Past experiences quietly echo amongst our neurons until they arise to become the cloaked voices of our present hallucinated intuitions. The subjective bias of our minds may be common sense, but we often underestimate its pervasiveness. Let me offer a personal example:
I have extensive train experiences, but only in India, China and Japan — not in the USA. And all of my train experiences were 30 years ago when technology was markedly different — both for trains and for her passengers.
My first American train experience was yesterday – an Amtrack ride to Philadelphia where my son and I will catch a plane to Amsterdam. And as I prepared for our trip, my mind brought back preparatory intuitions based on my train travels in India: “I need to bring food, safe water, and wear clothes that can get dirty.” But I chuckled as my past impressions tried to actually appear as accurate present intuitions. I removed the cloaks of my old memories and those intuitions evaproated. But let me share those old memories.
Indian Train Experiences
During my first trip to India about 40 years ago. Since I had little money then, I would usually ride on top of the trains where other poor people stole rides. At the stations you could tell the freeloaders — they all had little burnt holes in their clothes. For in those days, the trains where coal-driven and sparks would fall from train’s smoke trail when it came overhead and land on those of us riding on top. I was suprised at the kindness of other top-riders: they’d help each other up on top by extending hands and when the smoke was overhead, they’d stamp out the burning sparks on each other’s clothes.
I occasionally scrapped money together to pay for rides inside the trains which, back then, were an amazing cacophany of smells and sounds: people chatted, chickens squaked and the train itself was uproariously loud. Indians brought home-cooked heavily spiced aromatic curries and many passageners did not bathe well. Finally, many Indians would loudly hocker up mucus and belch without hesitation thus adding to the experience.
Our Amtrak Experience
So as I sat at home planning my trip, I realized I did not have to plan for India. Indeed, the Amtrack train had wi-fi connections, outlets to charge phones and computers, electronic doors and was very quiet with little odors. Water would be safe and there was a dining car. Wow, what luxuries. And I had money for this trip. Everything was different from my days in India.
But ironically, the couples sitting both next to us and behind us were Indian. The older couple behind us spoke little English and he hockered the whole trip while his wife snored. But the gentleman and his wife next to us were delightful. He had lived for years in Dubai where he worked as Engineer but was visiting his son in the US. He and his wife were involved in Ramakrishna Vedantism which had heavily influence my past also. So we shared stories about Engineering, families, the Middle East and religion. And in parting, the generously gave me a Vivekanada book on education.
So though I had to resist Indian memories when preparing for our trip. India was more of a part of the first leg of the journey then I expected — what fun irony.