If Aliens Did Not Exist, Artists Would Have to Invent Them

alien on blue lr

A few days ago, an old college friend of mine reported on her Facebook page that she saw a flying saucer. The details: on July 28, 2014, she spotted a shiny, saucer-like object flying over downtown Los Angeles in the early evening. She also mentioned that she heard no sound at all as it flew overhead.

After a few comments like “Wow!” and “Awesome!” a debunker entered the thread. “Archie D. Bunker,” let’s call him.

His comments were snarky and kind of condescending. I’ve never really understood why some people put effort into trying to get other people to believe the way they do. I mean, like, dude! Don’t you get that you’re totally crashing the party and alienating people here?

The thing that really gets me thinking is that this now makes two close friends of mine who have seen UFOs. They both went to the same college as I did, at the same time, and both majored in Art. We all knew each other and were good friends. I’ve never known either one of them to be flighty, or gullible, or New Age-y in any way. So now I’m thinking about coincidences, and what they might mean.

I’ve lived in two houses that were absolutely, definitely haunted. Maybe I will share the details about that in the future — only a few of my really closest friends and family ever believed me when I told them about the strange happenings that went on. Only the ones who knew me well enough to know that I wasn’t a liar or a total basket case. Most people took the role of debunker, asking, “Were you smoking pot?” or things like that.

I guess some people are just cut out to be debunkers, and others to be believers.

I am in the believer category. I think believing in things, or wanting to believe in things — being curious about what they look like, or sound like, or feel like — is one of the qualities that defines an artist. It sets you up be fascinated by what you’ve seen or experienced, and excited to tell the story.

In my mind, it doesn’t matter at all if anything can be proven or not. I don’t think stories need to have proof. They just need to be amazing.

I want to believe

(Just for fun, I made this list of “Things That Some People Believe In, And That Other People Will Swear On Their Grave Aren’t Real.”)

Acupuncture
ADD / ADHD is a made-up diagnosis, as admitted by its “discoverer” on his deathbed
Afterlife, The
Akashic Records, The
Alchemy
Aliens
Allah
Amityville Horror, The
Angels
Animals Can Sense Earthquakes and Tsunamis Before They Happen
Animals Who Can Smell Cancer
Animism
Apocrypha, The
Apports
Artificial Intelligence
Astral Projection
Astrology
Atlantis
Auras
Autism is linked to vaccines and chemical sensitivities
Automatic Writing

Baghavad-Gita, The
Barguest / Bargest, The
Barrow-Wights
Bermuda Triangle, The
Bible, The
Big Bang Theory, The
Bigfoot
Black Dog Who Follows You
Black Magic
Bog People
Brownies
Buddha, The

Cats Who Steal Babies’ Breath
Cell Phones Cause Cancer
Centaurs
Channelling
Chubacabro, El
CIA Heart Attack Gun
Clairvoyance
Collective Unconscious, The
Cumaean Sybil, The
Curses
Cybernetics
Cyberspace

Dark Matter
Daylight Savings Time
Dead Sea Scrolls, The
Death Cats (Cats Who Jump On The Beds Of Those About To Die)
Demons
Destiny
Devil, The
Dharma
Divination
Djinn (Jinn, Genies)
Doppelgangers
Druids
Dwarves

Easter Bunny, The
Elliott Smith Didn’t Commit Suicide, He Was Murdered by Either Drug Dealers or His Girlfriend
Elves
Epigenetics
Evil Eye, The
Evolution
Extrasensory Perception
Extraterrestrials

Fairies
Faith Healing
Fate
Fauns
Fibonacci Sequence, The
Fluoride Is Poison
Fractals

Giants
Ghosts
Ghouls
GMOs Are Bad For You
Gnomes
Gnostic Gospels, The
God
Gods and Goddesses (all pantheons)
Golden Mean, The
Great Spirit / Great Mystery, The
Gregorian Calendar , The
Gremlins
Guardian Angels
Gut Has More Synapses Than The Brain, The

Haunted Houses
Heart Emits the Largest Electromagnetic Field of All Human Organs, The
Heaven
Hell
Herbal Medicine
Hobbits
Hollow Earth Theory
Holy Grail, The
Hungry Ghosts
Hydrogen Powered Cars Already Exist
Hypnosis

Ifrits
Intelligent Design
Intercession of Saints, The

Jesus
JFK predicted His Death
Jubilee, The

Kahunas
Karma
King Arthur
Kirlian Photography
Kismet
Knights Templar
Koran, The
Krishna
Kurt Cobain Didn’t Die, He’s Just Living on a Polynesian Island Because He Just Wanted to Get Away from Courtney Love

Lao Tzu
Lee Harvey Oswald Was Not The Person Who Assassinated JFK
Leif Eriksson Visited the “New World” Before Columbus
Lemuria, The Lost Continent of
Leprechauns
Levitation
Little House on the Prairie books were ghostwritten by Rose Wilder Lane, who was forced into doing so by her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, The
Loch Ness Monster (“Tessie”), The

Magic
Mary Magdalene Was Jesus’ Wife, or At Least His Closest Companion
Matrix, The
Mayan Calendar, The
Meat Is Murder
Meditation
Mediumship
Mermaids
Middle Ages Didn’t Happen, The
Miracles
Mole People, The
Moon Landing, The
Multiverse, The
Mystery of The Ship Marie Celeste, The

Nazca Lines Were Landing Strips for Ancient Alien Craft, The
Near Death Experiences
Neuroplasitcity
Nirvana
North Koreans are The Cleanest Race And Need To Be Protected From The Rest of The World (viz. North Korean Government Propaganda)

Observer Effect, The
Ogres
Oracle at Delphi, The
Origin of Life on Earth, The

Parallel Universes
Parapsychology
Perpetual Motion
Phoenicians Traveled to South America on Papyrus Rafts Thousands of Years Before Columbus or Leif Eriksson, The
Philadelphia Project, The
Pixies
Poltergeists
Possession
Psychic Attack
Psychic Powers

Qi Gong
Quarks

Reiki
Reincarnation
Remote Viewing
Resurrection, The
Rosetta Stone, The
Rosicrucians, The
Roswell Alien Spaceship Crash

Samsara
Santa Claus
Santería
Satori
Schliemann Discovered Where to Dig For Ancient Troy From Instructions He Received In A Dream
Seances
Selkies
Shadow People
Shamanism
Solomon’s Temple
Sorcerers
Soul, The
Soulmates
Spirits
Spontaneous Human Combustion
Stigmata
String Theory
Synchronicity

Tai Chi
Tao Te Ching, The
Tarot Cards
Telekinesis
Telepathy
Teleportation
Tikis
Tooth Fairy, The
Torah, The
Totems
Transfiguration
Transmigration of Souls
Trolls

UFOs
Underworld, The
Unicorns
Universal Mind, The
Univited Guest, The

Vaccines
Vampires
Vegetarianism / Veganism
Voodoo / Voudoun

Water As A Recording Medium
Werewolves
White House Is Haunted by Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost, The
White Magic
Wicca
Witchcraft
Wow Signal, The
Wu Wei

Yahweh
Yeti
Yin-Yang
Yoga

Zombies

Note: please leave your replies with Other Things That People Do and Do Not Believe, and I will add them to my spreadsheet list. One day I might submit it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

ufo chat final

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In Praise of the Basement Painter

space alien lr

I found this painting in the basement laundry room of my apartment building.

There is a table there where people put out things for people to take — clothes, old computer monitors, grubby toys, plastic dishes, and stuff like that.

I found it under the table, propped against the wall behind a table leg. I only noticed it because I was bending down to pick up some clothes I dropped.

Upon seeing it, my first thought was, “No WAY!”

I mean, how often does a person come across a nicely painted sexless humanoid figure floating in space? Under the free table in the laundry room, no less?

I brought it back to my apartment, and showed it to my best friend, who happened to be in town visiting from L.A.

“Whoa!” was her response. “This is amazing! Who do you think painted it?”

I had been wondering that myself. If it was painted by someone who lived in my building, who might it be? The downstairs neighbor who spends every morning between 8:00 and 10:00 am programming weird d.j. beats that never quite come together? The forlorn-looking older lady I have seen a few times doing her laundry, which always consists of nothing but old towels torn up into squares? The homeless transvestite guy I once discovered camping out in the basement electrical room?

“I don’t know,” I answered. “It feels to me like it was painted by a guy. Maybe a gay guy? And he isn’t happy with this painting, which explains why he would leave it under a table in the laundry room. And he’s sad about something. He feels alone, like an alien drifting in space.”

That saying, “A picture paints a thousand words.” It’s totally true, in my experience. (Also, I’m kind of psychic.)

unfinished nude and basilica

Over the next few weeks, I found two more paintings in the laundry room. I knew right away by the style that they were the work of the same mystery artist. “He” was really good at figurative painting. Way better than I am, that’s for sure. If I could do paintings like that, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t leave them up for grabs in the laundry room, with the risk that they would be hauled out to the trash by the building caretaker if nobody took them.

I never did find out who painted those paintings, or even identified any neighbors who qualified as likely suspects. I did find a perfect space to hang them though, all together, in my living room. As the years have passed, I have embroidered a story in my mind that explains them perfectly. It goes like this:

Justin lived alone in an apartment not far from the art school where he had studied painting for three years before dropping out. In spite of everything his professors said — they encouraged him to paint larger canvases and not to be so quick to give up — he just couldn’t see the beauty or value in anything he did, and so he finally said, “Fuck it,” and quit.

He met Jason shortly afterwards, one balmy summer night at a club. Jason was popular, outgoing, confident, handsome, and super buff — everything Justin wasn’t. He was drawn to Jason like a moth to a flame, even though he knew deep down it would never work out. Still, he had this feeling that if someone so desirable as Jason could like him, it might just prove that he was wasn’t that bad, after all.

One morning, after their third or fourth night together, Jason was standing naked, about to put on his clothes, when Justin said:

“You look so handsome right now, I’d like to paint you. Would you mind posing for me? It won’t take long.”

Jason grunted his assent and Justin grabbed his paints, brushes, and canvas, and got to work as fast as he could.

After only twenty minutes Jason was bored and fed up, checking his phone. Justin was only half-done with his painting.

“Fuck it,” said Jason, after thirty minutes. “I’m outta here.” And he left.

Justin never saw him again.

His phone calls and texts went unanswered.

His painting of Jason remained unfinished.

After those first few weeks of not hearing back from Jason, Justin painted a self-portrait of a sexless alien floating in space. Afterwards, he found he couldn’t bear to look at it. He put it under the table in the laundry room, where it was later carried off by a neighbor woman he never met.

Several more weeks passed, and Justin realized it was time to stop gazing mournfully at his half-painted painting of Jason. He had to get rid of it and move on. And so it too was left under the basement laundry table, where someone might — or might not — notice it. This painting was found by the same neighbor who had found the first one. She also happened to be an artist, although Justin would never know that.

Many weeks later, he found himself questioning his sexuality, wondering if he might be better off living a celibate life and attending church. He had been raised Catholic, so his first instinct was to head towards the nearest Catholic church, which in his neighborhood happened to be the Basilica of St. Mary.

He had his paints and brushes and a canvas with him. As he walked into Loring Park he observed the tower of the Basilica looming large in the gentle springtime sky, and he decided that the best thing to do right there and then was to paint it.

And that is what he did. Later, after judging the painting to be a total loss and abandoning it in the laundry room, Justin decided that church was not the thing for him. A week or two later, he moved out of his apartment, found a job at an advertising agency as a storyboard artist, and met the love of his life — a theater costumer named Lyle who was sweet, gentle, and a prince among men.

His former neighbor, the artist whom he had never met, found his painting of the Basilica tower in the laundry room, and  she added it to the little gallery of his work that she had set up in her apartment. She had attended the church shown in the painting from time to time — Christmas Eve, All Saints Day, and the Feast of Saint Francis, every third year or so, if she was in the mood. (She was one of those “Catholic church — but only the hits” kind of person.) 

Years later, she would write about the mystery artist’s paintings in her blog, and wonder if by some one-in-a-million chance she might one day learn the real story of the basement painter.

In the meantime, she would sign off on her blog saying:

Never say “Fuck it.”

basement painter gallery