Fool on the Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - Mar• 31•13

FOTHThere are no ghosts in our house, though it is built for haunting. Moorish by design, it’s more of an architectural beaux geste to Bunny Allen the former refugee gypsy White Hunter who washed up on the shores of Lamu in the 60’s and built several rambling castellated houses, than to the courtyards of the Alhambra. There are no tiled walkways or soaring, vaulted ceilings, just two simple circular keeps of three floors joined by an arched walkway. She rises out of the palomino beach sand just above the spring tide drift, contemplating a patchwork sea of ever-changing aquamarine blues and fresh minted greens. Her lines are simple, the shuttered windows arched with fanlights of watered down inky blue glass which wash the rooms in submarine light as the sun measures its arc. Allen now is buried alongside his third wife Jeri, in his garden in ShelaVillage. My friend Sandy who lived in their cottage, looked out for them in the last few months of their lives, gently rebuffing Allen’s charming flirtations at age 94, and watched them laid to rest beneath the coconut palms. For years she still keenly felt his presence and saw his shade moving around the old house under the moonlight. Unlike her I have never seen a ghost.

I’m on the rooftop terrace of our own house, 470 kms south of Lamu on the East Coast of Zanzibar, elbows on the matiti’s (the only word in Swahili we could find to describe the mammary like castellations we have used, like Allen, to adorn all our walls). I’m watching a storm sweeping in from the north east on the back of the kaskazi tradewind which will soon rattle the palms and send rainwater misting through the shutters and pooling under the doors. Startled from a bad dream, in which my wife was building a gallows to execute me on, for some or other heinous crime, I am once and for all convinced that after we die there is nothing, and that all consciousness is expunged and that there are no ghosts or angels and we cannot guide and keep safe our children once we are gone. I’ve been drinking some. Not to destruction but for long and hard enough to blur the edges and although surrounded by many of the friends I love best in this life, all here to celebrate three half-century birthdays, I should be in a safe enough space to drop my guard without fear of melancholy pooling in like the rainwater. But the constant topping up of confidence and a jolly persona bottled like djinn, and tonic for the troops we have invited, ebbs in the early hours and this dream has left me desolate with those few words in my head “there are no ghosts in our house”, and an overwhelming sadness that there never will be. Sadness, that much as we try over the next few years to fill this house with life and the rich, lingering depths of garlic and guitar chords, the fire of irreverent fun and murderous chilli, the clean tang of lime and belly laughter and the joyous calls of children at play launching enduring friendships in the surf, filling their memory banks with vivid postcard images and emotions strong enough to inscribe their very DNA; hard as we try, it will be gone in a flash and after that … nothing. And I wont be allowed to haunt this place, some part of me, some parcel of energy that is the best of me wont be allowed to lodge here to see them grow, and fall in love, and tell their own stories and watch their own curly and sun-bleached child’s eyes light up with glee at the first bite of a warm sugared donut in the morning.

But then some footsore miles and litres of sweat later, back at the laptop, I Google Allen’s obituary in the LA Times and the banner add at the top left of the page shouts  “New scientific theory says death isn’t the end”  What Happens When You Die .Piqued by the synchronicity of this I follow the link and find some solace.

Lanza, a child prodigy at 13, literally entered the back door of HarvardMedicalSchool with an almost unbelievable story of his basement experiments which successfully altered the genetics of chickens. Over the next decade, he was taken under the wing of such scientific giants as psychologist B. F. Skinner, immunologist Jonas Salk, and heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard. His mentors billed him as a “genius,” a “renegade” thinker, and a latter day Einstein.

Lanza has not disappointed them and has been hailed as the Bill Gates of science. His achievements are many and include cloning the first endangered species from frozen cells in 2001, proving that aging could be reversed through nuclear transplantation and generating human embryonic stem-cells to provide transplant tissue, which in one study has lead to a partial restoration of sight for patients suffering from macular blindness. Not a bad track record for a guy still in his 50’s, who looks more like a beat-poet than a backroom boffin. In 2007 Lanza published an article which proposed that biology could build upon quantum physics. Two years later, with astronomer and author Bob Berman, he published Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, which expanded upon the ideas in his essay

Talking of the impasse that we have reached in finding a unifying theory of the universe which requires any less of a leap of faith than Catholicism, they suggest answers to life’s Big Questions. Lanza quips “It’s one thing to …. acknowledge that theoretical physicists are brilliant people, even if they do tend to drip food on themselves at buffets. But at some point, virtually everyone has thought, or at least felt: “This really doesn’t work ….””

Where religion views the universe as a set of forces and circumstances created by a guiding cosmic power just for us, and theoretical physicists consider the same forces through random trial and error, to have shaped the evolution of life as we know it; Biocentric theory presents a shift in world view with the perspective that life creates the universe instead of the other way around. Lanza and Berman challenge every theory from the Big Bang to the Bible and our current understanding of Time and Space, “Even Einstein avoided the question of what space and time are. He simply defined them as what we measure with clocks and measuring-rods. However, the emphasis should be on the “we,” not the measuring.” Lanza holds up biology (the Science of Life) as the new key to unlock the doors that physicists and astronomers have failed to budge. “There are over 200 parameters in the universe so exact that it strains credulity to propose they are random. Tweak any of them and you never existed” says Lanza. He uses time-honoured experiments with atomic and sub-atomic particle behaviour, which have puzzled physicists for decades, to show that the very presence of an observer or a life force changes the behaviour of the matter of the Universe. The scope of the work can’t be covered here but it is the sort of vertigo inducing writing that can only be ingested in small canapé sized bites as the revelations it expounds are too rich to be digested in large portions. In short, it does your head in!

Take one example of the age-old conundrum “If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there, does it make a sound?” Biocentrism proves quite conclusively that in the absence of an observer, it does not. A tree falling violently to earth creates disturbance of the air-pressure in pulses which travel through the surrounding medium with a frequency of 5-30 pulses per second. Only an organism with the physiological apparatus to detect pulses in this frequency range will convert them into the perception of sound in its brain. When an Ear-Brain mechanism is absent, all that remains are tiny, silent puffs of wind. Likewise Lanza disappears candle flames, rainbows and refrigerators with similar theoretical conjury and later bends the reader’s brain to embracing immortality, stating “The ‘Who am I?’ feeling is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn’t go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can’t be created or destroyed.”

Read up on this guy. His theories make a lot of sense and fit the New Age of our planet and human consciousness like a glove. You may just end up believing, in the early hours, sobered by a nightmare and clutching at life, that you will be allowed by the forces of nature to haunt your house when you shuffle off your mortal coil, and in some way still be around to love your sons. And that may comfort you.

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