Thursday, February 21, 2013

October Baby, UFOs, and the Importance of Being Human

February 7th: October Baby (2011) follows the endeavors of a college-age girl to find her real mother after discovering she was the survivor of a botched abortion. The harsh truth prompts her to reflect on her own humanity and the way she had perceived herself until that point--the feelings of worthlessness, of drowning, of inexcusable existence, as well as her various health problems, suddenly come together as a unique complexity that's both coherent and disturbing.

Backtrack. February 1st. The headline reads, CHRISTIAN DISCOVERS SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT UFOS-- "Local Seattlite now convinced about UFOs existences, gov't efforts to suppress knowledge"
  "And I was like, oh my gosh, it's really true. It's all true," explained Boorman, a lifelong Evangelical Christian and UFO skeptic. "My whole family, except for my older sister, won't hear a word of it. But you know, when you see the actual footage, and the common shapes and witness experiences, and the declassified documents, it seems a whole lot more legit. My jaw just hung there that whole first night after watching a couple documentaries. It's crazy."
      Boorman says that the documentary "Out of the Blue" (2002), by producer Michael Jay Fox, showed a lot of evidence and solid analysis that just couldn't be refuted, she claimed, "without sounding even more ridiculous than the UFO 'nuts'". "The counterarguments for some of these cases are pathetic. Like, a lighthouse, really? When the guy actually went up and touched the craft, and it left scorch marks and everything?"
      Boorman says she doesn't see any inherent incompatibility between her faith and this new-found conviction. "I have a lot of Christian friends who dismiss UFOs outright through deductive reasoning, saying there couldn't possibly UFOs because we are alone in the universe, you know, like 'Wouldn't God have said something in the Bible if there were other creations?' But I mean, who are we to put limits on God, if he can do anything? So that's my position. I don't put God in a box." And, she added, "I try my best to use inductive reasoning whenever possible, because it gets more accurate conclusions. The UFO phenomenon shouldn't be any different."

  Ostensibly a UFO "convert" just one week ago, Boorman, a native Washingtonian, is retracting her opinion on Unidentified Flying Objects.
      "I watched another documentary, 'cause, you know, I do that...and toward the end it brought up some really interesting and really frightening insights on the UFO phenomenon. It basically argued that these things [the UFOs] are the work of demons, and that there're strong similarities between historical depictions of demons and the present archetype alien."
       Boorman continued, "But that's not even the strongest evidence. There's also the missing-time phenomenon, and the fact that they make absolutely no sound, which is impossible...I did some more research online and found the real clincher: predictions made by alien abductees, who claim contact with the aliens, are often freakishly similar, or exactly the same, to prophesies and information given by mystics, mediums, psychics, and automatic hand-writers, who all claim contact with the spirit world." Emphatically, she added, "I mean, how can you explain that in any sort of respectable scientific way? How can you explain that away, especially when some of these prophesies, the kind that are way more detailed than educated guesses, come true?"
       Boorman admitted that she hasn't related these new discoveries to her family yet--just her husband. "The funny thing is, when Cody [husband] called his mom up [almost two weeks ago] and said that I believed in UFOs, she immediately and matter-of-factly said, 'Oh, I think they're demons'. I actually thought it was a ridiculous proposition at the time, but now I totally see that she's right. And to boot, my faith is totally reaffirmed, and yet again provides a coherent and rational explanation for something everybody wonders or is confused about."
       She paused, and then concluded, "Don't ever dismiss a theory as ridiculous until you do the research. I think that's one thing I've learned from this whole experience."

Right now you're asking, what does October Baby and UFOs have to do with each other?

Excellent question.

Answer: Both October Baby and my UFO revelations have caused me to seriously reflect on the concept of humanity: what does it mean to be human? 

       For the brief period when I was quite sure that there has been some form of contact with extraterrestrials on this planet, I kept imagining what the first highly public interaction between the human race and another would be like. How would the world react? What would they say, what rights would be claim they have, or don't have?

      What perplexed me was the very idea of humanity, and what it entails, not just what it privileges itself with. What characterizes it? What's inherent in our biology; what's purely social; how do we think?
       I realized that the fiction (social construction) of aliens and the narrative of invasion or mass contact is a unique tool for allowing us to see our reflections--it's impossible to "define" humanity without having something to compare it with. The concept of difference in my field of anthropology is the crucial first step to understanding ourselves, for it is only when we are confronted with difference that we begin to decode our own language and customs, to constructively interpret our way of life. A classic historical example comes from Middle Age Europe--it was only after the Voyages of Discovery had begun that "race" began to carry serious meaning for the white Europeans, raising a whole host of questions that had not previously been asked.

      Although to some the "savages" of the New World and of Africa may as well have been aliens--something other than human--contemporary thought brings us all together as equally human; we are not all that different, at least not biologically, not inherently.

      Unfortunately, for a significant percentage (as in at least one person) of the world's population humanity is in dispute in a different way. The film mentioned at the beginning of this post reminded me, but this time more profoundly and more painfully, of the concept of sacred human life. Words like "abortion controversy", "abortion debate", "women's rights", or "pro-choice/pro-life" are pathetic in their utter failure to describe and relate such crucial ideas, and despicable in their capacity to strip the very idea of humanity out of our minds--the more I turn it over in my mind, the more appalled I am at our vocabulary (at least in English) regarding this "issue." The word "abortion", meaning "termination" "cessation", or "abandonment of a mission" is a word Americans have swallowed unconsciously and washed down with its accompanying wave of euphemisms and p.c. terms for decades, as if it were the multivitamin sent down with a gulp of water.

      Sometimes I wonder if we don't deserve that noble title of humanity. But that's my Romantic side speaking.

      I know that even among Christians, and between Christians and Catholics, there are differing views on When Human Life Begins, When the Soul is Born, or whatever you choose to call it. I'm not here to force my view down your throat; actually I don't honestly think I can directly answer the question with any degree of certainty. But this film, October Baby, hit me in the gut with the beautiful, terrible, undeniable force of human empathy--and empathy is something one human can only feel for another, on behalf of another. When you see a picture of a baby at 20 weeks, and it feels like your heart has dropped into an abyss and left your chest empty and yet filled with fire...what word can describe this but empathy.

      That may not sound scientific to some of you. It does not pretend to be. This is not a question of science, not by any stretch of the imagination. It is a Human Question that remains unanswered outside of that natural state of humanity we call religion, a rational set of explanations and morals that stem from a reverence for a God or gods that we call faith.
       If there were other intelligent beings who contacted we humans in a big way (if not a threatening way), I wonder if we would extend our humanity to cover us all, if we could find enough commonalities between us to rouse our sense of morality and quiet our fear of the Other; to stay the masses from rioting, the missiles from launching and the drones from swarming the Visitors.

I doubt it--if we all cannot even agree on including the unborn under the canopy of Humanity, how could we include those who do not share our biology, our history, or our languages?

These are the thoughts the fiction of aliens and stories of the barely-born provoke. They make us aware of the milieu of ideas and assumptions that we inhabit, test and temper our convictions, raise the Questions we cannot ask without an Other to project an image of Ourselves back at us, to be our reflection and our Difference. Without these, how difficult it would be to realize the importance of being Human.



  1. So thoughtful and well put, Georgi. Makes you think! Sometimes we get so caught up in the science of everything that we forget the spiritual, the human.

  2. What I like best about your blogs is that they make me think. This one not only did that but the UFO aspect was exciting in that I believe wholeheartedly in their existence; and the October Baby thoughts pulled at my heartstrings. Another great blog, Georgi. Keep them coming!

  3. I thought the connections you had were really interesting! In fact, I almost did a research paper for a class about this. I never would have thought about connecting October Baby, which is narrates one girl's life so it's much more personal, and the human race, which is so hard to define that it almost takes that personal feeling out of it. It's funny how "the human race" strives towards individualism, yet, when you think about it, we're really not as individualistic as we think we are, no matter how hard we try; it's just really kind of impossible.
    When you were talking about not being able to differentiate until you have something to compare it to, I think is true. Judith Butler said in one of her crazy feminist/labelistic rants that no one cared to define what already existed until something out of the norm existed. Her example was homosexuality. Society had no need to define heterosexuality until homosexuals started define themselves, or rather the heterosexuals labeling the "other." And why is humanity any different. Now that "aliens" have come into the media, I see humans trying to define humanity, a task they never had much need to do, except when it came to racism, which I think is silly.
    But who really has the power to define humanity? Is it scholars of ancient times? our times? I would so no, it's the media. I don't know if you know who Guy Debord is or if you've read "The Society of the Spectacle" (if you haven't, you definitely should!), but he talks about how the media basically holds all the power of us. And I mean is he really wrong? Does humanity not feed this almost living entity that we call "media" every day. I think that's why it's more appropriate to call it mass media is because we've fed it with our own humanity so it kept growing and growing. (That was a joke of sorts, I guess it's hard to translate humor to the Internet. My reference was mostly to Little Shop of Horrors.)
    But as we continue to feed media (yes I intentionally didn't say "the media") I think we do give away part of our rights to humanity, as media starts to almost mother us. And as we lose our humanity we do just believe what the media wants us to believe or not believe, and we just go along with it without researching it for ourselves.
    I haven't had a chance to watch the documentaries you mentioned yet, but I hope I get the chance to soon. I've seen October Baby. But it's an interesting theory you have about what aliens really are, and I'd like to investigate it for myself I know this might seem like more of a rant than feedback, so sorry! You did a great job on your blog and I really like the perspective you took on it!