Looking for Signs of Life
I have often marveled at the idea of intelligent life on other worlds and just what that life might be like. I imagined all the usual lifeforms as a child — googly-eyed, tentacles, a big smiley mouth. And they always share with us the benefits of their technology and bring out world closer to perfection.
As I grew older I tossed out the ideas of these benign aliens and then director Ridley Scott brought us the Xenomorph in the film Alien. And my perceptions went wild.
The Universe Finds You Delicious
As it happens, an alien might just be the scariest, most hideous thing you could encounter. Just as scary, perhaps, as your imagination can make it. And I don’t know about you, but with my manic imagination in overdrive, I can make that alien pretty damn scary.
But would encountering these aliens stop the spread of humans to the stars? Probably not.
Got That Right
Why do we find these aliens so frightening? We transfer our fear, our disgust and repugnance onto them. Just because they’ve got outrageous teeth. Just because they look the way they do. We are afraid of them because we are afraid of us.
When the Unknown is Inside Us
Projection of fear is a reaction to uncertainty. We fear what we don’t know, fear what we don’t or can’t understand. We fear that which has the potential for harm. We fear the result if we make a mistake and can’t get away from it. We fear death.
Many fears are protective mechanisms. They are within us after millions of years of evolution as a response to avoid damage to our bodies. But what about our messy and creative minds? What about our emotions that are unrelated to danger? Why don’t we have a ‘secondary’ reaction to our other emotional issues?
Well, we do. It’s called experience. Experience dictates what your reactions will be to love, grief, sadness, joy. When we don’t have the tools to deal with those secondary experiences we suffer as a result. We suffer because many of these secondary experiences cause pain that we can’t seem to control.
So What’s an Alien Have To Say?
The aliens that we’ve constructed in our heads are manifestations that we’ve allowed ourselves to make. We’ve given them incredible power over us to create that fear and loathing. But what if this alien turned around and said ‘Have some cake’?
They probably won’t say that. Nice thought but perhaps aliens don’t have cake where they come from.
But you get the idea. Our expectations of the alien are our own constructs. We know that the alien won’t offer us a slice of banana bread. They’re going to eat our brains, rip us to shreds and lay eggs in our guts. That’s our expectation.
But we can look at this alien in a very different way.
That’s right. Think of the alien as an attack chicken, and you’ve taken away the vast quantity of power that you’d given it in the first place. Hey, an attack chicken can be pretty scary, too — all those feathers, that pokey beak, those pointy toes. Ooooh, scary.
But if you don’t have outrageous expectations at the outset, you probably won’t assign too much fright into the equation before you have the real-life experience. So that Xenomorph might just turn out to be a great big chicken. A great big seriously ugly chicken.
What to Do if Confronted by the Unknown
Well, you could scream and run. But our alien friend just might misunderstand your intention and see you as a threat or worse, prey. Just a little misunderstanding, really.
When we fear the unknown, it robs us of our energies to learn about that unknown; rather than inspire or create curiosity to learn what it is, we run in fear of what we think it may be. Rather than attempting to understand it, we dismiss it; rather than accept it, we reject it.
Now, I’m not saying that an alien might not do a little brain-eating from time to time. But until we see that alien chow down on some poor unsuspecting noggin, we’ve got to be a little more optimistic about that alien’s intent.
It’s all about fear and misunderstanding. Fear and misunderstanding ourselves.
Let’s face it. We have bad attitudes. We have a little mean in there as well as a little good, too. Just take a look at our history and it shows us in our proper context. We proliferate stereotypes, we encourage labeling, we continue the ‘tribal’ sense of inclusion and exclusion. We fear and — here’s the operative word — alienate those that do not conform to our expectations and perceived sense of ‘normal’.
We must attempt to break that status quo and do something counterintuitive. We must break with tradition and learn to change.
The ‘Ship Them Back To Their Own Planet’ Attitude
I think this little cartoon says something very powerful. Now, many people might say ‘how obvious’ but let me assure you, they’re not necessarily thinking about this. They’d rather avoid discussion. Just get rid of the problem, and we won’t have to face it.
Perspective isn’t most people’s strong suit. It certainly isn’t a strong suit of mine. But there are some that do understand that unless your attitude changes toward the positive you’re not going to find anything positive.
Sounds so simple but really, it isn’t. People don’t change their attitude unless they wish to. I know from experience that it’s not the easiest thing to do, but more often than not it’s the essential thing to do to move forward in life — you know, live and learn.
Hello My Baby, Hello My Honey, Hello My Ragtime Gal
Don’t think for a moment that those of us that have a mental illness are on the guest list for inclusion into the tribe. We have to always be aware of our place in the group, and that isn’t right. Maybe others that see us as ‘alien’ might do themselves a favor and learn about the supposed ‘threat’ before they act negatively.
But, that’s wishful thinking. We’re not aliens, we’re not threatening, we’re not things to be dismissed (or worse). We’re people. We love, laugh, learn, dance, win, lose. We do everything that anyone else can do. And we have our own problems with prejudice as well. But we’ve got to learn how to make sense of life because together we can change our attitude and do extraordinary things.
Or, we can fear a tap-dancing alien — the alien that is us.
And oh, please, do have a piece of cake.