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Friday, 13 September 2013

The Mystery of Missing Time

Missing time, the phenomenon often described by those who claim to have been abducted by aliens. Maybe it's the 'flu bug and raging fever I've been fighting for a couple weeks, maybe it was spending three days at the worst of this watching a marathon of History channel programs about UFOs, aliens, and conspiracy theories, whatever it was I got to wondering about the phenomenon...and in particular just how easy it is to misplace great globs of time.

There is a week in January 1987 of which I have no recollection whatsoever. A routine operation which turned out not to be so routine after all, and a hefty bout of viral pneumonia immediately afterward, led to me losing an entire week of my life. I have not just forgotten parts of it. It's not simply that the memories are hazy. They're gone. It's like someone dug into my brain with some kind of memory-wiping device and completely excised that week from existence for me. Of course this isn't a scary memory loss...I know why it happened and I know that I was safe in hospital at the time it was happening. The sheer completeness of the time/memory loss is kind of awe-inspiring though.

Now imagine if you were driving in your car one minute, happily tootling along and very much minding your own...and the next thing you know several hours have passed and can't recall a blessed fucking thing about those hours. That's got to be somewhat peturbing. And it gets worse when no one will believe you.

I can't say that I'm a believer in either extraterrestrial life or that those same ETs come to our planet on a regular basis for the purpose of whisking away Betty from Bumfuck, Idaho for a few hours of intimate probing and ovary-snatching...but I can't say that I disbelieve it either. Call me an open-minded skeptic then. I do know that the human memory is fickle, often untrustworthy, and can be fooled or even wiped with relative ease. There are plenty of drugs can wipe or alter memory, so too can head injuries or fever, or even imbibing a little too much of the fortified wine! Heck, it could be said that we all experience 'missing time' every night to a degree when we go to sleep. So, accepting that lots of people have exprienced a great glob of their time going astray as they have tootled along in their vehicles or whatever is not difficult for me.

An acceptable explanation as to why so many people have had this experience is a little trickier for my open-but-skeptical mind to deal with. Are aliens really snatching human beings away in spaceships? Are our own earthly governments behind it, and if so, why on earth -? Is it some kind of mass hysteria? A global mass hysteria affecting people who don't know each other, who have had no contact with each other, and occurring at varying times? The fact that people are very often alone when the missing time occurs would surely argue against mass hysteria as an explanation? And then there are the recovered memories of many of these abductees...

Memory is tricky too. We humans have an extraordinary ability to wall off those bad memories at which we don't wish to look, and to polish the good memories until they shine with a brilliance which the actual events probably did not possess. When we witness an event, many factors can influence how we view it and how we recall it later on - time since the event, our physical perception of it, our particular psychological makeup, and even time of day and lighting all play a part. No wonder then that our memories of events can be so easily influenced and often distorted. How far then can we trust memory under the best of conditions? When a great glob of time - and the memory of what occurred within that time - has departed our halls of recollection how much less trustworthy will be anything we may subsequently recall? But just because memories might be patchy or subject to outside influences, does not necessarily make what is recalled completely false, especially if there should be independent corroborating evidence to support what is recalled. Whether weird, inexplicable objects found embedded under the skin of alleged abductees constitutes independent corroborating evidence or not very much depends upon whether you are a UFO/ET believer or skeptic, I suppose...

Time spent with the aliens just melts away...