UFO Sightings and Why We Love Them
UFO Sightings – A Brief Cultural History
Ever experienced a UFO sighting? Apparently many of us have, and those of us who have not might as well have with all of the U.F.O. stories and TV shows available to us. UFO images are as familiar to our collective minds as those of Michael Jackson or Lindsay Lohan, yet, UFOs remain impossibly allusive, and always leave us wanting more. Could it be, than in actuality, all of the stories and tales of flying saucers have more to say about us than we do about them? Let's consider UFO sightings during recent decades as well as more recent UFO sightings.
The 50s and 60s
Unidentified Flying Object sightings are said to go back even to ancient times but are in fact quite rare before the 1950s, and even more so before the era of modern flight. Even then, many of the so-called stories and images of more ancient UFO sightings are only the conjecture of modern minds. By far, most UFO sightings began to take place in the cold war era, especially after the launching in 1957 of the first manmade satellite by the Soviet Union: Sputnik. In the 1960s, the reporting of a UFO or flying saucer not only became commonplace, it became popular. Ideas of space aliens and Martians became a pop culture phenomenon and the subject of endless TV shows and B movies. Although the faddish and cartoonish nature of alien space ships faded, at least somewhat, after the 60s the reports of sightings did not.
In the 1970s, cheaper and simpler cameras and especially video cameras became more widespread and were more readily at hand for people to record their UFO sightings. Soon not only stories but photos and now videos of UFOs began to flood our society, offering so-called proof that aliens from other planets are real and are visiting our earth. The pop culture aspects of UFO sightings again surged, now with more sophistication than the cheesy shows of the 60’s. We even had major motion pictures to stir up our fascination, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind. An entertaining movie to be sure, but also a revealing movie as to mankind’s collective hope for making contact with E.T., certain to be wiser and more powerful than ourselves and in possession of the answers to our greatest questions. In 1977 NASA launched the space vessel Voyager and sent it hurtling away from earth, never to return, but carrying a disc on its eternal journey through the galaxy of earthly information just in case an alien species would someday recover it. Clearly our culture was eager about calling occupants of interplanetary craft, as the popular song covered by The Carpenters during the same era expressed (which was the anthem for an event in 1976 called "world contact day").
After the Cold War
It is interesting to note a significant drop in reported UFO sightings after the cold war ended in 1989. However they didn’t go away by any means, and later picked up again, although never quite to the levels they once were. In the more modern era UFO sightings continue to occur, sometimes in new and more striking ways, such as mass sightings of light formations over a city (as has been reported in Phoenix and Mexico City, for example) or in relation to crop circles. Yet, the reports are still rather limited, especially in the time now when practically every person carries a cameraphone on their person 24/7.
What It All Means
The purpose of this article is not to make an absolute declaration as to the reality of any UFO sighting or the existence of extraterrestrials from other planets. Obviously a skeptical slant is being presented here but the point of this writing as stated earlier is as follows: stories and tales of flying saucers have more to say about us than we do about them.
Just what do UFO sightings, and our apparent fascination and even love for them say about us?
1. We love a good mystery.
UFO photos and videos are almost always the same; blurry, vague, grainy, and difficult to make out. The images give us just enough to excite our thinking but not quite enough to reveal the truth. This sort of thing, like a good ghost story, tends to spark a deep fascination in our thinking. Deep down we know it’s probably not true, but we can’t help but want it to be. A blurry image and a mysterious story gives us just enough to half-way believe, but not enough to prove it a hoax. Furthermore, a clear image might not even be preferable to some as it might burst their hopes and expectations for what aliens must be like. Instead, real or not, our psyche prefers to keep E.T. mysterious and evasive.
2. We don’t want to be alone.
Even if aliens are hostile, it seems that we still want them to exist. The universe is an awfully big place and we just don’t like being alone in it.
3. We hope to find superior counterparts who have all the answers.
We want to find beings who are like us to some extent, having faced some of the same issues and problems, but having also conquered and mastered them. We hope for aliens who are thousands of years ahead of us in both technology and cultural development. We seek aliens who are wise, all-knowing, and can teach us how to be content, peaceful, and take away our fears and worries. In this sense aliens become rather angelic creatures. The reported sightings of visitors from outer space often take on a sort of divine, angel like manifestation, with bright lights and inexplicable movements. Witnesses also sometimes describe their experiences with UFOs in rather spiritual terms, complete with floating, out of body sort of descriptions which might even conjure up images of the idea of the rapture at times.
The Future of UFO Sightings
UFO sightings will likely never go away but will no doubt go through phases and trends, just as they have in the past. Our technology today enables us to take more video than ever before, but also to alter video, yet at the same time to forensically test video. In other words, the game will continue but will see some different twists and turns mainly due to technology. In the end however, UFO sightings and beliefs are not about the latest technology, they’re about us, our hopes, fears, desires and fascinations.