The human brain is a powerful computing machine, advancing man from using simple tools to modern super computers, despite its handicap of being easily fooled. Watch any street magician for five minutes and it becomes obvious that the brain’s desire to find solutions to almost every problem it encounters may be its biggest weakness. Searching for these answers, the brain is able to draw only on a person's experiences, beliefs, and knowledge to create what they view as reality. This response can be so powerful that it can cause multiple people involved in the same situation to have entirely different views on the experience. Proof of this can be found in the recent visit of a colleague, Jill, to my house.
After hours of phone conferences and project changes, the day came to a close. I finished up some last minute tasks while Jill walked down to the shore of our lake to watch the approaching sunset. As darkness settled on the area her sudden yelling brought me rushing to the lake. I found Jill pointing out across the water as she urged me to look to the sky. Rising over the distant trees and floating slowly in our direction were several glowing orbs. As we watched, a new light appeared to rise up over the horizon every few seconds and fly towards us. Staring in stunned silence, it felt like we were caught in the middle of an actual alien invasion.
Rushing back to the house, I quickly searched out a pair of binoculars and returned to the shore, finding that several of the lights were almost directly above us. Looking through the binoculars caused the adrenaline to immediately quit racing. With the objects magnified I could see the silhouette of a small X shaped platform in the flicker of what appeared to be a candle flame. The flying objects invading our skies weren’t alien at all, they were simply sky lanterns.
A celebration tradition in some cultures, these lanterns are more candle powered hot air balloon than light source. Once inflated, they rise into the sky, mimicking the eerie glow and smooth quiet movements common in many UFO reports. Riding on wind currents, these lanterns can travel to both great heights and distances, until the candle either goes out or the bag catches on fire, sending the entire piece back to earth in a fiery crash, resulting in serious damage and injuries.
I explained what I saw and urged Jill to look towards the sky. Instead the binoculars dangled unused in her hand. Caught up in the drama of the moment, she was unwilling and uninterested in accepting a terrestrial explanation for what was silently hovering above us. To her the lights were too bright to be simple candles, changing colors in a way that a flame could not and moving as if each one was under intelligent control. Through the binoculars, I saw some candle powered balloons floating on the summer breeze.
We were observing the same lights yet our views were quite different. My experience was based on a familiarity and knowledge of the area, Jill’s interpretation was fueled by beliefs of government conspiracies and alien invasions coupled with an almost addiction like habit of watching almost every internet video of alleged aliens and UFOs visiting Earth.
What were the objects we watched drift across that evening sky? The truth is we will never have an answer that we both agree on. In the following days Jill repeatedly urged me to check for other residents reporting strange lights in the sky. There were no UFO reports the police did receive a call from a farmer angry at finding the remnants of several burned up lanterns along the edge of one of his fields.
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