I'm a scientist, trained to think logically, to stick to the facts, and to avoid such things as intuition and superstition.
Nevertheless, I do not walk under ladders. If a black cat goes to cross my path I snatch it up and hug it. And when a little voice tells me not to do something, I don't do it.
I'm a slow learner, but I do learn.
Here, for your enjoyment, are a couple of my learning experiences.
It was a hot dry summer day in 1959 Japan, but it was an absolutely magnificent day for biking. My Japanese companion and I pedaled narrow roads among paddies green with ripening rice. A stiff wind rippled the nodding stalks of rice into long slow waves that broke right at our feet. As it crossed the rice paddies the wind picked up moisture, cooled down 10 or 15 degrees, and acted as nature's air conditioning, keeping us cool and fresh.
But the same delightful breeze that kept us cool also slowed us down. As a result, we reached the base of the mountain we planned to climb more of a hike than a climb, really -- about an hour late. And it took a while to find a storekeeper in the town at its base who was willing to keep our bikes for us until we got back, so we were more than two hours late in starting up.
We didn't worry about it. A day spent in such beautiful countryside was nothing to rush. We took our time, enjoying the views, not the least of which was the amazing sight, to my Western eyes, of a mountain where the trees were planted in rows as straight as the yard lines on a football field.
But then that's Japan, at least that part of Japan, which is about a hundred miles from Tokyo and has been settled for a long, long time. It was a sight to see.
Although nothing was totally natural, nothing was wasted either, not even a plot of land the size of a handkerchief. Every available yard of soil was planted with something.
We stopped along the way to watch a Japanese lumber company harvesting logs barely six inches in diameter. They cut them down and tossed them into a deep groove worn into the mountainside. Away they went, picking up speed as they disappeared out of sight.
We also stopped to down some chicken sandwiches the cooks back on Tachikawa Air Base had made for me when I told them I was going hiking with a Japanese friend. They were the best chicken sandwiches I ever ate, doubly delicious in the cool mountain air.
As we climbed a series of increasingly steeper slopes, clouds began to gather and the air grew downright chilly. But rain didn't look likely, so we just continued to amble on upwards, unwilling to rush a great experience.
The result was that when we got to the top, where we expected to take a cogwheel tram back down, the tram was closed.
Almost out of daylight, we looked for and found a well traveled, but twisting trail, and began a hurried descent.
Night fell, and with clouds covering the sky it was as dark on that mountain trail as the inside of a coal miner's pocket.
We stumbled along, bumping into trees, and brush, and rocks. We still weren't concerned, though. Too dumb I guess. We just bumbled along, laughing at ourselves.
Until I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.
Why I had stopped I didn't know, but no amount of poking or prodding would get me to move. I told my Japanese friend that I wasn't taking another step, and that was that!
Luckily, a troop of -- would you believe it? -- Japanese Boy Scouts came down the trail as we huddled there in the cold and dark. Being Boy Scouts, they were of course prepared--with flashlights, and as they passed us I saw what lay directly ahead.
Nothing. About four or five hundred feet of it.
And so we rather sheepishly followed the scouts down the mountain, got safely to the bottom, and biked home. End of story.
Or is it?
One obvious question: Why did I refuse to take another step? The only answer I have is intuition.
What's intuition? Beats me. I know how it works, but I don't know what it is. And as far as I know, nobody does.
A little voice tells you to do something, or not to do it. You either listen or you don't. In my experience, altogether too often if you don't listen, you wish you had.
For example, in January 1954 I went to the movies one evening and was lucky enough to find a parking space directly across the street from the theater. As I came out, I walked right across a street usually filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic. I cranked up my old ‘35 Chevy, which started the first time although it had been giving trouble all week.
I pulled out into traffic without so much as a pause, went straight through every traffic light in town without having to stop, and started home on the highway.
Oddly, as I drove along I became increasingly uneasy. I felt strangely nervous. Something kept telling me to stop.
But in 1954, you see, I was 22 years old, immortal, and already knew everything there was to know.
So I cruised along the highway for a mile and a half, where I made the acquaintance of a drunken idiot who zoomed through a stop sign and a flashing red light at 65 miles an hour, thereby reaching a point on the main highway at the precise moment that I reached the same point.
He totaled my car, and nearly totaled me by breaking my neck.
I still have problems with my neck, but the head that sits on it has fewer problems than it had back in those days because I now listen to that little voice when it talks to me.
I'm a scientist, trained to think logically.
You know what's logical, bubba?
Do what works! That's logical.