Do other people change?

di090304 I am sure a sore throat can improve after three days, and perhaps some simple skills, but what about personality? How many days, years or decades does that take?  Is it even possible?

I was home sick Monday. It is merely a severe cold, I think. Not enough fever to be the flu, though I have been uncomfortable the whole weekend and coughed up green goo. It was therefore well deserved to get a day off from work. To further console me, I got a thick envelope in the mailbox. It was the demo CD and promotional brochures from Centerpointe, creators of HoloSync.

I wrote about HoloSync last month, and my opinion has not changed much. It has not changed much even after listening to their demo CD. It contains soft soothing background sounds that also carry a binaural beat, a difference in frequency between the left and right ear. (Earphones strongly recommended – in fact, they claim it won’t work without them, while the Monroe Institute believe that you may also use one loudspeaker on each side of you and still get some effect.) The binaural beat will gradually – over a period of minutes – create a standing wave in your brain. In this demo, the wave slowly deepens over the course of the demo, taking your brain into frequencies usually only seen during sleep or very deep meditation. In fact, most people would fall asleep if not for the voice.

The voice belongs to Bill Harris, founder and leader of Centerpointe Research Institute. While the scientifically proven sound effects gradually slow down your critical mind to a crawl, he will tell you what an amazing thing HoloSync is. This is so blatant, I cannot even call it swindling. He is all up front about the effects, unless you have been reading the website very superficially and start the CD without having read the thick scientific-looking paper enclosed. And who would do that? Just locate the CD, pop it in and close their eyes? Even then he tells you at the outset that you would probably fall asleep if he wasn’t talking. (In the end, I fell asleep anyway, but then again my clogged bronchial tubes have made it hard to get enough sleep this weekend. I would almost certainly have fallen asleep anyway if I closed my eyes for 20 minutes, even if the King of Norway himself had been speaking.)

I woke up when the sound stopped, feeling calm and clear-headed and with a deep need to buy HoloSync… OK, just kidding about the last part. I am mildly surprised that it did not seem to influence my feeling on the matter, but then again I was fairly positive already. And just in case I was still undecided, the sound came back on. The next quarter of an hour or so was filled with testimonials from satisfied users, some of them with European accents not unlike my own. (Being international is a big bonus point for them in my book. I hate having to pretend to be American to check out some new technology.)

Now we are homing in on today’s headline. You see, these people had experienced so many wonderful changes in their lives. And some of them even claimed that their family and coworkers had noticed. Now that made my ears perk up. (And I can literally move my ears, by the way, to an amazing degree for a human. Why didn’t I procreate when I still could? What a loss to the human gene pool!)

Change. You see, a lot of people believe in change. While most prefer to try to change the world instead of themselves, there are still a goodly number of people who earnestly set out to change their lives to the better. Midlife crises often have this effect, I think. I have previously described my journal as “like a midlife crisis without the crisis”, and this is a big part of it. I have seen so much new over these last few years, I wish I could share it with others. But the more I see, the more removed I become from ordinary human experience, and the harder it becomes to share it. So you get entries like this instead.

Saying “I have changed for the better” is one thing. Mildly interesting, even that. But what really makes me sit up with a start is when someone says “My husband has changed for the better” or “My brother has become a better person.” You see, we tend to very easily place good things on ourselves, things like improvement. If we feel more goodwill to other people, we are happy. But until THEY feel our goodwill, I am still only moderately impressed.

Unfortunately none of the testimonials were from people telling me that their family members had become better people thanks to HoloSync. Rather, this were the people who supposedly had become better people, telling me that their family also thought so. This is a step in the right direction, but not a very big step.

You see, I have known people who changed for the better. In the Christian Church, this was not exactly unfamiliar. It was more or less expected. Some of the changes were pretty drastic, such as alcoholics or drug abusers who completely left their old life behind and became radically self-sacrificing people. And they did not need to meditate for 10-15 years to experience this change either. Then again, their new life needed a lot of “after care”, so it wasn’t exactly a hobby for them.

You could ask their family and friends and they would tell you in no uncertain terms that these people had changed. They had not just improved, they had become new, they had been transformed. But there were never all that many, to be honest. Most of my friends in the Christian Church had always been fairly nice, so it was more of an in-depth work that others could not see. I am not out to belittle that. And anyway the Christian Church at the time was quite small and not growing fast at all. There was rejoicing for every soul who was added to the Church, and for everyone who stayed despite the relentless pull of the World.

It may seem unfair to compare a living Church to a $127 techno-meditation course. Scratch that, it is blatantly unfair. I wouldn’t do it if they weren’t this close to doing it themselves, with the fervent testimonials and comparison to “saints and mystics of the last 10 000 years”. I’ve known a very few of those, you see. And it is hard to not be a little bit changed just by that. But that is another story, not for today.

Be that as it may, I started thinking. I have mentioned that the western world is flooded by self-help books and videos and retreats, so that you would expect to walk among demigods and heroes. But the opposite seems more true. One must be grateful that some of one’s coworkers actually wash their hands after a heavy-duty session on the toilet. (A prior medical condition has given me the opportunity to spend more time in the lavatory than average, so I am starting to notice trends. I can’t see who they are though, and they can’t see me. Though they can probably hear me scrubbing my hands for as long as it takes to sing two verses of “Happy Birthday To You”, although I don’t actually sing that out loud.)

So dear reader: Have you known someone whose life was changed, radically improved, transformed or at least much better in any way through any physical or spiritual practice? Let us exclude life phases, like college and marriage and parenthood. Antidepressants are probably not quite newsworthy either. But anything from the Atkins Diet to the Torah, as long as there are noticeable and long-lasting changes in people’s lives. People who are not you. Tell me, tell me. I am all (movable) ears.

2 thoughts on “Do other people change?

  1. We use the ABC song, or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (same melody) to time our handwashing, and we sing it loud and proud (or “loudly and proudly”, but it doesn’t have the same ring . . .) even in public restrooms. Of course, I have the excuse of having a child with me, but I might do it anyway. People should!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *