UFOs Are Changing Me
The existence of “unidentified aerial phenomena” is now widely acknowledged, but few seem to care. For writer Tendisai Cromwell, however, the growing evidence for UFOs is subtly shifting her sense of her place in the world.
Illustrations—Niti Marcelle Mueth
In 2017 the New York Times revealed the existence of a government UFO program with authenticated videos and eyewitness accounts of oddly shaped, technologically advanced aircraft flying in protected airspace. This front page article and the renewed public interest that followed ushered in a new era of the UFO phenomenon, one that first took root some 74 years ago.
Until recently, the American government had denied the existence of UFOs (or, as they’re now being called, UAPs: unidentified aerial phenomena). The government has since publicly acknowledged their existence and is openly studying them. Under pressure from the public, agencies are disclosing more than they ever have.
After researching the extraordinary accounts and absorbing the expert opinions, I, like many others, gravitated toward the most tantalizing explanation: these UFOs represent the first evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.
A much-anticipated report released by the Pentagon in June did not provide a definitive answer to the perennial question of whether humanity is alone in the universe, but it did add more seriousness to the discussion. By not discounting any possibility, the report represents a first step toward deepening our collective understanding of this phenomenon.
The New York Times article was a game changer. But at the time, we were one year into a volatile Trump presidency, amid growing anti-immigrant rhetoric, intensifying racial justice protests, and a looming climate crisis. So it’s understandable that UFOs and the larger conversations about the prospect of alien life didn’t take hold in the public imagination in the way one might expect. A family member who works for an American political party told me that being consumed by these crises leaves little space to contemplate the existence of aliens.
As a Black Muslim woman and ally to many communities, I’m deeply affected by the political and social climate. Even still, 2017 felt like we were on the precipice of something big. It still feels that way. Authentic confirmation of extraterrestrial beings would arguably be the most significant discovery in all of human history. Over time, a paradigm shift like this would change humanity even more than the Copernican Revolution, which did away with the idea that earth was at the centre of the universe. The simple fact of earth orbiting the sun profoundly altered our self-conception. Imagine, for a moment, how aliens might further erode our sense of superiority and exceptionalism.
The universe view
Whether UFOs are evidence of otherworldly beings or there’s a more prosaic explanation for their presence in our skies, I have been changed by the mainstream conversations about the possibilities. Since 2017, reflecting on alien life has left me suspended in a state of awe and invited new forms of thinking.
I, like many others, have long maintained a quiet fascination with the prospect of extraterrestrials. For years, I have closely followed developments in SETI initiatives, the most recent NASA mission to search for ancient microbial life on Mars, and future plans to send spacecraft to Venus or even our neighbouring planetary system, Alpha Centauri.
With UFOs becoming a larger part of public conversations, I find myself looking to the planetary sciences, quantum physics, and astrobiology to help make sense of the possibilities. Ideas about bizarre states of quantum particles that could theoretically allow for rapid interstellar travel meet in my mind with thoughts of potentially habitable planets. Slowly and subtly, my human-centred worldview is shifting into a universe view.
Knowing that there are still-undiscovered categories of existence alongside the human experience, it becomes easier to imagine us as part of a broader universal sentience.
Rather than thinking dichotomously — the “us” and the “them” — I am learning to embrace more comforting notions of cosmic diversity and plurality.
These shifts in thinking filter through my ordinary conversations with my family. I tell my young daughter, who is only beginning to grapple with what it means to be human, that she just might be part of the first generation to grow up with evidence that we are not alone in the universe. Her generation might deride us for our earth-centric hubris, as it becomes clear that we humans are not especially unique. As I say this to her, I think about my own humbling insignificance, allowing a kind of cosmic wonderment to overcome me. Some may wonder whether confirming the existence of alien life will truly change humanity. For me, the possibility alone already has.
Tendisai Cromwell is a writer and poet who most often explores faith, nature, and the nuances of identity and belonging. She is currently writing her debut novel. Tendisai is based in Tkaronto/Toronto.