Thursday, December 24, 2009

Premonitions - Fear of fires truly felt

Premonitions - Fear of fires truly felt

Torrey Orton

December 24, 2009


Fear of fires truly felt was what I experienced on a bush walk a couple weeks after the Black Saturday fires here (late Feb. 2009). We had chosen to go west from home because much of the north and east, where we usually walk, was still smouldering or closed until further notice. We found (by map work) and arrived at a new (we'd never even heard of it) park in low rainfall forest which hadn't had a drop for months. There was a light breeze blowing and it was around 30C. This is the fuel and conditions which could produce an incendiary burst in a minute, with forward ember projection of up to 1-2 kilometres.

As we approached, we mentioned the fire readiness of the surrounds – bush, dry lightly grassed paddocks. We left the car on the verge of a gully (bone dry) and set off up a 50 meter rise for a two hour tramp. About an hour along my mounting awareness of the potential danger gathered energy, insisting on an airing.

My message was something like 'I'm afraid a fire could start and be over us in a flash.' There was no detectable smoke at that moment, though we had seen some aftermath fires to the north on the way over from home (1.5 hour drive). I wanted to turn back and J. agreed, though not sharing my fear. We were out of my range of felt danger in another hour.

A number of other threatening (stomach churning) premonitions have come to me in the last month or two, mostly from overseas. They seem not merely occasional like that of the bushfires above or the fear of being swept into a river during a flashflood strength thunderstorm on a country road (also experienced 8 years ago in the mountains more recently burned). These fears have systemic and cumulative characters: for instance, the common mention of the "vitriolic" nature of the public political discourse in the US, in the broader context of the deepening divide between Republicans and Democrats around faith-based issues (with explicit tinges of homicidal racism) like perceived "communism" or "socialism" in the Obama healthcare initiative. Milder echoes can be heard in Oz.

Premonitions are precursors of anger, and eventual rage, if they persist. Mine are not reliable indicators of those others may experience. As well, they are very prone to projective misinterpretations – the discovering of my demons in naturally occurring events which elicit my entrenched fears schematised long ago in other times and places. Nevertheless, I have little more to go on than these signals from my depths to assay the emerging tones of my worlds.

And, I note that premonitions are always true. That is, the feeling prompted by internal or external events exists. They can develop a life of their own (which is the material of much therapy and political whistlings), apart from testably definite realities, amplified and energised by being the property of groups. So, testability becomes even more important in everyday life than its scientific role. Testability is the evidence base of shared realities. Damage to testability routines is an assault on sanity – the playground of public paranoia.

Writing my premonitions is one way to test them a bit, both by giving them verbal shape (if I can't then they fail the shared reality test for the moment) and enticing others to confirm or deny them.

These premonitions are not about the general trends of history in our times, of which I have reasonably settled views. They maybe expressions of the specific shape(s) the trends are taking in valued and essential domains of life. Getting better testability of them could lead to reconstruction of my general trend assumptions. I wouldn't enjoy their disconfirmation, but probably would enjoy some of my life more, and therefore be somewhat more enjoyable company.




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