Breaking Bread and Walls

One of the many things I’d love to do on this site is do reviews of paranormal themed movies. As I get the site more organized, I’ll have a tab that is just for focusing on those movies. However, the goal of those entries will be judging on how well the story is told, the actors’ performances, special effects, etc. For the purposes of this entry, I’m dealing more with the content of the story itself and less to do with the Hollywood aspects.

Last night, I went to a friend’s house in Orange County and we had two choices of movies to watch: Sweeny Todd or The Fourth Kind. My friend Cynthia had presented me with these two movies last week, and the second she said that The Fourth Kind was about alien abductions, I immediately shut off to that, and prayed I could avoid watching it. Last night, I failed to evade it. I could have spent that entire time staring at my phone if I weren’t so worried about killing my battery.

Without giving the details away, I came face-to-face with empirical evidence that challenged the very foundation upon which I placed reality. A subject I was lukewarm about at best became too hot for me to handle. Of course, as I drove home that night, I was a lot more concerned about the lack of empathy and compassion that many other people in the story had for the main character. Even though I had been awake since five the previous morning, in the darkness of the wee hours of the morning, I found myself afraid to sleep. Would I wake up in my own bed at dawn? Even if I did, would that mean that I never left my bed? Am I still here now?

As you get deeper into this site and as I post more entries, you’re going to learn a great deal about me. One thing you’re going to learn: I am a HUGE fan of John E.L. Tenney. Bear in mind, I only found out about him about a year and a half ago, but in that relatively short time, he has entered into my Hall of Fame of paranormal researchers/investigators (he’s only bested by Andrea Perron with a time frame of about seven months). I’m not sure I want to get into how many times I’ve combed over his blog—or how I am plotting to use his Halloween tips for next year to freak out the kids in my neighborhood (I’d do it this year, but I already committed to being a Greek goddess, so freaking the kids out at the door is out of the question now). One of the blogs he wrote was about the schism of groups within the paranormal world (Read this article here). When he attended paranormal conventions in his earlier years, there were many conversations across the board from a variety of paranormal researchers. A ghost hunter could be found discussing a questionable video with a Bigfoot hunter. A UFO hunter would study the orbs in a picture of a haunted building. A demonologist could discuss alien abductions. Even though there were people early on who may have subscribed to one group alone, it was still common for people interested in one area of the paranormal to discuss matters with people interested in another area of the paranormal.  Eventually, groups formed into their own little cliques and each one thought the other was crazy. The ghost hunters thought the alien and Bigfoot hunters were full of it, the UFO hunters thought the ghost and Bigfoot hunters were full of it, the Bigfoot hunters thought the ghost and UFO hunters were full of it, and full-on skeptics of anything paranormal believed we were all full of it. When I attended a lecture and the word UFO got dropped, you could feel the groans in the audience. I know, because I let out one. Since I came of age in the early millennium and didn’t officially get involved until my late teens, I have no memory of researchers from different fields connecting peacefully together. My interest was (and primarily still is) ghosts and spirits. I didn’t disbelieve the existence of aliens, but I also didn’t really care much. To this day, I’m still not sold on the idea of Bigfoot or other humanoid creatures of the same ilk. The days when researchers could freely converse were long gone.

So what happened? Why did we pull away from each other? When did we forget to cross-examine each other in a way without condemning each other? Why did a schism form?

As I drove home last night, I was coming to terms with the fact that maybe I was more of a believer in aliens and alien abductions than I wanted to be. I mulled over all the implications as I drove back to LA county. Perhaps the most terrifying of these implications was this: if aliens exist, does this mean God or any kind of supernatural creator does not exist? Though not exactly a practicing Catholic, my core beliefs in the faith have stood the test of time. Could it stand the test of empirical evidence? Why did aliens clash with my belief in God but not ghosts or spirits?

Without thinking about it, when my friend asked me if I wanted to see The Fourth Kind, there was a deep-seated fear that prevented me from being open to watching it. Before I ever heard Tenney lecture, I didn’t give two thoughts to aliens or Bigfoot. I figured aliens existed, but I didn’t know why on earth (or in the universe) would aliens want to associate with us. Again, I didn’t disbelieve in aliens or even alien abductions, but something in me failed to connect mentally and emotionally. Why was I so afraid?

The answer as to why I was afraid is the same one why there is a schism:

It challenged my perception of reality.

Like anyone else, I was raised with a set of beliefs that shaped the way I saw the world. When you are raised in religion—in this case, in the Judeo-Christian faith—you are told that there is an almighty creator that made everything, and this book says so. When you are told something like that, it doesn’t leave much room for extraterrestrial visitors or humanoid creatures wandering in the woods. Conversely, if you are raised to believe evolution is the reason why humanity exists, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything supernatural—much less that transparent chick hanging out in the corner of your attic. If Bigfoot exists, that means those who don’t believe in evolution have to reevaluate everything their religion taught them about existence. If aliens exist, we have to admit we’re not alone and (most likely) not the most intelligent species in the universe. If ghosts exist, we have to entertain the idea that we are more than just our bodies and that there may be a supernatural being we answer to.

You have to confront the truth that everything you’ve been taught and based your whole life around may be wrong. Even worse? If you have to see or hear evidence with your own eyes and ears, it’s much harder to brush it off as fake. If you are face-to-face with someone who is just as dedicated and educated in their subject as you are in yours, it’s harder to discredit the other person. It’s much easier to avoid talking to them than to be willing to adjust and change with the evidence.

We humans are a curious, intelligent, pioneering, brave, and, in our best moments, compassionate and loving species. But we, too, are a proud species. And when we’ve been told something we know and believe is completely, utterly, and hopelessly wrong, humility isn’t exactly our strongest suit. Too many times, instead of admitting we were wrong and building up from there, we fight the evidence. Some continue to double-down on what they believe—possibly not even wanting to admit to themselves they were wrong. Some fail to process it and maybe even make drastic decisions because they might know what the truth is but don’t have the strength to live with it. We end up thinking of the possibilities of what our lives could have been had we not subscribed to these beliefs. We are awe and terror-filled thinking of how different our society would be. We cringe thinking of all the privileges we lose once we loosen ourselves from false gospels.

It’s only this year that I’ve finally started to allow aliens into my consciousness as an investigator. Andrea Perron started me off on the path in early March (a second post will explain what happened then and subsequently in July of this year), but last night, watching The Fourth Kind forced me to look at real evidence collected in October 2000. Watching and hearing the witness testimony did less to convince me that alien abductions were real (which, again, I never disbelieved), but for the first time in my thirty-one years of life, I cared. Walking in the shoes of those who had seen and experienced these terrifying events made me realize why we have to break the barriers down between these isolated camps of researchers.

It isn’t just about what’s real and what isn’t. It isn’t about right or wrong.

It’s about empathy. It’s about loving our fellow humans enough to allow them to be heard without judgment. It’s offering comfort to those in pain. It’s valuing this life and living each moment as fully as we can until we breathe our last.

We don’t understand everything we see. We don’t have all the answers. We never will. As great and special I still believe we are, we are not all-knowing or all-powerful. We as paranormal researchers must come to grips with that. All of us know from our research and experiences that the world is so much more than we know. Though our perceptions of this existence may differ, we are not excused from actively listening to each other and respecting the bounds of human decency.

All of us know what it’s like to be ostracized from family and friends because of our beliefs in the paranormal. We have learned to be more understanding and compassionate for it. This field would be so much better served if we extended that to all researchers all of kinds.

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