The Immutable Unexplainable

Throughout history humans have sat around campfires telling stories of the ancient ones who first built the stars and the Earth and visited humanity displaying powers that go so far beyond our understanding that they can be described only as gods.  And as the art of storytelling progressed the campfires eventually flickered into electronic computer screens and the stories themselves eventually evolved as well.  But there has been one aspect to the stories that has never changed.  Why are humans so enamored with the concept of the fantastic?

In ancient days the stories of the paranormal generally surrounded fantastic beings and their incredible eccentricity and influence over the world around them.  The heroes and villains were monsters, angels, demons, and sometimes even creatures we would today call Aliens.  And while many of them were easily within the realm of fiction a few stand today as ancient testimony that the universe has always been as bizarre and fantastical as it is today.  Talk of magic was high, and a few of these magical tales were used to describe every day occurrences.  But the greatest stories always held with them a level of mystery more than simple stories.

Take the oldest written story in the history of the human race.  The epic of Gilgamesh included in it elements of the fantastic so incredible they can easily be considered largely fictional today.  And yet there were other elements as well that tell us more about the human condition than any number of non-fictional analysis.  Shakespeare wrote of ghosts in several of his plays, with the most famous likely being the mysterious ghost of Hamlet’s father still pleading for justice in this world.

So why are we so interested in the paranormal?  What about the idea of a world beyond the one we understand excites us so much?  Perhaps we can find clues in the times when these stories were most popular.  In the Spiritualist age of the 1890’s the Fox Sisters brought forth evidence that life beyond the physical realm was not merely left to the realm of the religious.  Their communications with spirits suggested our own world was so widely traveled by the paranormal that at any moment we might find ourselves in the midst of a supernatural convention.  And it came during a time of great scientific enlightenment as well.  Inventions created that decade were quickly changing the landscape and the lives of millions of people worldwide.  And the promise of more changes in the future may have driven thousands (if not millions) to search their own souls for the common thread that connected them with the past.

And let’s not forget the other most popular form of fantastical inquiry.  After the discovery of the atomic bomb and the end of World War II the United States experienced an incredible interest in extraterrestrial visitors.  Much of this may have originated with experiences individual witnesses may have had, but there’s also the possibility an overwhelming amount may have come from something else as well.

So what is the common thread that keeps us coming back to the unexplainable elements of our own universe and seeking the truth?  The real answer may be that it’s just as much a mystery as the unexplainable itself.