Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Twenty-One Grams

I intend to get serious here from time to time, hence three out of the last four posts I have written have been socio-political in their nature. But I am not strictly a political animal. I do like writing merely for the joy of writing.

I started writing this post without any clear idea what I would write about. I still haven't decided. Sit on the couch dear sir and unburden yourself with whatever first occurs to you. Free associate.

We watched a movie tonight called Twenty-One Grams. This two hour gem employed the acting talents of Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benecio Del Toro, as well as others whom I have seen elsewhere but could not name for the life of me.

In the movie, Naomi Watts occasionally snorts a little coke, so Bonnie and I both assumed the name, Twenty-One Grams, referred to her blow. Near the end of the movie - actually during Sean Penn's soliloquy which accompanied both his and the movie's ending - twenty-one grams had its meaning explained. Sean Penn intones that all people are known to lose twenty-one grams at the exact moment of their deaths. He goes on to ask what is gained (a hint at some very murky redemption in a sordid film), but the reference to twenty-one grams of weight loss concurrent with expiration is religious in origin.

I've heard this before though I didn't remember the specific amount of weight that supposedly evaporated post mortem. But according to espousers of this myth, some plethoa of empircal measurements by independent and respected researchers has shown this phenomenon to be universal. What could possibly account for such an odd thing? Oh wait, isn't it obvious? The human soul weighs (now we know!) precisely 21 grams and thus as it fleets off into heaven (or dear god we hope not: into hell) the body is suddenly relieved of this diminutive extra burden.

As in all such assertions by the overtly devout (religious, political, conspiratorial theoretical, you name it), no proof is offered. It's simply well known. I spouted off something I had merely heard and seen written about to my brother the other day, then upon reflection I realized I was claiming as fact something that was only hearsay to me. I followed up and found factual proof which I forwarded to my brother though he had not asked for it. It was important to me that I not parrot things I had heard but did not actually know to be true.

And now I'm asserting that supposed research proving humans lose 21 grams upon their demise is in fact fabricated. I have no proof of the fabrication. I simply assume it. To be fair to myself I am not parroting something I have heard elsewhere. I am simply stating my own opinion. But I am stating it as fact. And that is something I shouldn't do unless I know it to be fact.

I will make a point of researching where this twenty-one gram assertion originates from and I will see if I can actually find one or more of the studies that purport to support it. But unless something really bizarre occurs - like I find several reputable studies supporting this and can confirm the researchers' bonafides - I will only be able to continue to say that it is unproven. I cannot prove it is wrong. This is of course the way it goes with all religious and hocus-pocus assertions. You can say they are unproven but cannot prove them wrong. Hence the millennia long power of the shaman.

Damn, I went and got editorial after all.

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