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Feeling My Way To An Answer

The interview with Owl Guy on Oh No Ross And Carrie podcast has bothered me for a long time.

The interview itself wasn't bad. A guy who claimed owls had something to do with aliens got to explain the speech he gave at a UFO convention about his theory to the hosts, who had already seen and commented on the presentation. It wasn't completely collegial: the hosts had thought his methods more amusing than anything else, and that made him a little defensive. Still, it was more or less friendly and productive.

It was Owl Guy who stuck in my craw. His history and his parting shot caused me a lot of teeth gnashing and irritation.


Originally, Owl Guy was a travel writer. He wrote useful books about where to find good hiking trails and restaurants. Somewhere along the line he got the idea that owls had some wondrous something with aliens and sent out an email to all his equally woo-filled friends to send him stories about times they had mystical experiences with owls/aliens. He wrote a book filled with that and other instances of owls being important somehow, and then eventually he wound up giving talks about his theory at UFO conventions.

Problems I Have With His History

So, Owl Guy, you were writing a genre that requires research, can be fact-checked, and takes some time to write properly. Now, you write a genre that has zero facts to check, is 'researched' by combing the world for instances of the world 'owl,' and can be whipped out for an uncritical audience in record time. I see what you did there, and I am not impressed. As a lazy bitch who would love an easy money-making scheme, I know my own.

He did a whole song and dance about all these deep experiences he had confirming his theory, and I will buy that he thinks he's on to something. I will really buy that he felt moved and spiritually broadened by his journey in researching this. But I think he would find these things a little more mundane and unenlightening if it wasn't raking in money for him with minimal effort on his part.

Mental Masturbation (In Public, No Less)

I think I found the above term somewhere else, but it kept popping into my head as I listened to the interview. His idea is the philosophical equivalent of masturbation. You stimulate the God-gene G-spot without doing any of the work that would make it really satisfying. I'll modify that: it's bad masturbation done for relief without even some warming up.

The idea that owls and aliens have some kind of connection is one that isn't falsifiable. It's too vague an idea to present a question that could be proven or disproven. At most, he's saying he likes owls ad nauseam. So, according to Karl Popper, it's not a scientific question. It's not really philosophy or religion, either. He doesn't work out implications, explore what that means in the real world in our day-to-day lives, or try to figure out what exactly he finds so fascinating about the owl-alien connection. It's all just really 'meaningful' and 'connected,' according to him. Connected with what? Meaningful to who, and in what way? Doesn't matter to Owl Guy. He's too busy climaxing over his feelings.

Parting Shot

When the hosts let Owl Guy give his final piece, he said he wanted people to experience more wonder and that was important. Carrie's rejoinder was that she and Ross also wanted people to feel wonder- just from science. I rather thought she missed the point.

No, I take it back.

She failed to nail him down for his real reasons and follow this new motive of his. And it was new. He had been giving a pretty standard patter about how he really believed owls had some connection to aliens and that was why he had written his book and went around giving these presentations. I don't think there was any attempt to really dig in past this.

But now I think we really missed the interview that could have made him squirm. He said he was inducing wonder in people with his connect-the-dots presentations. But his wonder is the cheap, shallow 'ah' feeling, not the deep, abiding sense of awe that comes from discovery.

I think now I have this bone to pick with him. I could get that quick 'ooh, ahhh' feeling going outside and staring up at the stars on a clear night, or reading some short account of a survivor of a tragedy.

I will say this for his wonder. Like getting off quickly once in a while, the cheap feels has its place. Mostly, it belongs in entertainment. Movies, music, books and all the other media are sometimes at their best when they are the trashy fun, no-thinky feeling-all-the-feels sensation-packed pieces of art.

Of course, most art and entertainment tries to build on that a little to give a bit more satisfaction. There is some work done to engage the mind a little, round out the experience, and give audiences something to remember. Say you have a story aimed at middle-aged women. The go-to emotional note is going to be someone going into labor or losing a kid. You don't have to do a lot of leg work to catch the audience's interest if you do that in a scene. But if you don't give it some point or context, you will eventually lose their attention. You gave them the titillation, but they had to move on because there just wasn't anything else there and the novelty quickly becomes the dull normalcy. The trashy-fun novel rounds it out a bit so the readers have some deeper connection and feeling. The sensation of 'oh, I empathize,' is compounded and broadened with 'oh, this is connected to me and to the world around me.' Owl Guy is providing the equivalent of a minute-long video of a random stranger giving birth. After a second, who cares? The wonder is gone because it doesn't have any connection to you or any deeper meaning.

If he wanted to help people achieve wonder, he could have opened a meditation center and gave visitors owl-themed mantras. He could have gone deep into various philosophical schools and worked out a meaning. But that would have required work and interfered with the quick, easy money flowing from aging hippies to his bank account. They might have to think, and we can't have that, now can we?


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