by rthieme on April 10, 1998

When we were children, the earth was often “bathed in celestial light,” as Wordsworth said, and the landscape included a kind of transparency that revealed a benevolent intelligence behind the “natural order.”   Then the magic vanished, leaving a life lived more on the surface of things, habits that pressed our perceptions and behaviors into pre-formed molds, a landscape seen in a muted, diminished light.

But adults too are sometimes seized by myths that make the landscape glimmer. One modern myth that has mutated crazily in the petri dish of electronic media is the “Roswell incident,” the story of the recovery of alien bodies from a crashed “flying disc” in 1947. It’s a quasi-religious myth, complete with priests, pilgrimages, and a thriving cottage industry. Yet the myth unraveled, and the magic vanished  (see my “Stalking the UFO Meme on the Internet”)

And then at a mundane conference on computer hacking and electronic espionage, I talk with an air force officer who swears he was told by a senior officer why UFO phenomena can not be officially acknowledged, why we can not admit that the skies of the earth are open and exposed.

The simple truths of the universe are more magical than what we call “reality.” “Reality” is an illusion, a kind of web of memory and imagination we human beings need to weave, and the Net is one of its overnight motels: a moving image of our Hive Mind trying to make sense of our first tentative steps out of the solar system.

Maybe just watching humans move off our home planet and into the galaxy is magic enough. And maybe being part of something so much bigger than we can imagine can tear the veil of illusion, and before we turn away, shine so brightly we are – just for a moment – transfixed, completely bewildered, speechless.

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