Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Conundrums In Cognitive Dissonance (Part I)

The wages of CD...

Conundrums In Cognitive Dissonance ... 
Part I of II
by Alfred Lehmberg

Apart from new cyberspace?  My old circle of close friends—6 or 8 guys and their lovely, if formidable, wives (one of these wives was a Chief Warrant Officer 5 aviation officer who fought competitively in a couple of female division cage-fights... think of a Kill Bill Lucy Liu, to get close)—were military rated day/night all-weather aviators of considerable experience and expertise.  They were persons on and off active military duty.  They were all Republicans in a red state Alabama. Now, stolidly on their Trump Train, it seems I never knew them at all. Heavy sigh.

Not so much as an Independent!  How did I endure, but that sometimes (Pre-Trump) a shared experience transcended mere political considerations, eh?  I forgave them their psychopath's hypocritical politics. No more. They forgive me my unrepentant liberality. No more. I've become an enemy... and they?Apparent insentient monsters ok with racist fascism and a whites-only America.  

     Such was friendship among those who had trammeled the angry, if hallowed, halls of air, I suspect. It was once. Even through a GWB, it was. Once.

Back at the ufological ranch... Near every man-jack and swinging Richard of this collection of highly skilled persons had reported to me sincerely that they had witnessed weird lights in otherwise sundry momentous skies.  They don't object when I offered that what they were seeing may have been "Flying Saucers"... they didn't encourage me, mind... 

It remains.  They didn't object.  All those guys knew I have a considered interest in same and so had volunteered their sightings to me.  I felt honored, actually. That was then. This is now.

Still though, not so curiously, and contrarily, we rarely discussed those well admitted "sightings" in the full group.  If I brought it up, or if it came up?  There was always a concerted "group" effort to get the subject back to a more prosaic and comfortingly familiar.  All seemed to vie to be "the most scientifically reasonable" person in the room. "Graveyard whistling," for the benefit of group sensibility would be my guess.

No—the subject was more seriously broached and reports shared only when I'm caught alone... coming back from the latrine or caught alone at the bar... on the way out to the car at evening's end... the odd encounter.  Stealth and surreptitiousness seem to be required, n'est ce pas?  

Verily, in turn, these men inform me of others reporting the very highly strange to them.  Conservatively, even among these highly experienced aviators, First Kind Encounters seems more a common thing than not.

To put it lightly, reminding the reader, these are reluctant witnesses.  You'd think these career military people were trying to share with me that they were gay or crossdressers.  Consider: they were compelled to make their careful report, still, to someone frankly not laughing at them!

The stories recounted are invariably told in an embarrassed way with eyes decidedly to the ground or, alternatively, hollowly and unblinkingly regarding me. There was a furtive hope in their unblinking stare that I would take them at their inexplicable word... that here, in me, they might find a fellow who'd take receipt of their strange story and not bust their chops or question their sanity.  

...That they could tell someone at last—unload or unburden themselves to someone who might provide them with some small grasp regarding highly extraordinary occurrences they'd had obvious difficulty processing by themselves. Dissonance looms. 

These men are not cowards.  Did I mention they were decorated soldier aviators? They were pragmatic pilots.  Their wives, more hard-wired by genetics I suspect, were pragmatic, too, only more so.  Wives, and women in general I observe, provide ample encouragement for the aggregate pragmatism, I'm sure.  I know mine does.  I catch regular hell, eh? It's not entirely undeserved.

See?  All know the hard wages of having one's supervisor or superior officer gain knowledge of their subordinate's going "off the reservation" intellectually or exploring too far "down the twitchy rabbit hole."  Careers are destroyed.  Promotions dry up.  Advanced training evaporates.  Confidence is compromised... Advancement is curtailed... Friends laugh...  Friends laugh, reader!   
Hey!  I'm about a half million dollars down in lost wages, myself. Speaking with some experience, I report that reasonable persons are significantly wounded in this struggle for a more validated existentiality. I say true.

Fitting in at any cost?  It has that greater imperative, even if an unethical, irrelevant, and unsatisfying one... a soul destroying one.  Pity.

To forestall these back-stepping and unjust sociological hazards to having your world turned upside down, many persons experience our foreshadowed cognitive dissonance (1).  They intellectually react to the stress of not being able to accept what their—usually trustworthy—senses are reporting to them, and make the imperatives of those contrary reports either go away...(not see what's there) or change them over into something that is acceptable to them.  Imagine an oyster reacting to a grain of sand in its mantel by creating a pearl around the disturbance. 

It won't matter, reader, if this errant acceptability is a falsehood.  Would that the aforementioned resultant pearl had any lasting value, am I right?  It does not.  It powders easily 'twixt thumb and forefinger and exudes toxic fumes provoking madness!  Still, perception, errant or no, is the reality.


While on active duty many years ago, well before I'd developed any substantive interest in the ufological, I'd had a raucous barbecue at my Fort Rucker, Alabama home one weekend evening. There were five or six joyous couples in carrier-landing-rowdy "CAV-songs" attendance, plus a few guests some of these had brought along with them. All were highly experienced attack and utility branch military aviators plus their wives or girlfriends.  This was a singularly *high-toned* bunch.

I was standing away from the group with two other men, one Tom Boucher, an AH-64 (Apache) instructor pilot, and a, name forgotten, fixed-wing "driver" I didn't know... but a rare Army candidate for the Astronaut Program. The sun had just gone down and dusk was washing out to the encroaching blackness of inevitable night.

There was a lull in the blustery conversation. One of the men looked up and said, "That's weird..."

He was pointing at the sky with his beer hand.  We all looked up to see a decidedly out of the ordinary... black, one unit by five (or so) *strip*, or rectangle, about as wide as a little fingernail held at arm's length, and flying through the air diagonally with its airfoil about 40 degrees from its direction of travel!  It was flying about as fast as a small propeller-driven plane!

We were incredulous, our jaws decidedly slackened! As the strange object flew, one of the men remarked that it had very peculiar "position lights." These lights (seven or eight of them) were white flashing strobes running weirdly from wing-tip, down the strange diagonal, to the opposite wing-tip, and then back again like a Pong ball...

There is no aircraft that does that, reader. ...Looks like that. ...Flies like that. ...Has an array of lights operating like that.  ...Flouts aviation conventions like that... There was no evidence of the required red and green "port" and "starboards," and no flashing anti-collision light... No sound... We'd have heard it.

 "Well — it's got to be something..." someone said... it may have even been me, and, with that... ...the object was abruptly forgotten! All three of us returned to the party and the consumption of massive quantities.

"...Ships and shoes... and sealing wax..."

            ...Ex-squeeze me?

Yes. Confronted with the exceptionally bizarre... more distracting beer was called for, and the party continued into the usual drunken mini-brawl for which Army rotary-wing aviators USED to be famous last century... Let me just say here that alcohol precludes the perception of UFOs reader... not the ludicrous inverse.

I didn't remember this occurrence again for almost a decade. ...Was reminded of it only by seeing a similar object in California after I had developed an interest in UFOs upon leaving the Army.

That aforementioned incident occurred at a rubber-powered model airplane flying meet in Northern California up around Anderson. I attended with my late father after I'd retired from the service in 92.  Dozens of us watched a UFO fly by... five times, over a period of a few hours, with fewer and fewer people looking up to watch it traverse with each succeeding pass that it very queerly made!  What's up with that?

There were twenty-five of us, or so, on that Sunday late afternoon to evening... flying model airplanes. It was a scene right out of the fifties.  A smatter of the aforementioned models flown were gas powered, but few of these were flying.  It was rubber powered models folks were flying, generally.  Very quiet.

The evening was très pastoral—no alcohol or drugs.  Club charter; it kept the insurance down. A very gentle breeze was blowing, and far away from city or town, it was as quiet as country can be.  We were indeed the only people for miles around.  The ladies had fixed finger food and old men flew their childhood dreams.  The sky was blue and crystal clear... so sharp it seemed to shine and gleam...

I saw it because I'd developed a subsequent interest in UFOs alluded to previously, and so was, idly, watching the sky.  Verily, if you look, reader, you see.

Next issue:  more Cognitive Dissonance in action, presumptions, assumptions, and resource consumptions, unwelcome distractions, and a hypnotism of insidious inverse: "seeing what's not there" contrasted with "not seeing what is there to be seen"

(1) Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon referring to the stress incurred as a result of 'discrepancy' between what you already know or believe to be true... and some new information or compelling new interpretation of that old information throwing all your certainty into question.  Perceiving startling new evidence that 'black' is really 'white' on any level you care to name.  Good is evil?  Bad, good? Remains the question begs to be asked.