I recently retired from 20+ years with NASA. I now work primarily as a consultant in the private sector. My particular areas of specialization have fortunately kept me relevant, which in this economic climate is fortunate indeed. I’m too old to learn many more new tricks. 😉
My awakening has been a long time coming. I am still coming to terms with how many times I chose not to be curious, chose not to be honest (with myself), chose not to wonder why, while still being an expert in a domain (science) where I excelled at wondering and finding out very big whys. Somehow I just didn’t apply that same curiosity to the exploration of the many peculiar things I saw directly and heard indirectly from colleagues. I wish I could claim it was ignorance, but I think it more likely fear. I didn’t want to give up the relative security of my world view. Ultimately the situation became untenable; I had to give up my naivety, and in so doing give up a position that had so long been my identity, and my source of subtle yet profound arrogance and pride.
I’ve devoted most of my free hours over the last year to trying to rediscover and reframe my career and experiences, using new curiosities to find new explanations. It’s been a painfully difficult therapy, but I really have no other choice. The process of researching and documenting my memories may lead to a book or perhaps just a blog. So far my motivation has been the salvation of my soul rather than the education of others, so it’s hard to know where things will lead. But I so appreciate communities like this one, and the desire to give something back (to the ability I’m able) is powerful. My courage has grown because of yours.
I am afraid I must hide behind anonymity at this time. My livelihood still depends on comfortable relationships with my former employer, and my former colleagues. I don’t want my sins to rain down on my children. I’ve got one in college, and one who’ll be there in a few years, and I can’t afford to risk the income I need for their education.
Thanks again for the work you all have done to begin significant exploration of all these topics.
I certainly understand and encourage people’s skepticism. Though I suppose as an aside I should say that I think most people misunderstand skepticism. A true skeptic (as a true scientist) reserves judgment in the absence of sufficiently conclusive data. Most people who self identify as skeptics are (as I was, and likely still am in ways I don’t realize) just passing unfounded negative judgments based on beliefs (not facts). And that’s fine, it’s a very functional way to be. It’s far easier for the human brain to do that than for it to truly take no position. I am still trying to learn the art of being judgment-less (again, only where there is insufficient data, to be so otherwise is to be a fool)…
My experiences and the stories I’ve been told are not individually incontrovertible proof of anything. How much simpler life would be if they were. But each one is suggestive, and their totality constitutes (for me at least) proof. I remember once as a child my dad told me the story about a number of blind men gathered around an elephant each trying to describe what they were feeling, while another blind man was trying to sculpt the figure they were describing out of clay. In the end the sculpted figure bore absolutely no similarity to the actual elephant. I think that’s the problem we all face here in this realm. So many of us have pieces of the puzzle, but without any one of us having that larger view of the entire puzzle, the alternative models of reality we put forward invariably have flaws big enough to be reasonably used to dismiss them (and us). And they’re not wrong to do so, I don’t think I was wrong to do that. I wish I hadn’t, but I was trying to live my life, raise a family, pay a mortgage, build a career. When we get enough pieces (and perhaps we have enough now), we will hopefully be able to use our intelligence to guess at the larger picture we can’t see, and try to test and correct the flaws in our models. Perhaps then we’ll finally make some great leap forward… Perhaps only to begin the whole process over in pursuit of some new and even greater truth/knowledge… The lateness of the hour breeds an excess in philosophizing.
I do believe, and in many kindred things, but I hesitate to state too much too early, outside of the context of what led me down that path, for fear of being too easily dismissed; it is hard to restore one’s credibility once that has happened. In science it is a fool who makes a “conventionally“ outrageous claim without simultaneously backing it up with their evidence.
To those I am unlikely to satisfy, feel free to take no notice of me, dismiss me as a crank for now. If what I say merits your attention or attack, I’m sure there will be ample opportunity for that when I’ve had the opportunity to share more (information or ammunition).
Former Project Manager / Senior Engineer
PS – I wrote something for those curious about how and why I maintain my anonymity.