My dog hates being brushed, and somehow she always knows when it’s coming. I never brush her at the same time (and certainly not as often as I should.) I never say the word “brush” out loud. I move with the stealth of a special forces agent. Still, even if I’m on the first floor of our house when I decide to brush her and she’s on the second storey, she just knows. By the time I nonchalantly climb the stairs with the brush hidden under my shirt, I see nothing but her bum and tail sticking out from under the bed. It doesn’t matter what means of disguise, distraction or subterfuge I adopt, when it’s time for her brushing, Sasha just knows.
She trusts this sixth sense, this “knowing,” unquestioningly. No one has been unkind enough to tell her that her senses are irrational or illogical.
Rupert Sheldrake, inDogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals, wrote about this phenomenon. Dogs placed under observation became agitated and went to the door to await the arrival of their owners. The dogs did this even if the timing was not routine. If an owner, who usually arrived home at a certain time, did not follow the routine on a given day, the dog did nothing at the usual time. However, when that same owner did decide to head home later, that’s when the dog reacted. The interesting thing is that the dogs didn’t get agitated and react at the time of the arrival of the owner, when they might have picked up a scent or heard a car, but when the owner shaped the intention to come home, even if that person was far away.
People accept this uncanny telepathy in animals. Dog owners, in particular, brag and go on about the skills of their exceptional animals. But if you stretch “just knowing” to human beings, uneasiness creeps in. We regard extra-sensory perception in humans with hesitant doubt or even “That’s a load of hooey.”
Knowing “by wire”
In 1957, Laurens Van der Post led an expedition into the heart of Africa to try to find a race of people that many thought had been lost. He found them. Van der Post and his crew spent time with the Bushmen and wrote about it in The Lost World of the Kalahari.
He joined the Bushmen on a hunting expedition during a time of drought and dwindling food sources. People weakened by hunger people depended on the success of the hunt. After a long day, they tracked and killed an eland—the most desirable prey. Relieved and jubilant, the hunters headed home. As they traveled, Van der Post wondered aloud about how the families would react when they found out about the successful kill. The Bushman with whom he traveled told him, “They already know.” Surprised, Van der Post wondered how this could be.
“They know by wire,” the Bushman said. “We Bushmen have a wire here”—he tapped his chest—“that brings us news.”
In 1957 in the Kalahari Desert with no telecommunications interference and no one around unkind enough to tell them that “just knowing” was irrational and illogical, the Bushmen trusted their senses unquestioningly.
Guides and protectors
I think that science and rational thought dulled a natural survival mechanism. For too many years scientists told us that if we couldn’t see it or measure it, it didn’t count. We started to mistrust what our senses told us. We dismissed stirrings in our solar plexus. We brushed off the whisper of the little voice saying, “Don’t do it!” as a figment of our imagination.
I have found, though, that when I ignore those stirrings, when I tune out the little voice, it is always to my detriment. I have learned to look for them and trust them as guides and protectors.
It’s time for restoration of trust in “just knowing.” Whether it’s God-given or natural selection-given, or both, it’s a natural guide and protector for our lives.