THE WEIRD AND UNEXPLAINABLE

This is not about things like the nature or origin of the universe – which tend to be rather weird and unexplainable – or about flying saucer sightings, but about the day-to-day things that seem really weird and can't be explained. My sister got me to thinking about this recently while I was visiting her. We were out hiking with our dogs (her two and my one) when she said that she had dreamed that a woman was chasing her dogs with a trombone. You can't make stuff up like that, and neither can you explain it.

We all have had such dreams, and I'm sure there are dream specialists out there who would claim to explain my sister's dream, but how would anyone know if the explanation was valid or just bullshit. We tend to accept explanations that seem logical and reject those that don't. I had a dream once that I was out hunting, and when I fired my gun a fish came out instead of bullets and landed about 10 feet from me. I don't hunt or shoot guns, and I really don't want to hear what a dream expert would say about that dream – especially a Freudian psychologist. If the explanations can't be proven, then why bother coming up with them?

Explaining things is human nature. We have an inherent and uncontrollable need to give explanations to things that happen. Experts call this cognitive modeling. Stupid people say “it was meant to be.” Cognitive modeling involves our use of perceptual models of our environment to explain what is happening around us. An important part of these cognitive models are called Cause Maps. Cause maps are used by people in their daily lives to interpret the rationale and motives of the behavior of others. People of different cultures have different cause maps due to cultural influences.

A good example of using cause maps is if you are sitting in a theatre watching a movie and the person next to you gets up and squeezes past you, heading for the door. You probably think one of three things; the person has to go to the bathroom, the person is going to get a snack, or the person doesn't like the movie and is leaving. But you will assign an explanation to the person's behavior. Guaranteed. We all do it. As a general rule, women tend to do it more in depth than men.

In explaining the behavior of our pets, we all tend to anthropomorphize (to attribute human form or personality to things not human). We do that because our cause maps are human cause maps. Recently a friend's pet cockatiel was sitting on top of its cage and I was sitting across the room. When I stood up the bird flew over to me and sat on my shoulder. My first though was that it was friendly and liked me. But almost immediately it attacked my neck and bit it with much malice. It was jealous. At least that was my friend's explanation. I'll never know for certain. Do birds experience jealousy? Perhaps it was just being territorial. As humans we tend to understand jealousy more than being territorial.

I have an explanation for my sister's dream. When we were young I played the trombone. On occasion I would antagonize our black Labrador retriever with my trombone. I also antagonized a lot of people with it, but I never chased any of them. I think she must have observed this many years ago, forgotten about it, and it surfaced in her dream because I was visiting with my black dog. Then again, it could be because my sister is weird. But I still can't explain the fish. Perhaps it was meant to be.