I sat in the bed facing the two smiling demons—leaders of the great Satan/Wal-Mart Organization that ran the hospital. They were trying to convince me that I should let them adopt a clone of my five-year-old daughter. She had been created by new genetic techniques developed by their powerful company and they insisted, “Her place will be great in the new world order.” Over the last few days, however, they had lied to me so often I knew it was a sham. Despair seemed to overwhelm me at the thought of the strange global changes that had recently taken place under this evil organization’s machinations. But I was resolute. I would never let them have the copy of my daughter.
For one week this was my world. The entire event can be found in my Dialogue account of this (the first paragraph is a quote from the paper). But the short version is I picked up a brain disease while studying butterflies in the Tam Dao National Park in Vietnam. Of course many of you will find this explains a lot about me. But the thing that bothered me most was not only that was I seeing and hearing things that were not there. But my beliefs about the world were rewritten.
For one, doubt disappeared. I believed everything I saw and heard. Right now if Abe Lincoln walked into the room, I’d think OK time to go to the hospital. But I accepted this world, I believed in it fully and unquestioningly (the world being run by Satan/Walmart) at face value. I also saw clones of my kids running around the hospital. My sense of ethics was still intact and I was plagued with questions about how to act in this new world order. You see my kids had all been copied and turned into evil assassins (except my daughter who was just too dang pure at age five to be turned to evil).
My biggest worry through this was what to do with my cloned kids. Were they mine? (and they were cloned with my original kid’s full memories intact (so it was more like they were copied) and they actually believed they were my kids. (Do you realize I’m telling you what my illusory kids believed! Think about that!)) I was constantly trying to figure out if I was now responsible for raising them. It was a little disheartening because this gaining five new children would create all kinds of problems, not the least of which were logistical. For example, I would have to put Evil Timothy in with Good Timothy (I have five kids so there was just not room to house the evil and the good kids separately). What would that do to my children if they each had a roommate who was identical to them in every way, including memories, except they were totally evil and trained assassins? And what if a pair of my kids both felt like they owned, say, the same computer. Would this cause fights? Would assassin Christopher just ‘take out’ his competition? This was a real dilemma.
My wife kept telling me, ‘The kids are home, they are not here’ and I kept trying to explain that I knew the kids were home, but it was the cloned ones I was worried about. Apparently this was not making any sense to her. There was a clone of my wife too, but she would use the ‘BIG’ swear word and I knew my real wife would never do that so I kept her away (which made me sad too, because like my kids, my copied wife had all her memories and loved me deeply despite her being made evil and having a foul mouth. I could see the pain in her countenance when I told her to leave the hospital room. And yes, these hallucinations were this detailed and consistent.) I also believed I had been abandoned by God. That was the hardest part.
When I came out of it (they finally figured out which weird Southeast Asian Bacteria had hit me) my beliefs about the world came back. That and an inability to read (which worried me, as reading is a skill highly valued by BYU in their professors).
It’s put freedom and responsibility in a new perspective. If beliefs are so subject to bacterial assults on the brain, then it raises several questions. First it convinced me that those with mental illnesses cannot be judged by our normal criteria. Of course, most people know this, but it was driven home to me in new ways by this experience.
Second, it was clear that our spirits are very closely tied to our physical bodies. That not only the phenomenological inputs can be distorted, but our beliefs about these inputs can be manipulated. This surprised me. It was very disorienting to my view of how the world worked. But it explained some things. For many years I’ve had a close friend I met in graduate school who in all our years together has never felt the spirit. He is as good a person as I know. Someone who has served valiantly in the church, is fully active, prays, reads the scriptures, and has given me some of the most beautiful priesthood blessings I have ever received. He should feel the spirit in rich abundance but does not. We often pay lip service to the scripture which says that to some are given to believe on the testimony of others, but I think this needs to be taken much more seriously. What if there are brain structures that allow or prohibit this feeling? Maybe we need to open spaces in our testimony meetings to a testimony like, “I don’t know. I’ve never felt this thing called the Spirit. But I’m with you. I trust you. Hang in there with me.”
Maybe when all is said and done, those we think that ought ‘to know’ just don’t. And in this life just can’t know. I was there for a week. I think I understand a little better what they mean.