Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon.
In my last post, I postulated that philosophy will be a vital aspect of modern UFO discourse. Assuming that there exists a physical UFO phenomenon that can be studied by the scientific community, the sciences have yet to come to any factual conclusions. That being said, we can probably all agree that they may still be able to provide some insight into the UFO question. However, the scientific aspects of the UFO discourse totally rest upon the presupposition that UFOs, as a phenomenon, are fit for study. In other words, can one apply the scientific method to the UFO? Let us suppose one can, but for now, that ability is distant or too evasive. What then is ‘UFO discourse’ today?
If the objective UFO is currently out of reach, scientifically, where do we go? One place is to the people who experience the phenomenon first hand. Science is unable to help with the very human portion of the UFO question. Facts and data may be able to paint a “big picture” of human interactions with this phenomenon, such as Chris Rutkowski’s Canadian UFO Survey, but what about the individuals themselves? What do their experiences have to say about the UFO phenomenon?
Enter Ryan Sprague, and his book Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon.
The book, in simple terms, is a collection of experiences. It presents the events as witnessed by a collection of people, who come from various walks of life. Sprague’s approach allows them to tell their stories so they can explain, on their own terms, how the events unfolded, but more importantly, how those events affected them. These stories are not a history, but rather a crying out to a world that does not perceive the witness’s experience as reality. It brings catharsis, and it reestablishes the humanity of the people who have had some of that humanity stolen by an unknown force.
Sprague does not concentrate on the events of the “alien” experience, but rather the aftermath of them. While there are many spine chilling tales, to say the least, one walks away from the book remembering how the witnesses and experiencers felt. Each tale that Sprague presents is a bildungsroman, a story of change through experience, that clearly reshapes the person who faced the event head-on. It is not about the events, rather how the person has changed as a result. Perhaps this is where UFO discourse will find its future. The objective is, at least for now, unknowable. Maybe the subjective lessons, the experiences, and how those experiences shape the discourse, are where Ufology truly dwells. It is not about UFOs, rather, it is about you and I.
Sprague’s ability to tell a story is addicting, and it brings us full circle to where many of us began when it comes to being interested in the UFO question; some whiskey and a conversation. That is where it began for me at least. Always being interested in the question itself, it wasn’t until my brother-in-law and I, over far too many ounces of Balvenie, began pondering the stars sitting in front of a bonfire. So it began. It wasn’t due to some alien presence, but another person who simply wanted to talk. Sprague not only speaks for the people in his book, he speaks for all of us. He speaks for the future of UFO discourse, the people who debate it, investigate it, and explore it. It is about us, all of us, and that our paths and experiences are all interconnected. It is not about facts, statistics, and numbers; rather, it is that without you or I, there is no UFO phenomenon. Sprague’s work points us down a very familiar path; the fundamental aspects of the UFO question do not occur somewhere in the sky, but rather within humanity itself.