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Four Ways Learning Can Be Spooky

Worried woman reading a book

Anything with a bit of mystery to it can feel spooky, and even learning comes with a few “Whoa, that is weird!” moments. After all, it involves your mind, and the human mind is good at not only being mysterious, but at making totally normal occurrences feel eerie. Here are four ways you can hope to be creeped out this October.

1. When things connect that you never imagined.

It’s like some supernatural power told you to first read this, then read that because the two complemented each other in ways you would never have guessed. For instance, when I read The Left Hand of Darkness right after finishing Classics in the Classroom, I had no idea the topic of disassumption would be exemplified by Le Guin’s SF classic to give me a greater appreciation of speculative fiction.

Of course, that’s part of the joy of learning – seeing the connections between things that you weren’t previously aware of, and the discovery of those connections is something you can expect. Still, it can feel too good to be coincidental or statistically probable.

2. When you learn something new – the name of a person, place or philosophy, a new word, pattern, method or trope – and suddenly you see it everywhere.

Maybe you just read all about the word kempt (and its present tense form – kemb) on Sesquiotica, and rare as that word would seem, you hear it on the radio the next day and read it in a book within the week. Now maybe you’ve seen that word a thousand times before but just skimmed over it rather than look it up in the dictionary, and then you quickly forgot it.

But sometimes it’s even weirder, like when you read about a small town in the middle of America where nothing particularly interesting has ever happened, and you hear about it again and again even though there still isn’t anything important going on there.

As explained on Damn Interesting, this is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, and no matter how many times it happens to me, it feels a bit uncanny.

3. When you were just wondering about _____________ (fill in the blank), and the information you were just pondering happens to be explained in the next book or website you read.

Again, it’s like some supernatural force is guiding you, or like the universe is connected in some supernatural way that connected the energy of your questions in your mind to the energy of the answers, and they were drawn to each other.

What is the probability of this? I have no idea, but of course, learning creates more of both questions and answers. And the more time you spend learning, the more likely your questions will be answered – even when you weren’t specifically looking for answers.

You’re a Genius in Your Sleep

You go to bed with a question – any question – a homework problem, how to rearrange your schedule so you can fit everything in, the best running route to incorporate hills, run 5 miles and end up at home, and you wake up with the answer. Or, as in the case of Samuel Coleridge and his famous poem “Kubla Khan”, maybe you compose a masterpiece in your sleep.

This is weird because we like to think of ourselves as dormant when we sleep. And we think of our dream-thoughts as random, not ordered and capable of problem solving or the creation of a masterpiece. Then we wake up and after a good dose of subconscious processing, we find we may actually be better thinkers when we are asleep.

It feels a little weird to be simultaneously active and sleeping, but also lucky! Now if I can figure out how to do the dishes in my sleep…

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Karen J October 31, 2013, 5:37 am

    I would definitely be down with “do dishes in my sleep”, Robyn – please!!! Let us know if you figure that one out.
    The “spooky” powers of intuition, the unconscious, the Universe and everything? I’ve felt like those were pretty-much normal all my life: Mom taught my sister and me how to accept and stretch those muscles from a very early age. It’s still fun to make those re-discoveries, too.

  • Robyn October 31, 2013, 9:17 am


    You will be the first to know when I discover the secret to sleep-dishwashing. Perhaps some combination of Ambien and Donna Reed.

  • Karen J October 31, 2013, 5:10 pm

    yeah – that sounds about right! :)

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