What do you do now? If you are not alone in the dark you can refer to another’s catalogue: “What the heck is that?” But your companion’s catalogue may well be similar to yours; you have many shared memories and neither of you can relate to this unknown experience-to-be before you. “Heck if I know! Whaddayou think?”

Similar to the neurological response system called “fight or flight,” we humans seem to have another auto-mechanism that might be labelled “accept or deny.” With “fight or flight,” once you have committed to run like hell, it is very difficult to stop and turn about in a practically suicidal change of course; your nervous system knows exactly what you should do without thinking and you take its emphatic advice: Run!

Similarly, once you’ve decided to deny what your lying eyes have conveyed to the central intelligence system of your brain, it is not easy to experience a change of mind afterward. While both of these instinctive processes are shared by man and beast alike, the uncertainty of whether to accept or deny overwhelming evidence is surely an intensely human response that is deeply founded in our collective unconscious’ desire to displace instinct with reason, no matter how unreasonable that desire may be.

There are after-the-fact deviations to these affairs that are the property of ego and faulted self-perception. Once safely removed from the arena of an imminent conflict, you might turn to a friend and say, “ I could’ve taken that three hundred pound brute easy! I just didn’t want to mess up my new jacket, y’know?”

It is also not uncommon to rationalize the unknown into something familiar, in order to replace denial with partial acceptance, for full denial of anything at all can be as uncomfortable as dealing with it, and don’t we all prefer the nice comfy-chair of mitigated ignorance over the spiky horns of capricious enigma ?

Following are two examples of instant denial that, as the uncomprehending mind raced through its brain-files looking for comparative data, turned the reality of a new experience, at least in the first case, into an impossibility rather than an improbability.

There is the parable of the frog who spent his entire life at the bottom of a well, until one day he climbed . . . but you’ve heard that one, I know, and that’s good because I’m not going to tell it here. Nor will I repeat the story about the chimpanzee who happened upon a half-full can of Coca-Cola in the jungle deep . . .