The influence of strange and rare stones, iron ore struck by lightning, was discovered by the ancient Chinese and Greeks. A steel needle could be infused with magnetic power by stroking it against one of these Lodestones, then when freely suspended would point north-south. Colombus used a magnet when crossing the Atlantic, and noted that the needle deviated slightly from exact north as indicated by the stars, and furthermore that this deviation altered throughout the voyage. In 1600 physician to Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, William Gilbert, proposed an explanation: the earth itself was a giant magnet, with its magnetic poles some distance from the geographical ones.
The visionary 18th century physician Franz Anton Mesmer’s theory of animal magnetism proposed the presence of free flowing invisible fluids in the body which, if impeded, would cause disease. One of his treatments involved his patients sitting with their feet in a fountain of magnetized water whilst he held cables attached to magnetized trees. Mesmer eventually came to believe that his own body possessed special magnetic powers and in 1778 he began practicing mesmerism in Paris. In these sessions he would cause patients to sleep, dance or even to have convulsions. These events caused a sensation in Paris and made mesmerism a highly fashionable curative but Mesmer was derided as a charlatan by contemporary medical authorities. Magnetic Therapy is now approved by the Complementary Medicine Association and is believed to help in the treatment of anything from torn muscles and ligaments to arthritis by applying magnets to the body or drinking magnetized water. We are also left the enthralling related word mesmerize.
In the nineteenth century, following Danish scientist Hans Christian Oersted’s discoveries of the magnetic effects of the flow of electric current, the new phenomenon was studied in France. Andre-Marie Ampere stated that magnetism was…a force between electric currents: two parallel currents in the same direction attract, in opposite directions repel. Michael Farraday proposed his theory of lines of force, known now as field lines, which surround the planet. From the Earth one needs a sensitive needle to detect magnetic forces; however, beyond our dense atmosphere these forces exert more influence. In the Earth’s magnetosphere they dominate the environment. A mix of electrically charged particles and magnetic phenomena rather than gravity determines the magnetosphere’s structure.
Phenomena from the magnetosphere can be observed from Earth: fluctuations of the magnetic field, known as magnetic storms, and the northern lights, or polar aurora, light up the skies of the far north. Information gleaned by satellites has proved the existence of radiation belts, magnetic structures, fast streaming particles and the processes which energize them. So, if magnetism encircles our planet and is intrinsic to the patchwork of the Universe, surely it would be churlish to ignore its exponential properties. Furthermore, if one was to transfer these certainties of plus and minus to ones very Self, the results would not bring any less balance to life.
This is a fast food world of convenience and supplied demand. Everything seems to have an innate disposability. Activities which kept our minds and bodies working have been relinquished to leisure and it’s great prophet: television. The human spirit/soul now cries from a new emptiness. Daily we travel to a thing called ‘Work’ where we expend energy on something which leaves us unfulfilled and eventually resentful, arriving home too bored, frustrated and tired to begin to know what to do with our free time. Before realizing the absurdity of concept of free time one would have to define the words time and free. This twenty-first century existence drives many unhappy or lost people into addiction.
I prefer to replace the notion of work and rest with a sliding scale of busy-ness. The more truly busy you and your mind become, the more energy you expend, the better one can come to understand and relish inactivity. Idleness has been seen for many centuries as a repugnant moral crime. Christianity promoted the work ethic and bed-guilt has plagued humanity ever since. If, however, idleness is balanced with great activity the effects can be rewarding. In his book How To Be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson argues that “…early rising is totally unnatural but also that lying in bed half awake – sleep researchers call this state ‘hypnagogic’ – is positively beneficial to health and happiness. A good morning doze of half an hour or more can, for example, help you to prepare mentally for the problems and tasks ahead.”
In recovery you are told to be busy, to fill your diary to avoid boredom and inactivity when cravings may strike. But busyness brings many other rewards. By pouring out energy a vacuum is created and all vacuums must be filled, so, the energy is replaced and hence one can become a magnet for life. The laws of strange attraction come into play and the consequences difficult to predict. In mathematics, a strange attractor is a phase-space graph that charts the trajectory of a system in chaotic motion. A magnet swinging over a number of fixed magnets is a simple way to show this random motion, and the search for order in this movement can be engrossing. This sort of unpredictable response is called chaotic motion.
However, patterns of order can be found in apparently disordered systems. There can be a subtle and complex kind of order to chaos, which scientists describe with models known as Strange Attractors. The science of chaos and turbulence are now unveiling hidden relationships in nature. Diverse phenomena such as viral outbreaks, the onset of heart attacks and the rings of Saturn all follow chaotic patterns. Often a system predictable in the long term shows chaotic variations in the short term. The individual motion of insects may be random and insignificant, yet the behaviour of the population as a whole can be analysed.
The effects of strange attractors and chaos theory can be adapted in many ways. Thomas A. Bass, in The Newtonian Casino, chronicles the exploits of a group of young 1970’s computer enthusiasts, physicists and intellectual drop-outs. These merry pranksters developed a complete microcomputer/communication system; revamping technology, shrinking everything till it could be worn in the shoes of the operator. This system could predict, using Newtonian mechanics, where the bouncing ball on a roulette wheel would halt. Even more fascinating is the tale of how this group of mavericks comes together. Pitted against the wealth and power of Glitter Gulch and Las Vegas, they are drawn together by their own strange attraction and the science of chaos.
My personal experience of the effects of strange attraction came in the late nineties whilst composing and recording music, co-founding an independent record label and running an underground club. It was an amazing time involving the consumption of many illegal different drugs which after a few years inevitably led me to addiction, but to begin with it was a golden time of creativity. For the first time in my life I encountered truly shared experiences with beautiful people. Due to financial restrictions we shared a recording studio and were forced to work to an insane round the clock schedule; but the harder we worked, the faster the ideas and creative energy flowed. The momentum increased until we rode on a wave of attraction. The air crackled with the sparks of ideas. The more we wrote the more ideas we had. All we had to do was turn on the equipment.
For example, on one occasion in the early hours of the morning of an all night session there was a lull in the session, tiredness was overtaking us:
“What we need now is some live percussion.” Within minutes there was a knock at the door.
“Sorry to bother you, but I heard the music. I’ve just arrived to play some percussion in the studio down the corridor but nobody’s there yet. Do you mind if I sit in here till someone turns up?” Our live percussion had arrived on cue.
Instances of strange attraction like this occurred more times than I could recount here. We had become magnets, not for material reward, but for people. Unexpected, inspiring people. Artists, writers, roadies, doctors, cooks, a computer genius and a dustman. People making things. People doing stuff. By pouring out energy and being open to any possibility we had become truly magnetic to similarly energised people. For the first time in my life I encountered true exchange. I made many deep and lasting friendships, and through these friends I have connected with other extraordinary people who, needless to say, will lead to even more. Any one of these connections can potentially open the door to a new life, and my personal graph of chaos and magnetism continued to flow.
In recovery I am rediscovering the potent power of busyness. I am meeting new inspirational people and have become creative again. I am writing again, music and this blog. Some days I do have to push myself to start the ball rolling but momentum inescapably carries me forward to activity and new experience. And the reward is the consequent deep and well earned sleep. And this time I am doing it without without the ‘assistance’ of drugs.
Nobody can deny the allure of a confident, enthusiastic person. If we accept the concept of charisma or animal magnetism, Franz Anton Mesmer could not have been far wide of the mark. But how does one acquire strange attraction, how can you become a magnet? The answer would seem to be divinely simple. Be busy. Keep pouring out energy and explore the possibilities. Human magnetism is a regenerative process. The results will be unpredictable but unavoidably interesting.