Why Can’t We Think About Aliens?


cavalli-wideWhy can’t we think about aliens?

We can think of quantum physics. For example, we’ve incorporated the phrase “quantum leap” into our everyday speech, as in “Our school made a quantum leap this year in math scores.” We may not know the dictionary definition of quantum leap, which is the abrupt change of a particle from one state to another, but we know the term generally means something moved forward fast.

We can think of black holes. The term is used in astronomy and indicates a place in space with so much gravity pulling at its center than even light cannot get out. Anything that goes in will not come back out and will become as invisible as the black hole itself. As an example, consider money and people thrown at resource-sucking IT projects in the workplace. Despite black holes’ invisibility, we don’t need to see them to recognize a good metaphor.

We can even think of worm holes, imaginary extensions of black holes that theoretically would permit a person to time travel.

It is perfectly fine to discuss these scientific notions across all social stratums, our workplaces, places of worship and on social media. You can do so without fear of your listeners rolling their eyes or sneering at you, unlike the experience of mentioning encounters with extraterrestrials or other anomalous beings. Here you must be cautious when publicly discussing. Apparently it is fine to entertain the idea of something fantastical if it has a tie to science. Hitch your topic to science’s rational-thought star, and it will get instant credibility.

Contrast that with public reception of topics that resist rational thought as a cognitive process to understand them: aliens or extraterrestrials, for example.

An audience member at a recent gathering of the Theosophical Society at Spirit United Church in Minneapolis got me thinking about this. “Why is it we can’t think about extraterrestrials?” this fellow asked after he introduced himself to me during a break of the panel discussion. The panel was made up of four individuals, of which I was one, who had had encounters with anomalous beings. In UFO literature parlance, we were billed as “experiencers.”

When we can’t think of extraterrestrials, we are unable to weave them into our intellectual constructs with which we give our world meaning, such as spiritual philosophies or sociological theories. Unlike certain terms in quantum physics, our terms for extraterrestrials and other anomalous beings stand alone and unconnected, like language pariahs, unwanted and shunned. If these terms were members of a tribe, and if, say, our tribe had to escape the oncoming winter snows due to our flimsy animal skin outfits, like Sonny and Cher wore on their television program in the 1970s, the terms would be the sick, older members of the tribe. We would have to leave them behind because they’d slow us down and consume food and water needed for those who still had a chance.

Why does it seem thinking about extraterrestrials and all they evoke will use up all our oxygen? Why can’t we be thinking about aliens?

The audience member I spoke with uses the metaphor of astrology to explain what prevents us from thinking about aliens. “We can’t use the Pluto energy [to think about extraterrestrials] because every time the topic comes up, the energy is blocked,” he said.

Pluto represents transformation and regeneration, often at the collective level. It is two-faced, however, and can also represent what Jungian and astrologer Gerry Goddard describes as the power of repression and destructive instincts and the “necessary restraints of collective interests.”

To think of aliens is to think of the end of ourselves as we know us.

To think of aliens is to imagine a world where we as central thinkers no longer exist.

Perhaps blocked Pluto is a metaphor for the culture necessarily restraining us from thinking about aliens? Is it perhaps not quite time for the end of us, or the “us” we have constructed?

These are questions without answers, rhetorical, as they say. They are questions I like to entertain when I’m not googling Sonny and Cher fur outfits.

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Karen Cavalli
Karen Cavalli’s work has been published online and in books. Her work has won awards including Outstanding Secondary Science Book. Her non-fiction book Bad Mind, forthcoming from Aster Press, an imprint of Blue Fortune Enterprises, explores the possibility of extraterrestrial beings and what that means for us in this world. She is a graduate The University of Alabama’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she studied with Margaret Atwood. She can be contacted at [email protected].


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