I don’t believe in aliens. Not really. Not the kind from outer space (and not the kind from south of the border either). If I actually did believe in extraterrestrials, I wouldn’t be strolling around all nonchalant the way I do. I would be hurrying around on eggshells, my eyes on the sky, ducking and hiding. And if I really believed in aliens, I definitely wouldn’t write about it, because not only would I not want my fellow earthlings knowing I really believed in aliens, I wouldn’t want the aliens knowing either — because then they would come get me, take me up in their ship and stick shiny metal probes up my ass. I don’t know which would be worse: the abduction or the probes. I’ve often thought it would be pretty exciting to meet aliens, if they exist, so long as they assured me they wouldn’t do anything weird like stick a probe up my ass. If you knew you would be completely safe, who wouldn’t want to meet visitors from space?
My belief in aliens is about equal with my belief in God: I’ve yet to see convincing evidence for either, but if I bumped into either one on my way to the toilet in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Sure, I’d piss my pants, thinking, “Oh God! here come the probes” (at which point I’d shit my pants to discourage them from coming anywhere near my butt cheeks). Or, if it’s the Big Man, I’d assume he was there to chew me out for all my anti-God talk — or worse, send me on some saintly mission. But either way, “Grey” or God, I wouldn’t be too surprised.
The Universe is so big and so old and so well-ordered, it’s hard to believe it didn’t come from somewhere or something, some “unmoved mover,” and that in all of it there’s just us, just a half-evolved ape lording over a tiny wet rock revolving around a tiny nothing of a star in a bumblefuck corner of our so-so galaxy. That we’re completely alone would be the most shocking revelation of all, though the Universe still wouldn’t be a waste. Even the tiniest scrap of life is magic, and worth 93 billion light-years of floating stardust.
Only once have I seen a U.F.O., an unidentified flying object. My friend Oscar and I saw it. We were in high school and having a sleepover at my cousin’s apartment. It was storming real bad out, the way it does in Chicago, and Oscar and I stayed up to watch the lightning through my cousin’s bedroom window. We were staring at the sky above the apartment complex, when a big white light like a stadium light appeared in the sky above the building. By now my memory’s hazy, but I’d say it was 30 or 40 feet above the building. The light was there, not moving, for a good five seconds or so, and then it was gone. It just turned off. Now, the thing about it is, Oscar and I were super familiar with the apartment complex, it being part of our stomping grounds, our home turf, so we would’ve known if there was some kind of floodlight there above the building. It was right by the pool, too, where plenty of our summer days were wasted away. And we checked, the very next day, and there was nothing there above the building at all, and definitely not anything that could’ve made the light we saw.
A few seconds after the light disappeared, Oscar goes, “What was that?” and I’m like, “No fucken clue,” and he goes, “What the fuck was that, bro!” and I’m like, “I don’t know!” We woke up my cousin and my brother but they looked at us like we were on crack or just trying to play them. As they drifted back to sleep, Oscar and I spent the next half-hour scanning the lawn between the window and the part of the building where we saw the U.F.O., trying to make out any humanoid shapes scrambling our way. We figured we’d been spotted through their high-powered surveillance devices. But nothing came for us that night — no probes up the ass.
At the time Oscar, my cousin and I were just coming out of our huge astronomy phase. The three of us each had a telescope in our bedrooms and glow-in-the-dark planets and stars on our ceilings. Oscar and my cousin had even been to space camp (they went to a better middle school) where they got to wear spacesuits (I was so jealous). Sufficed to say, we were space nuts. We had two great goals in life: work for NASA (to go up into space, of course), and visit Area 51. Being working-class latchkey kids, the NASA dream quickly exploded and faded away like a sad supernova, but the Area 51 dream only grew, especially after the Hollywood peek we were given in Independence Day. We wanted to see the craft recovered from the crash at Roswell back in the forties, and we definitely wanted to see the alien corpses preserved in formaldehyde.
But now that I live on the edge of Las Vegas, only three hours tops from the government’s formerly top-secret facility at Groom Lake (now on Google Maps), I’ve lost interest in aliens — or rather, I’m not so hung up on whether they exist or not, and whether our planet is being visited by them. (I’ve driven through Roswell, on my way back to Chicago after visiting El Paso and Juárez. We only stopped to fill up at a gas station, but from what I saw, the town’s still crazy about aliens.) Maybe they do exist, and they are visiting us. Maybe Bob Lazar is telling the absolute truth — I have to say he sounded pretty damn convincing on Joe Rogan’s podcast last week. He seems like the kind of guy who doesn’t like to say more than he actually knows, not even wanting to theorize aloud or guess at other people’s motives. He’s pretty matter-of-fact and down-to-earth, so to speak. Yet he claims to have a master’s in physics from MIT, and a master’s in electronic tech from Caltech, though neither school says it has any record of him. And though the lab at Los Alamos says he never worked there, apparently a phone directory from the time lists Bob Lazar as an employee.
So who’s lying? There are plenty of motives to lie on both sides: Bob gets a little cultish fame, on the one hand, which he adamantly claims he doesn’t want; and the government gets to keep the alien technology under wraps, while avoiding the mass hysteria which would undoubtedly ensue should the public learn that we are not alone in the universe, or even on this planet. Too many of us have seen Independence Day, and Mars Attacks!, and War of the Worlds. We know what the strong do to the weak, what Columbus did to the Taínos, what we do to dogs and whales and elephants and our closest cousins, the chimps. So we’re not clamoring to meet an advanced civilization with the technological superiority to visit us from across the galaxy. We don’t want to end up in some alien zoo, or circus, or testing facility, with probes up our butts and God knows what else. It’s good to be the top bully on our little playground.
I do have a theory about these visitors though: if they are real, then it could be they’re us, from a far distant future — probably from a far distant planet, too. Bob Lazar claims to have worked on alien technology at Area 51, and he says one of the machines could manipulate gravity — could even create gravity. Gravity, as Einstein showed, can affect space and time, both of which are really parts of the same thing: space-time. To move in space is to move in time, and vice versa. Two twins each given one of identical watches would, after so many decades of living and moving around separately, show slightly different times, because each twin’s movement on earth — and, thus, through time and space — would affect how he or she experienced time: either faster or slower than the other twin. If these alien visitors have a way of manipulating gravity, like Bob says, then it isn’t a stretch to imagine they can manipulate space-time in such a way that allows them to travel through time by either slowing it or even reversing it.
These aliens could be us from the future, visiting their ancestral planet a million years in their past. It would explain why they look so much like us: one head, two eyes, two nostrils, two ear canals, two shoulders, two arms, two hands, torso, two legs, two feet. Witnesses claim these “Greys” don’t have any sex organs, but apparently we humans are charging headlong into a sexless future as it is (see: Tokyo).
If they were truly alien, the odds are slim that they would look anything like us, or anything like anything on this planet. There are an infinite number of paths for evolution to take, so what are the odds that evolution would end up on the same, humanoid path on two different planets, possibly in two different galaxies? Sure, there’s the theory that no sentient creature could evolve to our level unless its hands were freed to carry stuff, and equipped with opposable digits to manipulate tools, but we humans only think that because those are exactly what we have. The king can’t imagine any better way of being king. But who’s to say there couldn’t be some advanced squid-like race that has evolved to move things with its mind — something which, according to what we’ve seen in quantum physics, is within the realm of possibility? We’re galactic yokels letting our provincial knowledge limit our understanding of what’s out there, how it behaves, and how it came to be.
The possibility that these visitors are us from a distant planet in the distant future is even scarier than them being our contemporaries. Why would the government keep these visits a secret? What happens to us between now and 1,000,2019 C.E. that we shouldn’t know about? If they’re visiting from a distant planet, what happens to this one, the one we’re on now, and when? And have they, our future selves, discovered the meaning for all of this starstuff that makes up the Universe, or a reason for why any of us are here in the first place?
As I said, I don’t believe in any of this — not the U.F.O.s, not the aliens, not even the future visitors. Not really. And I’m not calling Bob Lazar a liar either. I don’t not believe what he’s saying, just as I don’t not believe people who claim to have been visited by a dead loved one, or who claim to have met a shape-shifter (like Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins does), or who claim to have premonitions (like I, my grandma, my mom, and so many people do), or who claim to have been visited by some creature in the middle of the night (like Charlamagne tha God, my buddy Andy, and so many people do). I just don’t know. The vast and overwhelming majority of this world, this universe, this thing called existence, is completely unknown to you and me and everybody we know. And while we’re waiting for the government to reveal the truth to us, there are issues we know a lot about which require our immediate attention: things like climate change, racism, and capitalism.
Bob Lazar could be telling the truth. There could be aliens visiting and the government covering it all up. Just out of curiosity, I’m going to watch the documentary on Netflix, Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers (the director, Jeremy Corbell, comes across as a bit of a showman in the Joe Rogan interview, one of those P.T. Barnum-types). The film promises pretty impressive video evidence of U.F.O.s, though I believe in special effects way more than I believe in aliens. They could air a video on CNN of a U.F.O. hovering over Wrigley Field, with a handful of purported eyewitnesses saying they saw the thing, and most people would still have trouble believing it — which goes to show you how high our opinion of special-effects technology has risen, and how low our faith in the news media has sunk. It’s a shame really, and potentially dangerous.
I don’t know what I’d have to see in order to believe in aliens. That’s a lie: I’d have to see an alien spacecraft sitting in one of the hangars at Area 51, with my own eyes. I’d believe it more if I could put my hands on it. That’s how skeptical I am. Aliens could abduct me tonight, give me a tour of their planet, sit me down to a feast, and a show, bring me back to my bed, and in the morning I’d still wake up thinking it was all a dream. Wow! I’d say to myself. The human imagination is bananas! I would never tell anybody about the dream, of course, lest they think I’m some space nut.
Now, if I woke up with a shiny blinking piece of metal up my ass…