There are times when I am astounded by the openness of my mind. I dismiss almost nothing outright. There are those who say this is what qualifies me for certain labels. According to them there needs to be a border around the conceivable. Apparently an acknowledgement of that border is a prerequisite to normal social interaction. Failure to give it its due is to beg for silent derision.
Derision is not pleasant and tends to erode self-confidence. Eye-rolling derision, except when it’s my own wife’s loving and sparkling blues, is defeat in the world of ideas, which is where I try to live, rent paid up or not. The other choice, however, lamblike acceptance of conventional intellectual strictures, is, with apology, an ignoble existence. It is certainly not the path of discovery. It is not the lifeline of adventure, and it can make for devastatingly boring conversation. So, I learned to carry around a layer of callus where the demeaning darts have worn their path. My mind stays open, and my mouth stays shut until the evidence upon some forbidden shore or other has achieved sufficient might.
I have been perplexed by the idea of extraterrestrial intelligence or visitation for a number of years. I walked into a room some years ago where the TV had been left on, and saw the shadow of a man telling about secret government documents that proved the existence of flying saucers and the like. At that age, my first reaction was amazement at the lengths to which the media would go to sell advertising. Some number of years later, I was driving and listening and happened to hear a retired Air Force colonel on the radio tell of keeping records of spacecraft crashes on earth and the subsequent cover-ups. All along I have seen the photographs of spaceships in the magazine racks. Though all of these things edged me toward an understanding, when in the comfort of family the question would arise, I would express interest, but profound skepticism.
That may have been an oblique effort at maintaining my dignity. It is possible I had already been convinced. Nevertheless, I invested in a book or two, and the testimonies of now countless civilian and military, lay and scientific witnesses have accumulated to the point where I am capable of defending my belief in the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence without fear of embarrassment. Which is to say that all of those who dismiss must stand in line next to the ignorant and ill-informed. It may be that my arrival at this particular intellectual junction was impossible without that openness of mind that I referred to. It may be that a belief system containing conflicting principles would have made the journey unmakeable. One way or the other, those burdened by those belief systems live in their ignorance to their deep and lasting detriment because the ideas and insights are fascinating to entertain.
I was not, therefore, a reluctant and resistant skeptic when it came to crop circles. I read an article in the Skeptical Inquirer which was designed to make me feel silly, and to give the unarmed something with which to ward off the inconceivable, though it wasn’t much of a weapon in the face of photograph after photograph of geometric designs substantially beyond the capacity of the most advanced imagination. I am now the proud recipient on a yearly basis of the Crop Circles calendar. The idea that these designs could be adequately described in this space is absurd. The idea that a human entity was responsible for their creation defies the entire dictionary, but that it was a couple of guys with a two-by-four is very, very silly indeed.
My complaint with regard to crop circles is emblematic of my complaint with regard to life itself, that its parameters are somehow determined by the New York Times. It can claim to be the paper of record all it wants, but when it decides to foster ignorance about some of this earth’s most stunning artistry, I am offended, and point to crop circles as proof of its agenda of homogenized, stabilized, bounded thought.
Let us assume for an instant that it is two guys and a horse and a dragged two-by-four. I don’t mind if their accomplishments, artistic in nature, do not warrant a place on the front page above the fold with the military action of the moment, or the natural disaster that has left hundreds or thousands dead or homeless, or that day’s scandal which has deprived us citizens of our money or our vote. Editorial decisions must be made, and art may well not demand the attention that power or money or their abuse must have. The idea that photographs of these masterpieces cannot be found in the Sunday Art section, not to mention lower right hand corner of the front page with a larger picture inside, is a monument to the propagation of ignorance. It is as well a cold, clear confession of the desire for a nation of people without curiosity, without power, and without any tendency toward either..