Those few who know me well know that I sometimes use the term “alien” as a self-descriptor. I refer to my “home planet,” and how we do things there, and how that world is different from this one. I joke around about having special powers and the ability to wipe people’s memories, and Sally jokes that my strange and unconscious finger- and wrist-flexing movements are a sort of communication with “the mother ship.” My clumsy, hunched, and shuffling gait, my stunted, blunted senses and interests, my facial tics and my disinterest in many things physical, leave me feeling like I’ve donned a thick, Tim-shaped deep-sea diving suit in order to sink down to the bottom of the Terran gravity well and explore this ocean of humanity. I notice my fascination with issues, ideas, assumptions, and beliefs that seem to propel me ever further to the far reaches of the “normal curve” of human culture. I rarely feel as though I belong here, and my deepest and most lonely longings take me to a world that feels sane and whole, to a land “over the rainbow” where it all makes sense to me. Home is somewhere far away, it seems, amongst the stars. Home is Asteroid B-612, and I, a “little prince,” am continually searching for my way back.
I take this on as metaphor, as useful fiction, not knowing or really caring whether there is any objective™ truth to it. Readers of All of the Above probably suspect that I’m a long-time student of that whole UFO/alien thang, and that I’m openly open to the reality of many things that the mainstream dominant culture ridicules and dismisses. I have no real objection to the notions that there are levels of reality other than the material, that there is sentient life elsewhere in the physical Cosmos and permeating other levels of existence, and that we humans on Earth are not, and have not been, as isolated as most seem to think. But I have no clear memory, no undeniable experience, no objective™ evidence that I am “really” from somewhere else. Lots of people feel out of place right now. We live inside a global culture that feels almost totally unhinged from Reality™. I do not need the “alien in a human body” story to explain my experience here.
And yet it suits me, this metaphor. One story you hear over and over in the “alien abduction” literature is how the “aliens,” and more specifically “the grays,” deeply terrified of humans, are nevertheless interacting surreptitiously with humans because they want something from them, something that they’ve lost, something they want to regain. And that’s exactly how I feel. It seems I have a missing piece.
I may have never known this about myself, had I not met up with Sally, for the piece I lack is a piece she has in abundance. It’s one she craves deeply in her interactions with other human beings, and my lack of it has been a source of pain and grief for a very long time now. That piece is empathy, the ability to put myself into the emotional space of another and feel what they are feeling. Sally is a deeply feeling soul, and while I can understand her feelings, and greatly value her passionate approach to life, and while I benefit daily from her ability to empathize with my own feelings, I seem to lack the capacity to return that gift to her.
Please understand that, to my mind, empathy is quite distinct from feeling, caring, sympathy, valuing, or understanding. I am a deeply feeling man. I value people, and care for their well-being. I can feel bad for them, and understand how they work. I just don’t make that face-to-face, vibratory, resonating, emotional connection with them. Like an alien observer, I note and analyze and catalog and understand, but there is something about me that is so different, so… other… that I don’t feel them. A useful analogy might be between kingdoms or phyla of Terran life. I feel humans’ emotional states no better than I feel the emotional states of fish or ants or cacti. The chasm is so great between us that I cannot seem to cross it. I can act in deeply feeling ways. I can look like I have empathy. But after ten years of “running the experiment,” I have to face the fact that I do not.
Was I born this way, an alien, a psychopath, a mutant, or an Asperger’s “sufferer”? Or was this missing piece knocked out of me early on as I lived in the sometimes terrifying presence of an openly angry mother and a covertly angry father? Was it a soul chunk that fell out of me on that warm, summer afternoon when my mother, furious that her young child would not stop singing that slightly bawdy version of the Popeye song, hauled him into the bathroom and washed his mouth out with soap? Or is this simply the result we should expect when a sensitive human soul is raised in a culture that denies feeling, truth, and reality at every turn?
Am I wounded, damaged, traumatized… or simply alien? And is there any way to know™? Who’s to say that people with Asperger’s aren’t simply aliens™ in human bodies?
All of this smacked like a fat dragonfly onto the windshield of my life this past week, as yet another “failure to empathize” on my part triggered deep feelings of anger, pain, and grief on Sally’s part. It was a tough and painful couple of days here, with much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, but we stayed with it, slowly processing our way through the pain and to new levels of acceptance of “what’s so,” and doing the work of grieving that which is not so. Much of “the problem” has resided in my own lack of self- acceptance. Raised in this culture with a steady diet of unconscious assumptions, I was taught to believe that empathy is good™ and the lack thereof bad™. (How many times did James T. Kirk make the case to alien cultures and beings for the grand goodness and even superiority of human beings in all their wild, messy, creative emotionality? They even did a whole episode on human empathy and aliens!) So I’ve expended much time and energy hiding my bad™ and trying to be good™. Had I simply allowed myself to know out loud the truth of my own experience, I could have sooner, and with calm but loving self-acceptance, explained to Sally how life is for me, and helped her to do the inevitable grieving work she has had to do. It’s the hiding, the pretense, that has tripped us up. And this week I let go of a large piece of that pretense.
Strangely, or perhaps obviously, I have felt a great deal of relief since. I think maybe Sally has as well. It’s amazing how much energy can get tied up in the denial of what’s so. And it’s amazing the relief I feel, when I finally tell the forbidden truths of my own experience. And when we take this vast and basic difference between us, Sally and I, and simply let it be, then new questions, new possibilities, arise almost automatically. ”Hmm…. interesting,” says Spock. The empath chose an alien. The alien chose an empath. Why did they come together? What work lies between them? What do they have to teach each other? What’s possible here that might not have been possible otherwise? How do they reach communion and connection of a different sort, this human and this alien? And how will their achieving this somehow help™?
Isn’t the lack of human empathy with the non-human life of this planet – not just dragonflies and fish and ants and cacti but rocks and air and water and light – somehow at the bottom of things when we consider the havoc our global industrial culture is right now wreaking? Aren’t some of us, we who are tuned into this culture and it’s life-threatening ways, trying to re-establish a full, loving, and empathic connection with this planet? Could this meeting of human and alien have some larger significance in the Global Culture, the Great Hologram, the Morphic Field, the Mind of God, or the Absolute?
Not sure. But I gotta say, I’d much rather we be about the work of new paradigms and next cultures and communion than the work of husband and wife crabbing at each other because “he never talks” and “she just doesn’t understand.” These are big times we live in. Our situation is unprecedented, precarious, and wildly, chaotic, to my way of seeing things. Why not try to be as big as all of that and see what happens? What could there possibly be to lose?
So that’s what life looks like in our little corner of the world this week: the empath and the alien, knockin’ ‘em down and settin’ ‘em back up, sometimes smashing like atoms in a collider, other times simply orbiting each other like binary stars, always entangled and forever on our path. Watch for strange lights flitting about in the night sky over our home. Listen for sobs, shouts, and laughter as you walk by. Note the strange things we say and the crazy ideas we explore. And know that it’s all simply a meeting of worlds going on here, as ambassadors from two vastly different experiences hash it out at the conference table.
We’ve just signed a new treaty. Here’s to that.
I come in peace,