Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Day Stanton Friedman Made Me Cry

The Day Stanton Friedman Made Me Cry
by Alfred Lehmberg

I want to tell you a story about the day Stanton Friedman made me cry.  Oh... there was no inconsolable boohooing or gushing mucous expressed; still, the bottoms of my eyes got decidedly swampy...
Let me hasten to assure the reader that I am completely capable of ripping off one's head and crapping down one's neck given the appropriate motivation (raise the black flag and cut deserving throats me hearties and dog brothers!) but like any true sociophile—"I love humanity, it's people I can't stand"—I can be profoundly moved by random acts of genuine and so uncontrived kindness...
I attended my second three-day UFO convention in 1996, and while initially irritated with the cheesy (almost dirty movie?) merchandising of the concept generally, I did enjoy myself hugely, still!  The speakers—John Mack was there—were refreshingly out of the box!  Many of the people were fascinating and all of them interesting.  So, engagingly, the decidedly optimistic if carnival atmosphere had an otherworldly edge one would naturally expect from a gathering of... largely intelligent people unsettled by concerns with potential alien space ships piloted, perhaps, by equally alien beings.  One of those aforementioned intelligent persons was of certain if complicated affect.
I went to four of these "Project Awareness" affairs in the Gulf Breeze, Florida area, and at each of them I saw this same intensely interested kid and his accommodating father. It was clear who, of the two, had the real interest in UFOs.
The kid was the conductor on that train. The father was a tirelessly doting engine.
I've written about this kid before. I'd noticed him at the first conference. He was about twelve or thirteen, maybe he was as old as fifteen (or even older); it's hard to tell with kids like him, sometimes.
Very slender, he had dark hair, and I only saw him smile on one occasion.  Otherwise, he had this look of intense seriousness. For three days, we were in and out of different spots at different times, going different directions, and never had the occasion to mingle, meet, or even speak, actually.
Good thing too, as getting any idea that my suspicions in his regard were true would have been much more difficult to bear.  In other words.  I'd likely have lost it sooner...
I guess I should mention that the kid was in a wheelchair and very nearly completely debilitated with cerebral palsy. He was, physically, just a twitching mass of drooling wretchedness, for most of "genteel" humanity. This too quick assessment is made all the more tragic by the fact that many (most?) of these kids with CP still have active and intelligent minds inside their ruined bodies. Stephen Hawking, with a similar disease, comes to mind.   These persons have minds, reader, still capable of the same kind of unrestricted imagination and ardent hero worship as any other young boy, and more, given their circumstances!
As a credentialed educator of these physically challenged, I would know. The reader should know that their condition is likely caused by needlessly dumped toxins found within the world in which they—hyper sensitive canaries for us all—must live... CP is likely a disease of the modern world... The reader will allow that small digression...
From what I was able to observe, and had already written about years ago, the kid had moderate control of an arm and a leg. The arm was used to poke at a communication board reading out on a liquid crystal display, and the leg was used to reach out and touch the floor in front of him as his father rolled him along to the different exhibits and presentations. He'd reach out with the foot, set it down, and then let it return to him with the forward motion of the wheelchair. Then he'd pick it up and do it again like he was the one doing the walking and, though chair-bound, still had some part in his own locomotion.  Dad seemed an unqualified peach with regard to the selfless and unending facilitation of his challenged son.
The foot was accelerator and brake and steering wheel for his father's facilitating engine. That's enough to jerk a few tears from the reader, right there.
Well, it was between presentations in the greater hall of the hotel and a small chaos ensued while the speakers switched out.  Amid a confusion of meandering people, Stanton Friedman was standing in a small group answering questions and making general conversation with the conference attendees. The kid rolled up in his chair.
Said kid would not take his eyes off Friedman. I could tell that this was no ho-hum drill for the kid. To the contrary. This was a seminal event—a singular moment—for him.
He was prepared. His dog-eared copies of Friedman's books were in the spring-loaded autograph position on the chair tray before him, and he had a question already tapped out on his little communication board. One could see, plainly, that he was over-the-top excited.
What I mentioned about hero worship, earlier, obviously applied here. This kid was very impressed with Stanton Friedman, the man.  I saw him perform in the same manner with no other conference speaker.
An opportunity presented itself, at last. The kid's father took a break in the conversation to introduce himself and his son and ask if Mr. Friedman wouldn't sign his son's books. As Mr. Friedman graciously addressed that task remarking to the boy as regards his healthy interest, he and the father were speaking about how enjoyable the conference was and other obligatory book-signing chatter... ...Then the kid tentatively held out his communication board in a trembling hand for Friedman to read.
I'd sneaked a look at the device over the kid's shoulder so I already knew what the question was..."Have you ever seen a UFO," the device spelled out.
Finishing the last book, Mr. Friedman took the kid's device and read the question aloud. He shook his head and laughed in that chuckling old grandfatherly manner that is a trademark with him. "No," he sighed, "I have not..."
Then he turned a little more serious and speaking directly to the kid, said, " ...But me seeing a UFO is not evidence of UFOs, and there is a LOT of convincing evidence for real UFOs." Then he paused for what ended up being a huge effect for the kid, saucered his eyes and said. "UFOs are real"!
The kid was transfixed. His eyes were shining, and his mouth carried the huge momentary grin I mentioned earlier. The kid obviously had something important conclusively validated for him, and I think I had a good idea what it could have been.  Perhaps an epiphany...and not just for the kid, for everyone listening...
It was the kind of epiphany one's just not going to get from a sports hero. Consider, all they are is running, hitting, and jumping in a pretty questionable exercise... a ready reminder, besides, of what cannot be, for the kid. Stanton Friedman, on the other hand, "cleaved the heavens and soared to the [freaking] infinite" for the boy; the kid got it!  Stanton Friedman was about what can be... as outré as that may sometimes be.  See the difference?
The kid was reassured and encouraged, I think. The kid had hopes a little less hard to keep alive, I suspect. The kid was awash in a self-generated glow of new optimism, perhaps... it was, I'd imagine, a "happiest moment" contender. I could go on to more finely grind this point.
Imagining, myself, what the kid must be feeling and understanding why, I suspected that the kid's wildest dreams could perhaps be realized if UFOs were as real as his bearded champion had just proclaimed! He'd heard it come from the "man" himself, and it was said directly to him. His "hero" looked right into his own unblinking eyes guileless as his own.
...Truth can never be as certain as when it is perceived by a small boy directly from the serious countenance of someone he admires. Babe Ruth pointing at the rafters for his next home run, in sweet favor of a similar child, approximates the actuality of Friedman's effect on the kid...
The Sermon On The Mount was supposed to be as captivating, as inspiring, and as reassuring... to ascend to a little hyperbole.
"UFOs are REAL"!
The future had endless potential...; it was confirmed! And maybe, just maybe, a Gene Roddenberry-like Star Trek universe could exist for the kid, too! Maybe he could see a UFO (go aboard?). Maybe he too could be part of this magically monumental thing so much larger than himself...
Why... he might even find a way to make himself a better kind of whole! The sky can be no limit to a small boy's hopes and dreams... even (better, especially!) to one such as this thoroughly afflicted kid.
The bottom of my eyes began to fill up a little bit on the results of my too busy imagination, and I stepped away from the group, frankly, to surreptitiously wipe my eyes and compose myself... ...The reader should remember what I said earlier about head removal... ...poke fun at me and pull back a nub of whatever it was you were poking me with, sincerely...
...Besides, the sentiment in cameo here is a little more honestly drawn than the sentiment extracted from a lying "we like to make you smile" hamburger commercial on "family" television! These can provoke a tear, too.
This is forgetting entirely whether it was the kid, Stanton Friedman, or my own poignantly reinforced convictions that had made me cry or a combination of the three? But weep I did, and, on the whole (?) I'm rather glad I can.
That's enough. I remain watching skies.

Read on!


Indridd CColdd said...

Alfred? You're the best - poignantly observed - with unmatched spirituality. It was as if I was there, in your shoes and having the same emotional reaction. I may have even been overcome to the point of crumbling to the floor.

Alfred Lehmberg said...

Thanks, Scott... I hasten to point out to the reader that you can fabricate a field toilet as well or better than I; mocker beware!