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Rationalism DESTROYED with FACTS and LOGIC [Trenchant Edges]
In which I try to write something short but write a whole email anyway.
Welcome back, my friends. This is the Trenchant Edges, I’m Stephen Fisher, and today we’re taking a quick look at the only UFO book my Library had available to download about UFOs.
But First, we’ll discuss a bit about wonder, faith, and human growth.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 3 seconds. Contains 1210 words
Demystification and Wonder
Since the Enlightenment, the European cultural zone has experienced a progressive desacralization of all parts of life.
Rationalists always assumed that the mythic sense was a kind of toxic parasite on human life and that once its institutional power was gone, people would just kind of get over the need.
I’m, uh, skeptical of that.
Ritual and Myth provide a top-level emotional context for life that directs a sense of meaningful action. It’s a kind of psychospiritual bubble where our complex mess of involuntary reactions and choices can be synthesized into some greater whole.
Remember that quote from Hamlet?
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
IE: Scientific inquiry can’t explain everything.
This is related to the God of the Gaps argument that’s been slowly shrinking over the last few hundred years as it’s become increasingly clear that if you use god to explain any gap in your knowledge, then when you learn more you’ll have to revise god out of the explanation again.
Embarrassing stuff really.
But at the same time it’s impossible to miss that even among the most proactive atheists like the Russian Bolsheviks there was a certain kind of missionary Zeal and mythic dimension to their Revolution.
I’ve seen many authors explain their worldview as a kind of secularized Christian millenarian sect battling competing Orthodoxies for control of the Russian Empire after the ousting of the Czars. And while this isn’t entirely correct, it does pass the vibe check. Especially when you think of the USSR as a Pagan empire conquered by the True Faith and converted.
Even our ever-so-rational New Atheists have mostly revealed themselves to be largely conservatives who only don’t recognize their fetishization of reason as a distinctly Christian Neoplatonist ideal because they don’t know much of the history of that “Western Civilization” they idealize and loudly talk about defending from the “invading” “barbarian” “hordes”.
What’s all of this about? Why do even the people who most vigorously deny the need for spirituality or religiosity express near-identical relationships to their top-level contexts as the spiritual and religious?
The neuroscientist might say it’s because we’re all running on the same hardware, more or less. The Priest might say because we’re all built with an inborn desire for union with God. The Jungian might point to archetypes and the collective unconscious.
As interesting as those musings are, I think there’s a simpler reason.
It feels good to understand a larger context.
That sense of wonder is a gateway to understanding. Awe directs focus and with it comes learning and, one hopes, understanding.
Not understanding the context you’re in just kind of sucks.
You constantly make decisions that you think are right that hurt you and you don’t know why until you find what you don’t understand and undo whatever mistakes you were making.
So if you’re bored and your life isn’t working out as well as you thought it should, you start to look for explanations and alternatives. And there are no shortage of low and middle weirdness in the “marketplace of ideas.”
Hunting for UFOs can provide meaning because it immediately provides an identity: You’re not a sheep! You’re a bold rebel trying to discover the secrets THEY don’t want you to know about! A bold explorer of hard truths too real for the mainstream!
And if you’re naive and lack self-awareness enough to recognize this is the easiest pretense in the world to put on and works just about equally well for any subject… it’s easy to slip into that.
I’ve certainly been there on more than a few subjects. Most notably, thinking I was a pioneer in mystic experiences I now recognize to be more or less culturally universal.
Lots of people have lots of transpersonal experiences. They contextualize them in many ways.
And all turning those special experiences into a reason why you’re secretly the smartest and most persecuted person in the world does is cut you off from other people.
To paraphrase 1984, Imagine stamping yourself in the face with a boot- forever.
The way out of this trap, ironically, is also through awe and recognizing yourself as a small piece of a whole.
But then you’ve got to put the fucking boot away and learn the right way for you to live.
Which is a whole different beast.
Note: None of this is to say there isn’t real oppression, just that it’s easy to let your own vanity trick you into believing you are, especially if you’ve got a lot of privilege.
I’ve been listening to about 45 minutes of this book’s ~7hrs and it’s pretty quality schlock. The author is the same guy who wrote the Accidental Billionaires, the movie about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook that was adapted into the Social network so the prose is sharp and crisp.
But so far this does the book no favors as nonfiction.
It’s hard to tell if Ben intended this to be taken seriously because it very much feels like a ghost story, written with multiple layers of cliffhangers as different scenes are paused to heighten suspense.
The only real interesting thing so far is it mentioned animal mutilation which I’ve always written off as unimportant. But if we’re gonna do this UFO thing I probably should do a better job with that.
Chuck’s painted as kind of a good-natured obsessive, going to astronomy clubs to talk with people about UFOs and maybe not being the best husband along the way as he skips out on weekends with his family to continue the hunt.
I don’t really have a strong opinion on the guy. He’s been in a lot of crankish documentaries though.
From the imdb page, he’s also had a short-lived TV series called Alien Highway and may also be a bigfoot guy.
IMDB’s top review of his show is pretty harsh.
Most of the rest of the reviews are actually worse.
Oh, but what’s this? Chuck’s reviewed another production about him.
This is the kind of thing that’s kept my attention long after my time as a believer in most of this stuff past. Here we have a guy who seems more than a little desperate to be taken seriously with his weird obsession. I can appreciate that at least.
The harshest review is one of its only high reviews.
Anyway, this is all just kind of an irrelevant tangent I admit.
I found Chuck’s LinkedIn page which is as close as I’ve been able to get to his email so I’ll probably reach out and start a conversation.
Before we move to something more interesting, I want to go back to the 37th parallel book for a sec: They also straight-up accuse MUFON (Mutual UFO Network ) of being a CIA affiliate. Which is super funny to me.
Probably true too.