As those of you who have followed my writing over the years will be aware, I’ve always been interested in what you might broadly describe as ‘exotic’ matters. More specifically, when the strident, indignant priests of the new religion of Science choose to pour scorn on any given subject, then I’m automatically curious about whatever’s aroused their righteous ire, because I’ve learned that there’s a good chance that there will be something thought-provoking or otherwise rewarding when I approach it with an open mind.
I’ve looked into too many such subjects to be able to even list them all here, but to give a few examples, I’m fascinated by the evocative power of poetry, by the magic of words and by the intangible yet nonetheless real atmosphere that certain locations possess. I’m interested in synchronicity, in the feelings and personalities of animals, in pareidolia, in hypnotism and much else besides, while I’ve also looked into such matters as astrology, mediumship, palm reading and others that are either dismissed as belonging to the realms of the supernatural or else are condemned – sometimes rightly – as pure fraud on the part of certain practitioners.
I don’t believe I have a solitary psychic bone in my body, but that’s not prevented me from seeing a number of highly unusual and sometimes disconcerting sights over the decades. In the course of looking into these matters, I’ve learned that I cannot dowse, while I’ve had to abandon some otherwise mesmerising aspects of shamanism that came my way because of my inability to come to terms with and understand the phenomena concerned, but on the other hand, I’ve experienced three series of lucid dreams, all of which stunned me and which I took pains to record.
I could continue for some while yet, but my point is that I became aware a few weeks ago of a phenomenon that’s been described as ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. At first, I did nothing other than mentally register the fact that this phenomenon was deemed to be newsworthy, although that is of course a double-edged sword these days. By late yesterday evening, however, I’d seen so much about it in the various media that I decided to look into it in greater depth, while the overriding reason for my choice to do this was because it’s clearly a subject that’s intensely irritating to a pleasing percentage of our cognoscenti; this alone would be more than sufficient to get me to try something out, but my other reasons for deciding to look into ASMR were because it was so immediately accessible on YouTube, because it was free and because it offered at least the possibility of a pleasurable experience.
I’ve already described how I consider myself open-minded about such matters, so while I would not personally stoop so low as to try to engage in any kind of scientific experiment, I may as well point out what might possibly be some other pertinent factors. I’ve been ill for some time, so I’m in constant discomfort and a few hours before I actually saw an ASMR video, I watched Britain’s Channel 4 evening news, which meant that I inadvertently experienced around thirty minutes of the most depressing, soul-corroding subject matter it’s possible to imagine before I decided to leave the room. However, I’m aware that in comparison with hundreds of millions of my fellow human beings, I have a very great deal to be grateful for, so by the time I watched my first ASMR video a few hours later, I was in a reasonably positive and relaxed frame of mind.
I chose to go to the Gentle Whispering channel on YouTube, simply because the most recent article on ASMR to come to my attention dealt with a Russian lady by the name of Maria, so her site seemed as good a place as any to start. I sat back to watch the introductory video on her channel with no great expectations either way, but after just fifteen seconds or so, it was as if an invisible hand had gently placed some soft, warm cushion on the back of my head.
I felt the heat grow rapidly stronger and at the same time, it was as if someone had dropped an ice cube down the back of my shirt, because I couldn’t repress a shudder, although this was a reaction of sheer pleasure. After that, it was as if Tinkerbell from the original Peter Pan film had somehow sprinkled stardust over my head and shoulders, although Maria’s description of it being like “warm sand” being poured all over you also describes the sensation very well.
There was a time in the dim and distant past when I slept soundly, but in recent years, insomnia is something else that’s plagued me. By the time I’d finished watching Maria’s short video, I felt myself yawning and it was incredibly tempting to simply place my head on my desk and nod off on the spot, something I’ll certainly try again later. In brief, the whole experience was deeply pleasurable, but I feel that to do it some kind of justice, I ought to put it into some further context.
I’m a reasonably good cook and earlier in the day, I’d prepared a scented concoction of brown rice, spices, vegetables and coconut milk, which was exquisite. The weather here in the south of England is foul and dismal, but I’ve always loved every aspect of winter, so my stroll outside in the dark and the wet was invigorating for me. My son Jack is currently half a world away in South America, but we’ve kept in touch on Facebook and I’m genuinely delighted to see his photos and to learn of his various adventures, something I caught up with a little while before I decided to compose this post.
Purely by chance, my daughter Tanith introduced me to a new band by the name of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and I came across a link to their latest single and accompanying video earlier today, which was (coincidentally?) entitled Mind Crawler. I loved the song and the video, just as I’d enjoyed the other pleasurable experiences I’ve mentioned, but the sheer unexpected rapture I experienced from watching and listening to Maria’s video was of another kind altogether and it immediately put me in mind of a few Blake-inspired lines from End of the Night, by The Doors:
“Realms of bliss, realms of light
Some are born to sweet delight…”
I suspect I know precisely why at least one ASMR video had such an uplifting effect on me, but I’ll leave it to the finest minds in the scientific community to attempt to dissect and analyse this strange matter because that’s what they’re paid to do. For my part, I feel that my curiosity has once again rewarded me and while I have no idea what percentage of those who view these videos experience such enjoyment, I can only say that I’m very pleased to be among their number.
Bolshoyeh spassibuh, Maria 🙂
“The power of thought! The magic of the mind!”