by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
I’ve never experienced a UFO. As a matter of fact, the only strange thing I’ve ever seen in the sky was a green streaking meteorite with a sparkly tail. It was very pretty. And unexpected. Fortunately, I had a framework for explaining what I saw. Not only that, but I had access to a world full of information at my fingertips, and I knew how to use it.
Still, even with all of that, in the first few seconds of the sighting, I experienced a ton of thoughts not much related to reasoning or experience. I felt awe. I thought “ooooooo pretty,” and I said to Jim (with whom I was speaking on the phone at the time), “What the hell was that?”
Since Jim was in a power plant surrounded by tons of cement and no windows, his response was, “Huh?”
It didn’t help that I said about 20 times, “What the hell was that?” before I came to my senses and thought, “Oh – huh – I should probably describe to him what I saw.”
And so I did. And we ticked off the possibilities. Fireworks, explosion, bug, flaming bat, hallucination, meteorite. Within minutes, it was confirmed as a meteorite by the media. Mystery solved.
There was another time when I was sitting upstairs at my computer. Jim was at work, and Tanner was in bed. I was sitting in a high-backed swivel chair with casters. I was working on my novel (I’ve been working on it for years), and I was completely alone upstairs. I paused, thinking about the person on whom I was basing one of my main characters – the father of a good friend who died several years ago of pancreatic cancer. I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. The door behind me creaked, and footsteps walked across the floor behind my chair. Someone bumped the back of my chair, causing me to spin and roll slightly. I heard breathing. I turned to say something to Tanner (who was the only other person in the house at the time), and there was no one there. That will give you a start, thinking of a dead guy and wondering if he would approve of the way you were writing his character and then having that happen at the very moment you are doing so. Again, my immediate response was multifaceted – and quite similar to my response to the meteorite. “Coooooollll…..” and “What the hell was that?”
I immediately got up and called downstairs. There was no answer. I went down and peeked into Tanner’s bedroom. He was sound asleep as I’d left him, with a dog tucked up under the covers and a cat on his pillow sleeping soundly next to his head.
After some thought about the situation, I decided that the most likely explanation was that I had lured myself into a partial hypnotic state with my writing (I can get really focused), and was therefore highly suggestible. The rest was most likely my imagination.
Life is like that. Strange things happen from time to time and we have to search beyond our every day, readily accessible information in order to explain what feels unexplainable in the moment. I’ve had a handful of such experiences. For some of those experiences, the explanation is like the meteorite – tangible and easily confirmed. The explanations for others are more of a stretch, because I can’t really come up with anything concrete. In those cases, I am likely to write it off as my imagination. Or as unexplained.
Many of you may have already figured this out, but I don’t do well writing things off as unexplained. I am one of those people who wants to know what really happened. At the same time, sometimes the explanations I have come up with for experiences leave me vaguely dissatisfied.
I have always been willing to freely share those unexplained experiences I’ve had, primarily because I am hoping that someone else will have an explanation for it that is better than the ones I have come up with. I’m always open to what others might think happened to me. Here’s where I have a problem, though. Sometimes when I share an experience with someone, what I get back from them is pure condescension.
I am not stupid. I am not a liar. I am not deluded. I am not a fool. I am not faking. The unexplained has happened. I am a human being who has had an unexplainable experience and been left a little bit bewildered by the whole thing. When I talk to others to seek their opinions, I am seeking alternative explanations – not judgment. If there is a logical, natural explanation then I would love to have it. And yet, I’ve had people suggest to me that I am not seeking an explanation, I am seeking confirmation of a preconceived belief. That’s just silly…..I’ve categorized the experience as “unexplained” for a reason. Because I have no preconceived belief attached to experience. I can’t explain it.
I am seeking an explanation. So tell me this. Why is “it was your imagination” any more of a satisfactory explanation than, “It must have been a ghost?” Can either be proved? Nope. I can no more prove that I was highly suggestible and imagining things than I can that something paranormal was happening. So I am left, still, with a mystery. One that I genuinely want to solve.
I think that this is the conundrum that is faced by people seeking answers to their unexplained experiences. We get that there are skeptics. Heck – we’re skeptics. That is why the experience is referred to as “unexplained” – because we can’t come up with a satisfactory explanation. What is frustrating, however, is the implication that some of those who offer up alternative explanations somehow have the intellectual or moral high ground. Certainly, I am not talking about everyone. Some people are truly non-judgmental and just want to help explain. But there are others, too. You know what I mean.
Skepticism and logic are not the moral high ground. Having an unexplained experience doesn’t make one stupid. Or a liar. If you have an explanation about an unexplained experience, by all means, offer it up. Keep in mind, however, that just because you have an alternative explanation doesn’t mean you are better, smarter or morally righter than the other person. Offer up the explanation. Keep the judgment to yourself. Please?
I don’t know much – especially when it comes to the paranormal. Here’s what I do know. People have experiences. They are left confused, bewildered, and often scared. What they need is someone to help them think it through and come up with explanations. What they don’t need is someone coming at them with assumptions about their integrity, intelligence or sanity.
According to Merriam-Webster, compassion is “a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” There is no place in compassion for judgment. Many who have had unexplained experiences are in distress. Perhaps in our zealous pursuit of the truth, occasionally we forget the human element in the paranormal, and in forgetting the human element, we forget compassion. Certainly use science. Think logically and critically. Offer up alternative explanations. But please, do it from a place of compassion.