As a new dad in my early 40s, I was on the verge of a personal and professional crisis: depressed, overweight, and struggling to handle my responsibilities as a husband and father. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, a medical condition that afflicts tens of millions, though roughly 80 percent go undiagnosed. The effects of sleep apnea are serious, even deadly. A disorder in which breathing is interrupted during sleep, apnea strikes men and women of all ages, leading to a drastic reduction in the quality of life and sometimes resulting in death. So oxygen deprived my doctor told me I could die any night, unable to secure a life insurance policy because of my condition, and facing a full-fledged break down, I happened upon the most remarkable of all things: A potential cure.
People nationwide were rocked by the story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell—a Philadelphia-based abortion provider who was accused of birthing live, full term babies and murdering them. Gosnell talked to one reporter directly after his trial, and this is the result—a chilling and often grisly look at the thinking of a Doctor on a mission that rendered him blind to what he’d become.
Jeffrey Schwartz is a controversial, often combative psychiatrist and expert on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), best known to the public as the man who coached Leonardo DiCaprio for his Oscar-nominated role as billionaire Howard Hughes in The Aviator. But his extraordinary professional contribution, achieved through a lifetime of obsessive work, is a breakthrough therapy that has helped free thousands of OCD sufferers from their habitual behaviors, compulsions and irrational fears. Considered a pariah among his academic peers, Schwartz’s unconventional treatment methods draw on his fascination with the Holocaust, his experience with Buddhist meditation and his pioneering work documenting the neural circuitry of OCD. By teaching his adult patients to willfully rewire their brains and reverse their disease, Schwartz has challenged the prevailing view in neuroscience that free will is dead. But his most pressing battle may actually be the one he fights against his compulsions and social awkwardness in his quest to find some accurate, workable definition of humanity that can help us overcome our darkest, most primitive selves.
More than seventy percent of Americans believe in paranormal activity. But even with a family ghost story lurking in my own background, I felt like most of those millions of Americans—reticent to talk about my experience in polite company. If so many of us have similar stories to tell, why are we so reluctant to take them seriously? I analyze the reasons why by taking a long trip into the world of the paranormal, exploring topics ranging from ghosts and psychics to Near Death Experiences, a NASA astronaut-turned mystic and even my own dreams. My message is that we need to allow for a middle space, a place where paranormal phenomena can be weird and compelling; raise crucial questions; and, quite possibly, remain unexplainable. The questions the paranormal raises—why are we here, are we alone in the universe, and what happens when we die?—are too important to leave unexplored.