Chapter 2: Sticky Things

It's interesting what sticks.
I understand the image to the left to be of a 'diffusion limited aggregate'. I was exposed to the concept recently when I watched +Wai H. Tsang's video on fractal brain theory, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axaH4HFzA24.

Essentially, there's a bunch of seemingly random dots that occasionally stick to the center point and become sticky themselves, creating an image similar to the one pictured here.

While somewhat tangential to the point he was making in the video, the concept seems to be one that has proven somewhat sticky for me.

What makes it sticky?
Why this, not that? Of the multitude of moments that make up our lives, why do we remember some and not others? I think one answer might be resonance. I am almost certain another is trauma. One of the things that's proven sticky for me is a scene from the 2005 film, Kingdom of Heaven. Liam Neeson has Orlando Bloom swear an oath and then smacks him upside the head with his gauntlet, saying "That's so you'll remember."

You're likely familiar with the expression 'the ring of truth'. I think certain things we're exposed to 'ring as true' or resonate as truth to us. There has often been times in my life when hearing a certain phrase for the first time I experience an unusual physical sensation - goosebumps, the hair on the back of my neck standing. It comes with a sensation that I've recognized a piece of the puzzle, that the information is valuable.

There are other things have stuck for me that haven't necessarily come with such a physical sensation. Both of the two that follow have the quality of mystery, which is why I currently think they've remained sticky in my mind over all these years. The first is an unexplained phenomenon, which has persisted to remain unexplained primarily because the plausible explanations my rational mind has been able to come up with haven't rang true. The second I believe has stuck because it seems like a clue to great existential mystery: Why am I what I am?

The Music and the Cloud
The most beautiful music I have ever heard may have existed only in my mind. At the time, I was unloading trucks at night for a living and going to sleep in the mornings. I was living with a girl who I may or may not have gotten pregnant, but she was out of town visiting a dying relative. We were living in a one-bedroom apartment, the upstairs of a two-story duplex.

I had just snuggled into bed that morning when I began to hear the music. It didn't seem that the music started at the same time I began to hear it. Rather, it was as if I had been tuning a radio and stumbled upon the frequency with silence being the static. The music defies description, as I have never heard its like before or since - but if pressed, Angelic is the word I would use. 

I wasn't completely tuned in, but it was completely clear. Rather than the clarity waxing and waning, it was the volume that gave the sense varying reception. After a few precious moments, only the ordinary sounds of the morning birds remained. I had lost the frequency.

This seeming evidence of the existence of the divine and rather difficult life experiences eventually resulted in me attending a Pentecostal church. It was during one such attendance that the second sticky thing occurred. 

As part of the customary practice of the church, following the sermon there was an altar call. Those seeking the divine would make their way to the altar and pray while the rest in attendance would pray, worship, or twiddle their thumbs from the comfort of the pews. On the particular evening in question, I made my way to the front of the church at the altar call - though my state of mind is so far removed from what it was then I can't remember what led me to that behavior.

It was not uncommon for those answering the altar call to be joined by others. The faithful would come and pray with and for those in supplication. On this particular occasion, I was joined by an elder woman during my praying. When I had finished, she spoke to me.

While I don't recall the specific words she used, I remember that she told me that I was unusual in that she had sensed a dark cloud about me, enveloping me, that I carried with me wherever I went. That much, at least, I continue to remember. Her sharing of that perception as proven to be sticky for me. 

Was it genuine? Was she capable of sensing things other's do not? Was it just her figurative description of something about the nature of my mood? Does the darkness dwell about me or within me? 

The mystery remains.