognition, awake, or asleep.

Finally, the Extraordinary Project website is taking shape, and nearly ready to launch. I’ve built out a site at extraordinaryproject.org to help keep the conversation going about identifying our extraordinary moments, permitting skepticism while at the same time acknowledging this unique aspect of our wisdom. You can be sure I’ll ring the bells of glory when it’s up and running.

Until then, friends.