Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Out of City Experince

by Drew Martin

Most of the conscious hours of my day are in New York City but my family life is in New Jersey. When I wake up, I exercise, which includes running for a half hour or more. My favorite run is to go up into the hills of a neighboring town. The town I live in is appropriately called Ridgewood because there is a ridge in the woods: an overlook that pops above the tree line. It is not nearly as high up as the summit of that course I take but it has a breathtaking panoramic view of New Jersey and New York. It's a beautiful thing to behold at any time of day, in any weather.

New Jersey has a bad reputation, but from up on the ridge in the morning with a fresh, cool breeze, you understand why it is called the Garden State: all you see is dense vegetation, all the way to the Hudson River, about ten miles away. The peculiar part of the vista is New York City. From that elevated vantage point and at that distance, the Big Apple is quite puny. It is refreshing to step back and hold it in your hand.

I just finished reading John Geiger's The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible (Weinstein Books, New York, 2009). My mother gave it to me as a present because she thought I could relate to it with my own experience of being stranded, then airlifted from a mountaintop overseas (a long story, a long time ago). The theme of the book is that in extreme circumstances humans perceive the presence of another being, a kind of guardian angel. This being is typically supportive and helps the individual through dire circumstances.

Though this was not my case on the mountaintop, it is quite normal to feel that someone is running next to me on an exerted run. Sometimes it's a person, sometimes it's a large, fast animal like a wolf. It's not a hallucination: I do not believe it's there but there is a presence. I often even feel that I am next to myself.

Geiger explains that the out-of-body experiences... "are related to a failure in the ability of the brain to successfully integrate sensory information, including a person's location in space, sense of touch, and visual inputs."

The feeling is similar when I see New York City off in the distance like a sparkling gem. Sometimes I am mentally "there" during the drifting thoughts of my run so seeing it "out there" is like seeing the Earth rise.