You know how we’re always looking at the content of high strangeness experiences to try to solve them? It makes sense to want to know what is going on, but more often than not we make an analogy to events in our normal everyday lives and instead of saying, “It’s like that,” we say, “It is that.”
For example, how many people have you heard sounding all smart to themselves for make the analogy between alien abductions and taking our pets to the veterinarian? These aliens treat us like we treat animals, they say, and so that must be what we are to them. Isn’t this declaration of what the unknown is and is doing really just cutting off a narrow slice of the story, making an analogy for it, and then immediately forgetting it’s just an analogy for that slice?
We want answers and we want them to make sense. This is clear. But might that be code for an even deeper unconscious motive on our part here? Might it be that forming coherent, knowable answers out of analogies is us doing anything we can to retain our outdated sense of reality in the face of great change?
Think about how we absorb new knowledge in any other context. What do we generally do with it? We bounce it off our databanks to see if we know what it is already. If we don’t, we form analogies to the nearest likeness. We judge its importance. We add it to our body of knowledge or discard it. So far this is the same as with high strangeness experiences, but here’s where paths diverge: with normal new knowledge, after hemming and hawing, we concede that we must change our perspective to meet what we’ve learned.
New knowledge–the type that changes everything in the field to which it pertains–changes us. Yet somehow, with high strangeness experiences, while experiencers may be changed, the public rarely is. Researchers rarely are. In fact, experiencers rarely are. This is because other types of knowledge may change us, grow us, have us learn and learn anew, but it is within a safe pretext–namely that we have a hold on reality and whatever we’re learning, it’s going to grow us, not shatter us. We will continue to exist as we’ve always defined ourselves and we will always be in control.
High strangeness tells us otherwise. Over and over again, otherwise. But we look at a facet of it, go, “You know, this looks a lot like that, therefore all of it is that,” and sit like dopes at conferences lapping it up. We run the program like broken robots. We refuse to be shattered because that’s crazy talk to our arrogant culture of self-worth and personal evolution.
Speaking of this looking like that, the that we were talking about in the beginning was a trip to the vet. And in a sense, although I see zero evidence that we are dealing with alien doctors, I’m not so sure what I’ve described here isn’t like the aftermath of a vet visit for scared animals. When my wife and I would bring our cats to the vet, they were scared out of their minds. They didn’t know what was going on. And after, when they came home and stepped out of their carriers onto familiar flooring, they’d confer with the other cats. They’d be sniffed by them, which told part of the story, I am sure. But the formerly terrified vet-visiting cat would inevitably tell the rest his story with great bravado. He’d walk around all puffed-chest confidence, as if telling the others what a hero he was for having survived the unknown. Cut to the next trip to the vet and he’s scared out of his mind again.
Our cats are not fundamentally changed by their trips to the vet even though in the moment (or the car ride and appointment) they are completely different cats. When they get home, that terror transforms into heroism, a story of which they are the center and in which they are brave. And then they go on being cats with zero interest in what just happened. All of their interest is in going on like nothing did.
The bridge they erect to run from terror to normalcy is their story. The difference between cats and us is that we’re married to our story. We’re in love with telling it over and over again. We don’t know that it is escapism.
Those who do come to understand that our new normal is always more of ourself are a rare breed, indeed.