Monday, January 01, 2007

Marfa Mystery Lights and Human Nature

My parents live in a small town in West Texas where the mountains of the Big Bend march north from the Mexican border, leaving a number of valleys and foothils in their path. The countryside is not only beautiful (if you like the look of the old west), but has certain unique atmospheric characteristics that many believe to be responsible for a strange phenomenon: the Marfa Lights. The lights are visible at night from a small observatory just off U. S. Route 90 between Alpine and Marfa. I'm one of those guys that's fascinated by UFO's, Bigfoot, and such, so when my parents first told me of this phenomenon I was excited to have a chance to see it.

I think I've been there to view the lights on two separate occasions, and over time I've formed theories as to their origin. First, the lights:

These are time exposures of the marfa lights taken from the area of the observation park. You can find explanations of the pictures and the methodology behind them at: Night Orbs.

Now, I can give my testimony that these pictures adequately reflect what I saw at the observation area. I'm not really writing to make you believe that these things exist and are some kind of alien intelligence or something. But I am writing because I find people's reactions to these lights very interesting.

At the viewing park, there is a display that explains the history of the lights, the direction you should look, and (very important) the direction you should not look: the Southwest. This is because Highway 67 runs over the mountains and is visible from the viewing area. Any lights that are seen emanating from that direction are car headlights, and because of the distance and (I'm guessing) temperature change over the valley, these car headlights look very UFO-like indeed.

On the night of my second visit, a whole group of people were practically jumping for joy because they were seeing Marfa lights with their own eyes! Tons of the lights- dancing around, trading places, disappearing and reappearing. Except, of course, they were in the Southwest. I wanted to tell them to read the display for themselves, but who am I to burst their bubble? The ones that bug me more than the naieve believers, though, are the skeptics who say that the Marfa Lights are nothing more than car headlights on Highway 67. These skeptics, so ready to attack anything potentially inexplicable, don't even bother to take the time to find out that the real sightings of Marfa Lights are not what they are attacking.

Here we have the two extremes of the human condition: the man of faith and the man of reason, Mulder and Scully, Locke and Jack, or Bryan and Darrow. The thing that annoys me most about these two extremes is that it is all or nothing: blind faith or blind reason. This culture (as I suppose every one throughout history has been) is plagued with this dichotomy.

I think the thing that's so telling about my Marfa experience is that it shows that people do not want to learn. We want things to fit just as we expect them to, because otherwise we will be forced to change or, GASP, think!

Conservatives do this all the time with liberals, and vice versa. We're so busy thinking the other person is a communist or a fundamentalist bigot, we don't take the time to hear them out. Dialogue is very rare indeed because we want the other point of view to be wrong. This is the territory in which critical thinking is an absolute necessity, but it is usually replaced with bias.

None of us is perfect in this area; there are certain things that we just can't handle accepting, but we all can grow and learn to suspend judgment and look at the world as objectively as is possible.

It's my opinion that the Unidentified Lighted Objects outside Marfa have an explanation, but why dismiss them out of hand without hearing both sides? It would be better to withhold judgment and admit that we don't know everything than to jump to a conclusion based on insufficient evidence, or as some wise thinker once said, "Better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."

1 comment:

Natalya said...

You write very well.