Here’s a quote from Arthur C. Clarke: “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Personally, whilst I understand that exactly one of the possibilities must be true, I can’t believe in either of them.
Brian Appleyard is a respected journalist and author. He writes for The Sunday Times, The Spectator and The New Statesman. He has been awarded a CBE. I assume he’s not a nutter. He has written an article in the latest “New Statesman which is profound and extraordinary. The article is about aliens.
On 25th June, the US Department of Defense released a report which confirmed that the Earth is being buzzed by UAPs. This is the new acronym which replaces UFO. We now shouldn’t talk about Unidentified Flying Objects but should refer, instead, to Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. The report is sceptical about aliens and simply concludes that what sailors and pilots report are unidentified. Here is how Wkipedia summarised this report: “The report found that the “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force” was unable to identify 143 objects spotted between 2004 and 2021. The report said that 18 of these featured unusual movement patterns or flight characteristics, adding that more analysis was needed to determine if those sightings represented “breakthrough” technology. The report said that “some of these steps are resource-intensive and would require additional investment.” The report did not link the sightings to extraterrestrial life.”
Brian Appleyard rejects the theory that these UAPs are hypersonic weapons being tested by China or Russia. He also rejects the idea that these are piloted by humans as the G-forces shown are several thousand times greater than the human body can withstand.
The mania for reporting UFOs started at around the same time as the detonation of atomic bombs and the associated terror that humankind would destroy itself. The worry was that alien species would judge us to be unfit residents of the universe. In “The Day The Erath Stood Still”, Klaatu says “If you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder”.
In 2017, a telescope in Hawaii detected an interstellar object in our solar system. It was given the Hawaiian name for scout, “Oumuamua”. Using this as an example, Avi Loeb, who is the chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University has said that “It is possible, and likely, that most of the past reports on UFOs from the general public can be explained by human-made or natural phenomena or as illusions, but we need to pay special attention to the small number of reports where the evidence is strong and indisputable. It would be prudent to progress forward with our finest instruments, rather than examine past reports”. In other words, one of the most distinguished astronomers on the planet says that we should keep an open mind about UAPs and alien life.
“Either we are alone or we are not.” This statement resonates with me when thinking about the last year. I’ve just received a text from Paddy, suggesting we chat on the phone and that has made me very happy. It’s good to connect with other people. One of the best things about volunteering at Samaritans is to provide a few minutes of contact for people who are feeling desperately lonely. It seems to be a human characteristic that we need to make contact with other people. Correction: sociability is a characteristic of many animals, not just humans, including humans, dogs, mole rats and termites.
We like to feel that we do not live alone and we have a need to make contact with friends or people with whom we share a common interest (e.g. Brighton And Hove Albion supporters or fans of The Small Glories). There’s something fantastic about thinking that we share the Universe with other life forms.
In “Travelling Alone” from Jason Isbell’s magnificent “Southeastern” album, he sings “What good does knowing do, with no one to show it to?” As he drives away from a failed relationship, he ponders on his isolation and his depression becomes overwhelming as even a prostitute refuses to take his money. As in so many songs, the thought of living a lonely isolated life is devastating. Luckily for Jason Isbell, in real life, he had just started on a relationship with the beautiful fiddle player Amanda Shires, who features in the accompanying video.
The opening song on the album is “Cover Me Up” which he wrote about Amanda Shires. He described the song as “a hard one for me to even get through without breaking down” because his gratitude and love for his wife was all encompassing. The song describes how, after receiving help for alcohol addiction, he was more than grateful to spend time alone with her. “Girl, leave your boots by the bed, we ain’t leaving this room.” When he sings this song live and he gets to the line “But I sobered up and I swore off this stuff, forever, this time“, it’s quite common for the audience to roar its appreciation, support and love for him.
If those two songs aren’t enough, there’s a heartbreaking song called “Elephant” which describes a conversation between the singer and a friend who is dying of cancer. Another song called “New South Wales” was written whilst Jason Isbell was on tour with Justin Townes Earle in Australia when they were taking drugs to relive the boredom. “Yvette” is a song about child sexual abuse. “Stockholm” refers to the Stockholm syndrome and, I think, describes his addiction to drugs even though he knows that they are keeping him a prisoner to his fate.
“Songs That She Sang In The Shower” is a lovely song and starts with a joke in which he starts a bar fight by telling a stranger that there are two types of people in the world and he is neither of them. After he gets knocked down, the stranger’s girlfriend takes his home. The song describes some songs that she sings in the shower, including “Breakfast In Bed”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Yesterday’s Wine”; these three songs describe the trajectory of their relationship. It’s gorgeous and clever, as are most of the songs on this album.
Even better than any of these is “Flying Over Water” which, ostensibly, is about a fear of flying but is another song of loss and regret. “From the sky, we look so organised and brave” describes how we may look to aliens – secure, knowledgeable and confident but, the truth is, we all need connection; we need to know that we are not alone. “I can’t for the life of me say why did we leave our love behind“