Believing the Impossible
This month I decided to reread Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to prepare for the upcoming television adaptation (debuting April 30th on Starz in the U.S.). Because I have a long commute, I listened to the audiobook American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition (A Full Cast Production).
If you haven’t read American Gods, I highly recommend it. Neil Gaiman is my favorite living author, and this novel is one of his best. (I think The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my favorite.)
For those not familiar with this lengthy work, I will sum it up thusly:
The gods of the old world, who were brought to America’s shores by its immigrant population over the centuries, are forced to contend for their existence in a country where belief is in short supply. They must face off against a host of new gods, the product of American culture and the electronic age.
As a result, I started thinking a lot about belief. I’ve always been what I consider “rational,” devoted to facts. If you make an extraordinary claim, I’m likely to demand proof. I actually consider myself a skeptic. But there’s another side of me, one that exists along side the rational, which is open to a world of possibilities.
“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.”
~ Samantha Black Crow, American Gods
My biography on social media (and this website) states that I believe in “heroes, magic, aliens, time travel, and infinite realities.” But that’s only the beginning. As Samantha Black Crow says to Shadow in American Gods, “I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.”
The truth is, I believe a lot of things. Some which are undeniably true and some that are subject to speculation. I believe the Earth revolves around the Sun, but I also believe ghosts are real. And when I say “believe,” I don’t mean “I’d like it if this were true.” I mean I believe it on an fundamental level, deep in the core of my being.
When I was younger, I was brought up in a religiously conservative Lutheran household. We were taught—among other things—that the Earth was roughly 6,000 years old. At the same time, I immersed myself in science books, and had no trouble believing the universe was billions of years old and began with a big bang. These incongruous beliefs lived side-by-side in my brain, as if unaware of each others’ existence.
Years ago, when an atheist friend of mine asked how I could believe in evolution and creation at the same time, I had to stop and consider it. After a few moments, I said, “I accept evolution because science says its true. But I believe in creation. It’s a matter of faith.”
I grew up in the 1970s, so in addition to my religious upbringing, I had a healthy dose of speculative reality fed to me by media. I watched television shows like In Search Of…, Unsolved Mysteries, and Project U.F.O. I also read a lot of books that dealt with fringe science. As a result, I learned about things like ESP, biofeedback, astral projection, UFOs, Bigfoot, ancient astronauts, and the Bermuda triangle.
Some of these things, I decided, were true. And I believed them.
You’d think that my parents, being so religious, would shield me from such esoterica. But my mother, who read her National Enquirer with as much regularity as our after-dinner devotionals, encouraged these flights of fancy. The only thing she never truly believed in was UFOs. My father, however, willingly accepted the possibility we were not alone in the universe.
As a result, I grew up open to a plethora of beliefs. Some I accepted. Others, I rejected. Some I rejected outright—unable to resolve them in my view of the universe. Others I rejected in part, because my skeptical side was aware of a flaw in the idea, even if I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Some things I believed once, have been disproven. So I stopped believing in them. Some disproven things, I still believe because those who disproved it have not accounted for all the variables. Disproving things can be be very difficult, indeed.
So, taking a cue from Samantha Black Crow, I decided to give testimony to the things I believe. While a complete list would be ridiculously long, here are some of the more impossible things I believe.
Impossible Things I Believe
- I believe in the written word. I believe in stories. In histories. In legends. In myths. In fairytales. I don’t believe these things actually happened as they were written, but there is likely some deeper truth in each of them.
- I believe in extrasensory perception (ESP): astral or mental projection, aura reading, dowsing, precognition, remote viewing, scrying, telekinesis, and telepathy.
- I believe in auras, spectral photography, biofeedback, and the power of crystals.
- I believe in mediums, channeling, possession, and the dangers of using a Ouija board.
- I believe in ghosts, which is what I call recordings of past energy, reruns of another life. I also believe spirits of the dead may enter our world and communicate with the living.
- I believe in angels, demons, and djinn, but I don’t necessarily believe they are different things.
- I believe in cryptozoology: in the existence of Bigfoot (yeti, skunk apes, and all its cousins), the chupacabra, Mothman, shape-shifters, Nessie (the Loch Ness monster) and a host of sea monsters we have yet to discover.
- I believe in the thunderbird. I believe a photograph proving the existence of the thunderbird was published in the Tombstone Epitaph on April 26, 1890. I believe the existence of this photo has been erased from history, but some people still have memories of seeing it. I believe I am one of those people.
- I believe in UFOs, crop circles, ancient astronauts, extraterrestrial sentience, and the existence of non-humanoid life on other worlds. I believe some—but not all—UFO abduction stories. I believe UFOs may come from other planets, but they also might come from other dimensions or alternate timelines.
- I believe the existence of the truth behind UFOs is widely known by world governments, but that knowledge is being kept from the general public.
- I believe Area 51 was used by the U.S. government to reverse-engineer a UFO that crashed in Roswell, Arizona in 1947. I believe Area 51 is now used to divert attention from the real base, hidden somewhere else in America.
- I believe the majority of ghost hunters, cryptozoologists, and UFO researchers are well-meaning individuals who fail to follow the scientific method. As a result, it makes scientific inquiry into their findings impossible. I believe some of them anyway.
- I believe the Philadelphia Experiment was an effort to use science to hide our warships from radar, but it somehow moved the USS Eldridge through spacetime instead.
- I believe in teleportation, time travel, alternate dimensions, parallel universes, the Bermuda triangle, and wormholes.
- I believe in Atlantis, Lemuria, Shangri-La, El Dorado, Cibola, and other mythical places lost to history.
- I believe ancient human-made monuments—such as Stonehenge, the pyramids (whether Egyptian, Mayan, or Aztec), the Sphinx, and the statues on Easter Island—are important.
- I believe naturally occurring land formations—such as Uluru in Australia and the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona—possess great energy.
- I believe in the power of eclipses, full moons, shooting stars, and the aurora.
- I believe each time science disproves something or explains it away in scientific terms, a little more magic is lost from our world.
- I will never stop believing in the impossible.
Don’t forget to believe in the magic all around you. And whatever you believe, I hope you believe it with your whole heart.
Tell me what you believe. Share your craziest, most unbelievable belief in the comments below.
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