The girls had gotten up from supper and were starting to mill about. There is often an uneasy last few minutes of a meal during which the girls are wondering about whether they should begin asking for chocolate or some other sweet end-of-meal treat.
In a last-ditch effort to keep them at the table to finish the meal, Maggie asked Katherine what she knew about the new “planet” that’s been in the news recently. So the conversation took a turn into astronomy. We discussed Sedna1, Quaor, Pluto, stars, planets, the Oort cloud, the Kuiper belt and related stuff. Then Katherine passed along some information about spinning.
“Billy2 says that if you spin around and around, and then stop, you can feel the Earth turning.”
Maggie and I looked at each other, and she replied to Katherine as I shook my head.
“Do you think that’s true?”
“No,” Kit replied. “I think that he’s just feeling that he’s dizzy.”
I couldn’t help but think about Billy and what his imagination was doing under the influence of unusual inner-ear stimulation. On the one hand, it reminded me a bit of hearing the sea in a seashell when you hold it up to your ear. You get some sort of sensory input and you think “I’ll put this into contextï¿½ it’s a seashell, so I’m hearing the sea!” And, looking at it that way, some friend or relative probably told it to him in the same vein, as a fun little fiction to go along with the natural childhood activity of spinning yourself senseless.
But the stronger image that came to mind was of people I’ve known who have a tendency to get into some altered state of consciousness (via exhaustion, booze, drugs, dreaming, endorphins, really good ice cream, what-have-you) and choose that moment to have what they think is some profound thought or connection to the universe rather than realizing that what’s happened is that they’ve turned off the filter that evaluates their thoughts for whether or not they make any sense whatsoever. The distinction is missed by the vast majority of people.
I wondered if Billy was that sort of person, experiencing the grade-school equivalent of this phenomenon. Only time will tell.
1 Sedna is the most distant object known to be part of our solar system. Other than comets, I assume.
2 Billy’s name changed to protect the innocent.