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The Busking Artist Farmer | 2015 | Lowercase T


If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.  

-Charlotte Bronte

Wandering through the Paranormal

Amber and I arrive five minutes before the alien abduction talk is scheduled to begin at the Enchanted Café. I expect it to be packed for the curiosity factor alone. Instead, five people are present. One is a shaggy hipster on a laptop, ignoring us and likely unaware of what is about to occur feet from his Macbook. Two young women sit on the sofa near the door, plotting a vampire story. The speaker, Richard, in a dark blue shirt, jeans, and black suspenders, chats up a woman in her late middle age. A group of three Bard College students comes in, asking if the "UFO thing" is still on, as well they might given the emptiness of the café. Richard assures them that it will be on once there are enough people.

Soon, and without anyone else entering, he decides he has quorum. This is not a formal speech, more like your uncle holding forth rehearsed remarks after a few beers that are meant to sound like spontaneous recollections.

Richard has been a dedicated, if uncertified, hypnotherapist for abductees for decades. His stated concern is that society will ridicule abductees, because, in his words, "no one will believe you. You show up with your clothes on inside out, hours missing, people are going to think you were fooling around."

Richard is sure that aliens run the government and, to offset this, we have to be certain to vote for "people with a background in constitutional law." Since both parties are alien infiltrators manipulating us, voting does seem pointless, but he is firm as to its importance.

He is not without skepticism. For one, he thinks the media is intentionally sugar-coating the intentions of aliens, whom he believes to be far more nefarious than ET and Superman. He believes the core intention behind the aliens is the creation of hybrids, half-aliens that could better survive in our environment so that they can take over. "Some of them can even drive!" he said, incredulously, as through a driver's license might be the most improbable part of a planetary takeover.

Richard had begun his interest in the phenomena early in his life, desperately wanting to have alien abduct him, the implication being that he will give them a piece of his mind. Then, he heard about the purported abduction of Travis Walton, later turned into the movie Fire in the Sky. Since Walton's abduction involved more anal violation and eye stabbing, Richard was no longer eager for the first-hand experience. Even prior to the Walton affair, alien abductions were notorious for sexual abuse, though maybe Richard focused on more optimistic texts. Given that he hypnotically regresses people on the regular, I would imagine he is aware that the sexual abuse is far from desirable.

In his experience, the abductors are not indiscriminate. Like a bisexual at a bar, they have preferences in whom they would like to forcibly invite back to their place: men with jet-black hair and women with dirty blonde hair. He doesn't hazard a guess during his talk as to why they have these peculiar interests. He nods to Amber, who has a hat on. Her bleached hair does look dirty blonde. However, were she to remove it, he would see about 3 inches of very dark hair that would disappoint an abductor.

Richard repeats the intersection of two conspiratorial yarns I have read often enough to include in Artificial Gods, that some UFOs are owned by our military thanks to America signing away abduction rights to the planet in exchange for the technology. He also parrots that photographs from the Mars lander show alligators and mice, as though the dictatorial, alien government at the heart of conspiracy theories would allow such information to reach us. Either we are dealing with the Illuminati or we are dealing with absolute clods who stumbled into power, but we cannot have it both ways. I don't mention the concept of pareidolia to him, as I am sure he discounted it as an explanation for this earth-shaking information already. Mars would be far too inhospitable to support life as large as a mouse, to say nothing of an alligator, bereft of such survival luxuries as any drinkable water and an atmosphere that doesn't allow through DNA-shredding radiation.

Richard claims that he is such an expert at hypnotic regression and that it is so simple that he could teach us all to do it in a matter of five minutes, though he doesn't actually offer. I doubt there are very many skills I could be taught to near mastery in under five minutes. Wandering about someone's unconscious mind should take a bit more time than microwaving broccoli.

He says that our thoughts have been scientifically proven faster than the speed of light. I would love to see a citation for this that doesn't come from a paperback with either a Grey alien or a rainbow on the cover. Our thoughts have a far lower speed limit, based on electrical receptors and neurochemicals. Were this not the case, most anesthetic wouldn't work. It's an optimistic thought and one that alleviates problems in science fiction, but it is not one I can endorse in reality, no matter how one wants to use "quantum entanglement" with all the authority of a Harry Potter spell.

I speak up once too often, wanting to clarify a point or ask a question. He narrows his eyes at me. "I know you. I've seen you before."

"Yeah, I know Gayle Beatty. She's good people." I want to study strangers who believe strange things without their notice. I want to be a sponge for their stories and see no reason to be a character myself any more than I have to be. I want to observe them but not be a part of the paranormal community, even though growing up I would've wanted nothing more. Growing up, I anticipated that I would one day be something like Fox Mulder, proving or disproving-at least to myself-the actuality of the paranormal.

I don't know that we can really fail somebody for wanting to find answers, even though they are unlikely to be the answers we think they should be seeking. I have yet to meet a paranormal person who I fully dislike. I question their conclusions, but I wouldn't question why they would want these conclusions. It is a more orderly world and probably a better one where there is salvation from above (or a damnation we are cunning enough to thwart). Explaining something we don't yet understand drives science to find answers to the presently inexplicable. While the paranormal experiencers may take shortcuts and look at evidence with biased eyes, they are at least looking at the evidence. They are not trying to dwell in ignorance, though they may be fixating on something that is reliant upon willful ignorance of astronomy and biology.

In my seventh grade English class, the teacher asked us to list our fears, which didn't seem like a prelude to a horror movie at the time. I was surprised how many people in my classroom listed that they were frightened being abducted by aliens. This was an especially astounding because so many of them had openly mocked me for being interested in the paranormal. Yet the idea of something more powerful than them coming in and take them in the night ruined their sleep enough to mention it in class.

I know that it is not intellectual to believe in UFOs and Bigfoot. I am still status conscious enough that this matters somewhat. I don't expect that I will ever have the answer and so my interest in the paranormal has become more fixated on those who experience it. I don't need to debunk them, just try to understand them. I need to find some universal nodule that unites them, much as they try to find a way to unite all paranormal experiences into one. I've not found it. Not all paranormally attuned people are desperate to believe. I think many people who have a paranormal experience would like badly for one to never again visit them. I can't blame them.

It is easy to discount people like Richard, to find flaws in him to match the flaws I find his argument, but I find that unsatisfying. Yes, he is perhaps eccentric. I can't question that, which doesn't mean that he is wrong to want to find these answers or to want to help people with the otherwise inexplicable. I do acknowledge how easy it is for people to take advantage of others in these situations because the human drive to belief is so powerful.

Soon in Xenology: More timely entries?

last watched: Being Human
reading: Transcendence
listening: Sia

The Busking Artist Farmer | 2015 | Lowercase T

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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