Crawling with rats

On the night of February 9-10, I dreamed that I moved some furniture and found that the back of it was hollow and full of rats — about eight or nine of them — plus a lot of mealworms and one small yellowish-brown sugar glider. My reaction was, “Well, I guess most furniture probably has rats and things living in it,” and I replaced the furniture without feeling the need to do anything about the infestation.


The next evening (Friday, February 10), on my way home from work, I passed a chain-link fence with a white plastic bag of garbage hanging from it. Something about the plastic bag caught my attention — at first I thought it was a person’s face and hands — and I (quite uncharacteristically) pulled over and went over to look at it. It was full of large brown rats — about eight or nine of them — which had climbed the fence and crawled inside the bag to get the garbage. I stood and watched them for a few minutes, not disgusted at all — they were quite handsome specimens, with sleek fur and intelligent faces — until, one by one, they caught on to my presence, climbed down the fence, and scurried away.


(A precognitive dream? The details are quite different, but I’d still say yes by the Dunne standard: If I had had the waking experience first and the dream second, would I have assumed a causal relationship between the two? Of course.)

Not all Muslims/Presbyterians are like that

In the early afternoon of Monday, February 6, I checked Scott Adams’s blog and read his new post, Sam Harris Induces Cognitive Dissonance in Ben Affleck. Adams linked to a video of a debate with Sam Harris, Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, and a few other less famous guys. Adams’s comment:

Watch for the moment Ben has to hallucinate Sam’s opinion from the reasonable position that many Muslims worldwide have non-liberal views to an hallucination about “All Muslims are bad.” Sam and Bill both clarify their viewpoints, with data, but Ben is struck deaf to it. All he can hear is the absurd absolute “all.” He is literally hallucinating.

Not wanting to bother with the video, I googled it and found a transcript. Here’s the bit where Ben Affleck (“Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt” to his friends) “hallucinates.”

[Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt:]
How about the more than a billion people…

[Sam Harris:]
Those – those Muslims…

[Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt:]
How about more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches…

[Sam Harris:]
Wait a second.

[Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt:]
And don’t do any of the things that you’re saying all Muslims

[Sam Harris:]
Okay wait second, no, no, no wait, wait, wait. Stereotyping. I’m not saying all Muslims are like that

[Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt:]
You are taking a few bad things and you are painting that the whole religion with that same stuff.


Later the same evening, around 5:00 or 6:00, I read a few pages of George MacDonald’s novel St. George and St. Michael, which is set during the English Civil War. Dorothy is a Royalist, but her love interest Richard is a Roundhead. The passage below is from page 390.

The trial and execution of Laud, who died in the beginning of the following year, obeying the king rather than his rebellious lords, was a terrible sign to the house of Raglan of what the presbyterian party was capable of. But to Dorothy it would have given a yet keener pain had she not begun to learn that neither must the excesses of individuals be attributed to their party, nor those of the party taken as embodying the mind of everyone who belongs to it. At the same time the old insuperable difficulty returned : how could Richard belong to such a party ?

As in the Affleck-Harris debate, the party being discussed is called by a religious name (“the presbyterian party”) but is also a political group that engages in politically motivated violence.

Singing “Golden Slumbers”

On Sunday afternoon (February 5), I listened to just a few tracks of the final medley from Abbey Road — “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “The End” — singing along as I listened. Below are some of the lyrics.

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles await you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

[. . .]

Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

[. . .]

And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make

At around noon the next day (Monday, February 6), I read a few pages from George MacDonald’s St. George and St. Michael — Chapter XL (“Love and Treason”) and the first part of XLI (“Glamorgan”).

In “Love and Treason,” Rowland attempts to win the heart of Dorothy. In this passage from pages 376-77, reference is made to “the love you make.”

At length he began to be aware that this was no light preference, no passing fancy, but something more serious than he had hitherto known — that in fact he was really though uncomfortably and unsatisfactorily in love with her. He felt she was not like any other girl he had made his shabby love to, and would have tried to make better to her, but she kept him at a distance, and that he began to find tormenting.

Later, on page 380, Dorothy tells Rowland that she cannot love him because he has not loved anyone — i.e., the love you take is equal to the love you make, both in this case being zero.

“[. . .] If thou canst not love me, wilt thou not then pity me a little ?”

“That I may pity thee, answer me what good thing is there in thee wherefore I should love thee.”

“Wouldst thou have a man trumpet his own praises ?”

“I fear not that of thee who hast but the trumpet. — I will tell thee this much : I have never seen in thee that thou didst love save for the pastime thereof.  I doubt if thou lovest thy master for more than thy place.”

Finally, when Rowland promises to reform and asks Dorothy if there is any chance in the future he may win her love, she replies (on page 384) that he lacks weight.

“[. . .] it is not like thou wilt ever have [my love], for verily thou art of nature so light that any wind may blow thee into the Dead Sea.”

But these are vague thematic parallels. What really made me notice the synchronicity was this passage from the next chapter, on page 387.

“Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers ?
O sweet content !”

sang the earl in a mellow tenor voice.

Whorehouses would be cheaper

On Wednesday night (February 1), I was searching the Internet for a particular Spanish-language comic strip I had read years ago. I didn’t find it, but I did wade through lots of other comic strips, many of them rather lowbrow, in the attempt. One of them went more or less like this: Two guys are robbing a bank when one of them notices that one of the tellers is his old girlfriend from high school. He takes a break from the robbery to, uh, renew his acquaintance with her, which delays the whole operation long enough for the police to arrive and arrest them both. In the final panel, the judge is admonishing him, “Next time, just go to a brothel. It would save a lot of time and money” (because his little tête-à-tête had caused them to “lose” the millions they would otherwise have successfully stolen).


An hour or so after reading that, I checked the Junior Ganymede blog and found a new post with the title “Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper.” The post is simply a link, without comment, to the National Review article “Is Higher Education Still Possible?” by Anthony Esolen. Here is the closing paragraph of the Esolen article.

The colleges have not abandoned moral considerations utterly. Relativism is an unstable equilibrium — imagine a pyramid upside down, placed delicately upon its apex. It might make you break out into a cold sweat to stand in its shade. The question is not whether some moral vision will prevail, but which moral vision. The colleges are thus committed to a moral inversion. High and noble virtues, especially those that require moral courage, are mocked: gallantry in wartime, sexual purity, scrupulous honesty and plain dealing, piety, and the willingness to subject your thoughts, experiences, and most treasured beliefs to the searching scrutiny of reason. What is valued then? Debauchery, perversion, contempt for your supposedly benighted ancestors, lazy agnosticism, easy and costless pacifism, political maneuvering, and an enforcement of a new orthodoxy that in denying rational analysis seeks to render itself immune to criticism. You sink yourself in debt to discover that your sons and daughters have been severed from their faith, their morals, and their reason. Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper. They might well be healthier, too.

Incidentally, the article as it appears on the National Review website has a typo in the subtitle — presumably unintentional, but appropriate, in an “Is our children learning?” sort of way, given the subject matter. Here’s a screenshot, since I’m sure they’ll eventually find and correct it.


Trash can and see-saw

Another old sync rediscovered while sorting through old magazines. This is from the October 2016 issue of Studio Classroom Advanced — the same issue that had the Kobe Bryant article mentioned here.

This is from page 32, from an article called “Global Trash Problem Reaches Crisis Level.”


And this is from page 39, from an article called “Be a Kid Again.”


Both pages feature a trash can with a lid, and below it a perfectly balanced see-saw with a triangular fulcrum. The trash can in the second picture is also located just above the left side of the see-saw, where a second trash can appears in the first picture.

I’m not sure if this can really be considered a synchronicity, though, since most likely both pages were designed by the same person, who may just have a thing for trash cans and see-saws.

Women as an aggressive peace-party

On Tuesday night (January 31), I finally finished Ann Shearer’s Athene, which ends with a discussion of women’s role in opposing war. The following is from pages 261 and 263.

Women’s understanding of ‘the feminine’ as the party of peace is long and honourable. [. . .] the yearning for that distant imaginal age of peaceful governance has been expressed at a time when the excoriation by women of men has reached an unparalleled crescendo of violence. The champions of ‘the feminine’ as the party of peace have waged war on the ‘masculine’ enemy as never before . . .

Shearer then goes on to summarize and discuss Aristophanes’s comedy Lysistrata, in which the women  of Athens end a war with Sparta by going on a sex-strike.

The next day, on the night of Wednesday, February 1, I picked up George MacDonald’s novel St. George and St. Michael and read the following on page 245.

But Waller and Essex were almost without any army between them, and were at bitter strife with each other, while the peace-party seemed likely to carry everything before them, women themselves presenting a petition for peace, and some of them using threats to support it.

Zootopia / Zoolander

This sync is from a while back; I rediscovered it while sorting through old magazines. This page is from the March 2016 issue of Live Interactive English Magazine.


The two movies they chose to feature were Zootopia (released March 4, 2016) and Zoolander 2 (released February 12, 2016). It’s not just that both movie names begin with Zoo-; the second element of each name matches, too. Zootopia is obviously from the word utopia, which in turn derives from Greek οὐ ‎(“not, no”) + τόπος ‎(“place, region”) — so -top-, like -land-, means “place.” Both movie names consist of Zoo- + an element meaning “place” + a noun suffix, and they were released only three weeks apart.

Chinese, English, and Egyptian hieroglyphics

In the early hours of Tuesday morning (January 31), I had a dream which included the following scene: A uniformed official tried to stop someone from doing something by saying, “I think you’ll find you’re in violation of this,” and holding up a multipage document. The cover had the title, written in “Chinese” (but not in recognizable characters, at least not to me), under which was a list of other languages that it was written in: the word “Pona” (or something very like that), written in Roman letters and meaning English; a line of Egyptian hieroglyphics, indicating that hieroglyphics were included; and the English word “Non-lingual.”

My reaction on seeing this was that this was supposed to be some kind of futuristic “galactic federation” sci-fi setting, and that the choice of languages was odd — ordinary Chinese characters seemed jarringly un-futuristic, and revived Egyptian hieroglyphics? Really? As for “Non-lingual,” I immediately understood what was meant by that — a system of symbolic pictures with complex abstract meanings — and I had an image of one such picture with English notes scrawled on it (apparently a page from a student’s marked-up textbook). The image was a simple line-drawing (not quite stick-figures, but not much more complex than that: a standing person facing left, and behind him a much smaller person leaping into the air and plunging a spear into the larger person’s back. The notes said “He first,” meaning the smaller attacker, “and he second” (meaning the larger victim) — meaning that the picture always indicated situations in which what was symbolized by the attacker occurred first in time; and what was symbolized by the victim, second. The attacker and victim could symbolize many different things, and the notes gave three examples: “farmer and farm,” “diver and sea,” and “Great Mohammed and [. . .]” — the ellipsis representing a phrase that I can’t recall, but which I understood to be something like the Islamic equivalent of the Antichrist, an evil leader who was to appear just before the end of the world. I thought: Yes, that makes sense, because [this Antichrist-figure] comes much later than Great Mohammed but is nevertheless defeated by him.


Some aspects of the dream were probably caused by recent reading. I’d just finished rereading Vico’s New Science, which emphasizes the development of language from pre-linguistic communication (Cf. “Non-lingual”) through “hieroglyphics” (under which heading Vico includes both Egyptian and Chinese) to “vernacular letters” such as the Roman alphabet. Vico also interprets anything and everything in mythology as a symbol of farming.


On Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the dream, I went to a tourist site in Taoyuan called “Window on China,” most of which consisted of scale replicas of various landmarks in Taiwan, China, and other countries. Each had a sign in Chinese and English. One of the replicas was of the Taipei Grand Mosque. (The English sign explained that it was a “pray place for Moslems” — using the pre-PC spelling Moslem rather than Muslim, just as the dream had featured Mohammed rather than Muhammad.) There was also a section with an Egyptian theme, with Egyptian hieroglyphics all over the walls.

The visit to Window on China was not planned in advance, and I did not know at the time of the dream that we would be going there — nor that it featured hieroglyphics and a mosque.


Update: On Wednesday evening, the day after the visit to Window on China, I read a few pages of George MacDonald’s St. George and St. Michael, which introduced a previously unknown character called the Great Mogul (a panther). Another possible sync with “Great Mohammed” and “Grand Mosque,” since the Mughals were Muslims. Also, Mohammed, Moslem, and Mogul are all dated Mo- spellings of names that are now generally spelt Mu-.

Inferno-related synchronicities

On Tuesday night (January 24), I was searching the Internet for images of a winged lion used as a symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist. Many of the hits were photos of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.


On Thursday evening (January 26), I taught a class in which we talked about the chemical equation for photosynthesis. I pointed out that the two sides of the equation contained the same atoms, recombined to form different molecules — just as in an anagram, the same letters are recombined to form different words. I taught the students the word anagram and gave an example (dormitory = dirty room). I’m not sure why I chose to mention that, since its relation to the topic at hand was tangential at best.


Immediately after that class, I stopped at a Japanese restaurant to get takeout. While I was waiting for my food, I sat in the restaurant and read. They were playing a song in the background which was mostly in another language (probably Japanese, but I couldn’t make it out clearly enough to be sure) but had a recurring refrain in English: “I know I’m not alone.” I thought about how most people apparently hate being alone, but I’ve always found it pretty nice.

[Edit: Actually, this was apparently the all-English song “Alone” by Alan Walker. The sound was so unclear that I thought it was in another language.]


I brought the food home to eat with my wife. She wanted to watch a movie on TV while we ate and decided on Inferno with Tom Hanks, based on the Dan Brown novel. Much of the action takes place in Florence and Venice; St. Mark’s Basilica puts in an appearance, and the winged lion is visible.

Tom Hanks’s character has to solve a series of puzzles, the first of which is an anagram. He says, “It’s an anagram,” and another character repeats, “An anagram.”

Later in the film, the villain says to his accomplice, “I need to know I’m not alone.”

Nature’s first gold is grain

(That’s a Robert Frost allusion, in case you didn’t catch it.)


On Saturday, January 14, I taught a private English class in which we used an article about the history and different forms of money — barter, commodity money, representative money, and fiat money.


On Monday, January 16, I checked my brother Luther’s rarely-updated blog and found a new-to-me post (actually posted on January 9) called “On Money.” It also traces a conceptual history of money, from barter through commodity money and representative money to fiat money. Instead of talking about the gold standard, he uses the imaginary example of a “wheat standard.”

We’ll get to gold or paper money shortly, but lets start with something of more obvious practical value: food. . . . So let’s create a wheat bank. It’s got huge granaries capable of storing all the wheat all the farmers could ever produce; skilled engravers who make easily recognized, unforgeable wheat promissory notes; and builds a reputation for honoring its notes faithfully.


On Monday, January 23, I read several pages from David Marsh’s English translation of Vico’s New Science. The following is from paragraph 544 (on pages 230-31).

The early peoples called ears of grain ‘golden apples’. This was in fact the world’s first gold: for the metal gold was still unmined . . . It was only later that the metal was called gold, because its colour and value resembled that of their staple grain. This is why Plautus has to specify ‘a treasure of gold’, thesaurum auri, to distinguish a hoard of metal from a granary.