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British Expat Newsletter:
29 August 2007

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter. Dave’s writing most of the newsletter this week.

In this issue

  • This week: Near-death experiences?
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

“Don’t die, Shrek! And if you see any long tunnels, stay away from the light!”
(Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) in the film Shrek)

Ever had a near-death experience? I’m not talking here about transport near-misses, or scary incidents where someone’s shooting at you, threatening you with a knife or otherwise out to kill you. Nor am I talking about illnesses where medical practitioners have believed you to be on the verge of dying – though hospitals certainly do feature in a large number of the kind of experience I’m talking about.

No, what I’m talking about is the Near Death Experience (NDE), or Out-of-body Experience (OBE or OOBE) as it’s also known. Most of us have heard of these, even if we haven’t had one ourselves or met anyone who has. Basically, it’s a sequence of events where a person near death suddenly appears to be floating above his or her own body, observing what’s going on – often in a great deal of detail. Then there’s a whooshing noise, and the person sees and feels him or herself rushing up along a tunnel towards a bright light (blue or primrose are among the colours seen), accompanied by a feeling of calm, joy and great love. The person may meet relatives, friends or spiritual figures, and has an encounter with a being of light. The being tells the person that it isn’t yet time and that he or she has to return to the world – which causes the person to feel regretful or reluctant to return. Then it’s back to the body.

One trivial point: how do the people concerned know they’re dying? Calling it a near-death experience suggests that the people to whom it’s happening are genuinely about to die and fail to do so only because someone’s determined that their number isn’t yet up. Very comforting, I’m sure, to know that there’s a pleasant experience in wait for us when we peg out. But without the reliable testimony of someone who’s actually been through the process and gone the whole hog (ie died), it’s difficult to be sure that what’s happening is a real experience and not a hallucination. There are several cases documented where the person experiencing an NDE has never actually been in danger of dying – simply the belief that death is imminent has been enough to bring one about.

As for the details observed by the person once out of their body, most of these are generally available to the person through their everyday five senses, particularly through hearing and touch – even under anaesthetic. Tellingly, it’s often the visual details that can’t possibly have been seen by the subject at any stage that are the shakiest; they tend, too, to be supplied by building on the evidence of what the patient’s heard.

The amount of resemblance between these cases – across people from a wide variety of social, ethnic and religious backgrounds – is quite remarkable on the face of things, especially as it’s about an experience that none of us has ever been through in the physical world. Then again, is it so very uncanny?

Think about the number of dreams there are that loads of people have had, even though they’re not real: the one about floating through the air at will; the one about being unable to run properly or being rooted to the spot in the face of a threat; the one about trying to drive a car from the back seat; the one about falling (and, according to folk wisdom, “if you hit the ground, you die in your sleep”. How do they know?!). Many of these dreams are widespread across cultures, although possibly not the car one.

Add to that the likelihood that the researcher is looking for signs that various “classic” symptoms have been experienced (a common failing among researchers into the paranormal or parapsychological), and that the stories most likely to sell papers and magazines are the ones which appear to confirm the existing body of “evidence”, and you’ve got an “unexplained phenomenon” on your hand. Just like “spontaneous human combustion”, except that that particular phenomenon is well documented and explained by conventional physics and chemistry; it seems to be only in the English-speaking world that there’s still any mystery about it.

Both Kay and I have dreamt about dying. (Kay dreamt that she was in a car that was being slowly crushed; I dreamt that I’d been shot in the chest.) In both cases, there was no pain involved – we simply felt our life ebbing away, with a sort of fatalistic “Oh well, this is it” feeling of regret. And after that, nothing. Just a total shutdown; a sleep without dreams.

So if you see a light at the end of a long tunnel, the chances are that it’s either daylight or an oncoming train.

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

[Obsolete content and links deleted]

Skepdic.com is also pretty good on NDEs.

(We would have included a link to a non-sceptic view on NDEs, but they contained so much bad science that we didn’t want to lend them credibility.)

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • long haired lover from liverpool chords [Why???]
  • is black treacle fancy molasses?
  • malta wether
  • godzilla e-cards
  • roll out the barrel german lyrics
  • british men wax chest
  • duk sex .com
  • charlie no bra
  • what does the word starling symbolise in the silence of the lambs
  • pink fir apple chips -decadence

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.”

– George Santayana, Spanish philosopher (1863-1952)

Joke

An atheist dies, and awakens to find himself before the gates of Hell. “Oh no! I was wrong, and now I’m in Hell!” he thinks.

Well, the Devil walks up to him and says, “We’ve been expecting you! Follow me.” So the atheist follows the Devil through the gates of Hell.

They pass through a huge chamber full of screaming tormented souls, flames and pitchforks and lava, the whole shebang. The atheist is beside himself with fear.

Then they enter a modern air-conditioned hallway, with bright pictures on the wall. The hallway leads to a huge room, where eternity’s biggest party is in full swing. A gorgeous she-demon hands the atheist a pint of his favourite beer. Out of the crowd emerge all his long-lost friends and family. “Surprise!” they all shout. They then proceed to dance the night away.

As the night wears to a close, the atheist’s chatting with some of his old mates and says:
“This is all great, this is fantastic! There’s just one thing that I don’t get. When I came in, there was this pit of screaming souls and torture and stuff, what’s that all about?”

“Oh,” one of them says with a grin, “that’s just for the Christians!”

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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