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The Blue Sense

I enjoy wondering about things that could never happen. I guess that’s part of why I write this column. Therefore, it wasn’t all that out of line of me when I wondered: what would I ask for if a genie gave me three wishes?

Assuming that more wishes wasn’t an option, the first would, of course, be world peace. Obviously. If you get a genie and you don’t wish for world peace, you’re just a jerk. Anyway, the second would be for women all over the world to suddenly popularize a perfume that smells like fajitas. The third would be to trade voices with Joe Friday, the detective from the radio- and TV-show Dragnet.

Joe Friday was awesome. He caught so many criminals that they had to invent another day of the week, just to process the paperwork (they jammed this day in between days 4 and 5, making it the new fifth day of the week, and naming it after him.) For a guy that lived with his mother, he was a man’s man, and he took no nonsense from anyone. That’s why, if he were to hear people claim he was a psychic mind-reader, he would probably be rather upset. And when Joe Friday got upset, people got pistol-whipped.

Anyway, there are those in the paranormal circles that claim that there is a certain sort of psychic power, which they term the Blue Sense. This psychic power makes it possible for one person to somehow spot criminals from crowds, have a heightened awareness of a person’s criminal intentions, recognize the person who’s going to break the law before he does so, and so on. There are plenty of TV shows about psychic policemen on now, not the least of which are Medium and Heroes, and they appear occasionally on otherwise respectable shows such as CSI and Law and Order. Let me go on the record as saying that those guys can’t hold a candle to Sergeants Friday and Romero. They’ve got nothing.

Anyway, so some people claim that some policemen are psychic, and they do their job by somehow interpreting the psychic energy coming out of criminals. As with all things, I believe that the answer is something much less insane. There’s no need to involve mind rays and space people in this debate: Some people are just better at reading other people, and while this may at first seem like a supernatural, ghost-like, psychic power, it is entirely explainable by science.

We’ve all heard the blunt end of the posture argument when going out for our first job interview. There are some things that you can do that will just make you look less interested, less honest, or less desirable to a prospective employer. For instance, leaning slightly forward makes you look more interested in what someone is telling you. Leaning slightly back makes you look relaxed, or perhaps a bit arrogant. And if I remember my first co-op correctly, drumming your fingers on the table and twitching a lot makes you look like you need to be escorted off the company’s property.

Anyway, consider the Blue Sense to be this posture theory taken to a higher level. Just as positioning your body in a certain way makes you look more or less interested in a job, the muscles in your face are extraordinarily complex and some people can read them quite well.
Here are some quick facts: the muscles in the face, on their own, make up 43 distinct movements. There are literally tens upon tens of thousands of combinations, or, to be blunt, tens upon tens of thousands of faces you can make. Some of them are meaningless: as far as I know, flaring your nostrils and wiggling your left ear is not indicative of any particular emotion. However some, such as contracting the triangularis muscle which lowers the corners of your lips, indicate specific things, such as, in this case disgust. Some of the combinations are incredibly subtle: for instance, a very reliable sign of anger is created by compressing a muscle that leads to narrowing of the lips. It’s almost impossible to do on command, which is to say, it’s hard to totally fake being angry.

Knowing this, I ask you: which is more likely? That some people are able to spot and interpret the subtle movements of facial muscles better than others, or that these people have some sort of super power that allows them to tune into the psychic energies emerging from other people?

There’s one foolproof test: take someone like Sgt. Friday, someone who seems to have an extraordinary ability to solve crimes and catch criminals, and ask him to look at a person’s face and guess how that person feels. Then ask the Sergeant how a person in another room feels without being able to see him. Some policemen, detectives, and car salesmen do the former on a regular basis; no one has ever proven that they can do the latter.

But let’s assume that you’re not willing to give up so early on the idea that some people can collect and interpret psychic brainwave energy. One easy test for a new theory is called universalization. Basically, what I ask is: can there be other senses?

For instance, there are some people that can identify wine down to what kind of wood it was stored in simply by smelling it. On the late show one night, I saw a guy who drank a glass of water from each of the Great Lakes and was able to identify which lake each glass came from, 100% correct. Therefore, following the paranormal enthusiasts’ logic, such that it is, the wine connoisseur owes his ability to what I will call the Red Sense: the ability to identify a wine based on psychic energy coming from the grape plants from which it was made.

I was out to eat a few nights ago, and the waiter managed to come by at the exact moment I needed him. Even when it wasn’t obvious, I wasn’t flagging him down or there were no empty beer glasses on the table, so on and so forth. It’s as though he was able to read my thoughts, and therefore knew exactly when I wanted more bread or ketchup or what have you. In fact, it is now my claim that he had The Orange Sense.

Let’s face it: some people are better interior decorators than others. I’m at the bottom of the list. I believe that, in a home, the psychic energies of the people inside soak into the wood and sheetrock of the rooms, and that some people can pick up on this energy. They have The Beige Sense.

I’m related to some people that can really sniff out a bargain. Somehow, the first place that they go to buy a product is always the one that has the lowest price. Similarly, as a graduate student, I know when someone is giving away free food if it is within less than a mile from me. That is because I can hear their psychic brain thoughts: I have the Green Sense.

I can go on and on like this. But it’s gibberish. No one believes in any of these other senses, and there are perfectly reasonable explanations for them. Wine masters have a lot of experience in drinking wine and well developed noses and taste buds. The waiter had to walk by my table every time he went to the kitchen, and I just assumed it was really good service. Some people just have good spatial relations, and I’m a stingy jerk.

The point is this: some people are gifted in some areas and some aren’t. Some people are able to read the subtle, fleeting expressions on a person’s face and match them to what the person is feeling or thinking. To try and explain this with mumbo jumbo about psychic energy is actually a little insulting to the person. What you’re saying is that they don’t have a skill: they’ve been gifted with some sort of ability they did nothing to earn or hone.

All I know is, there are some detectives out there that can more or less read your mind by looking at your face. And I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell them they have psychic mind powers, because I know what I would do if I were them, and I don’t enjoy getting clubbed with a nightstick.

Be seeing you.