Whitley Strieber’s “Communion” had just made its way to #1 (with a bullet) on the New York Times bestseller list (the other gray lady) and thanks to the fairly thorough press coverage (for a non-fiction book about alien abductions–who would have thunk it?), the image of Whitley’s lady was burned into my impressionable 7 year old mind.
What this means is that I grew up with my back against the wall – literally! I propped my bed against the corner of my room every night and sat upright, a close eye on the door, window, and closet. I sat watch all night and waited for one of Whitley’s visitors to pop out of my closet and shout “peek-a-boo” in a mechanical voice with a Midwestern twang (the mechanical Midwestern twang of the gray lady being one of the many bizarre details that made “Communion” the most frightening “UFO book” ever written.)
The lack of nocturnal sleep soon took its toll on my diurnal wakefulness and my mother took me to our family pediatrician. My nurse mother raised me to think of doctors as the great wise men and precise technicians of the unassailable medical establishment, the final fruit of all dialectical struggles in human history. In some sense, of course, it is. The practitioners of modern medicine have saved my life and the lives of those I love on more than one occasion, but do they think outside of their paradigm? In my naivete, I expected Dr. Bogdanovich to at least give me a handle on my concerns. The smartest in our society would by necessity also be the most open-minded, right?
So my mother drove me to his office, a fluorescent-lit cube as cold as any abductee examination room.
“What seems to be the problem, big guy?” asked Dr. Bogdanovich as he sat me up on the examination table. He smelled like aftershave. I think I suddenly preferred the cheddar cheese smell of the grays (that’s what they smelled like according to Whitley Strieber.)
“I’m afraid that aliens will come into my room at night and abduct me.”
“Aliens, huh? I don’t blame you! Aliens are pretty scary. I’m afraid of aliens too!”
The jack-ass was patronizing me. Patronizing me!
“You know those Ghostbuster packs they sell at Toys R’ Us? Well, they don’t just work against ghosts! They also work against aliens! So next time aliens come into your room just zap them with the Ghostbuster pack and that’ll get rid of ’em! Will you buy him a Ghostbuster pack, mom?”
“Sure,” said my mother.
“Would you like your mother to get you one of those packs?” he asked me.
“Sure,” I said, too well-mannered to not play his stupid game.
What a loss of innocence and a blow to my naive humanism. Dr. Bogdanovich was nothing but an Amazing Randi. An Amazing Randi, MD (and I thought Doogie Howser was annoying.)
“Now go out to the desk and get a lollipop from Gretchen, our receptionist. I’d like to have a word with your mother.”
From Gretchen’s front desk I heard Dr. Bogdanovich comfort my mother:
“Don’t worry about it at all! It is perfectly normal for kids his age to have irrational fears. They’re all afraid of the boogeyman, ghosts, monsters under the bed, etc… In fact, I would be worried if he wasn’t having these fears at his age. Perfectly normal.”
Who the hell was he calling irrational? In a sane and rational world, Dr. Bogdanovich would have addressed my problem thus:
“Mrs. Johnson, I fear your son may be a possible abductee. I’m not saying he is or that it’s even likely, but it is possible. I recommend setting up a video camera in his room. If anything unusual happens in response to this camera I want you to call me immediately. If it blacks out, if he turns it off, if he turns it away from his bed, if he seems hypnotized, or if anything the least bit strange happens in response to the presence camera I want you to call me immediately. We have to carefully monitor this situation.”
Unfortunately, we do not live in a sane and rational world.
“Would you like to go to Kmart and get one of those Ghostbuster packs?” my mom asked as she turned out of Dr. Randi’s (I mean Dr. Bogdanovich’s) parking lot.
“Mom, we don’t know what these things are or where they come from, but they are not going to be afraid of a plastic toy. They have the ability to hop between dimensions for all we know. They’re going to be afraid of a toy?”
Perhaps I am a starchild! How many other 7 year olds would have come up with such a sophisticated answer?
Starchild or not, I have always prided myself on two things: an open mind and a strong imagination. Skeptics like Michael Shermer and the Amazing Randi lack both. I go by the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s definition of Truth as an”uncovering.” Truth is not always a set of propositions extracted from a pallid model (even if that model is the Almighty scientific method itself.) Reality does not care about our models any more than it cares about the equations we foist upon it in the name of our most chauvinistic reason. Truth is a going forth and “uncovering.” So we may not be able to repeatedly produce a UFO sighting under controlled conditions in a lab, but that does not mean that there are not “reams and reams” of evidence to sort through. If even 1% of it is of genuinely “alien” origin then the entire Shermerian/Randian paradigm has been altered forever. Our friend Whitley Strieber often suggests skeptics are frightened this larger and very obvious reality will blow their intellectual egos away like the proverbial pup tent in a tornado (not his exact words!)
That’s not to say that reason is not equally or even more important than a process of “uncovering.” We need both. We need more than a smidgeon of “everything and the kitchen sink” to sort out phenomena that is undeniably taking place.
The shallow scientism of Dr. Bogdanovich and his ilk will not do the job.
For more information or to purchase this book from AMAZON.COM simply click on its title: COMMUNION A TRUE STORY