My perspective on aliens was greatly influenced by the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Directed by Stephen Spielberg and released in 1977, it tells the story of of a small group of people, each affected by personal encounters with alien visitors, each on a journey to make sense of their experiences and learn the truth.
For a time when I was a youngster, I was obsessed with this movie. I don’t specifically remember seeing it in the theater, but that was the only way to see movies back then, so I must have. I’ve seen it many, many times over the years since then.
A companion book, which told the exact same story but in written form, was released around the same time as the movie. As a kid, I read (and re-read) everything I could get my hands on, including this book. Even today, I can remember parts of the book word-for-word.
There was also a soundtrack (on vinyl) that I listened to over and over. I loved the part where the aliens and the humans communicate with a musical sound-off, back and forth, the notes blending together. In the movie, that scene includes flashing lights, with different colors representing the various notes and tones.
You might say I was a weird kid, being so fascinated by these things. And yes, I would probably agree. In my defense, however, it’s not unusual for kids to become obsessed with things. Ask any parent who’s listened to multiple descriptions of the most minute Minecraft creations or who instinctively cringe just a bit when they hear, yet again, the theme song to a popular kids’ show that seems to be everywhere (all the time it never goes away there it is once more it never stops).
Anyway. Aliens. I believed, based on CEotTK, that it was entirely possible that aliens existed, and that one day, when they thought we were ready, when the time was right, they’d show themselves to us Earthlings. Later, E.T. the Extraterrestrial came along (also a Spielberg movie), reinforcing this hopeful belief.
And then, in college, I took an Astronomy class called E.T. – The Search for Extraterrestrial Life, during which we worked through the Drake Equation and came to the conclusion that the likelihood of a Spielbergian event actually happening is just about zero.
Crash. Burn. For a while, the possibility of alien magic vanished.
But then one day, I saw the movie Contact. I didn’t become obsessed with it as I had with CEotTK. It did, however, restore my hope in the possibility of aliens. A more educated, wiser, pragmatic hope, certainly, but the magic came back.
This morning, as I was waiting for the coffee to perk, I read a news story about the recent discovery of fast, repeating radio bursts coming from a distant galaxy. The pattern is radio bursts for 90 days, followed by 60 days of silence, then the radio bursts start over.
It’s likely the pattern has nothing whatsoever to do with aliens, that it’s caused by some type of natural galactic event.
Then again, maybe that’s what the aliens want us to believe.