Whether the truth really is "out there" or whether we are all out to lunch, it seems that Canadians have reported a record number of UFO sightings in 2008. Ufology Research, the Winnipeg-based organization that released these findings, claims that this does not necessarily represent extra-terrestrial crafts, but that the rise in sightings of mysterious lights is indicative of increased access to online reporting of such sightings. UFO sightings are often presumed to be military or commercial aircraft or celestial phenomena, but some speculate that a minority of cases of these unidentified flying objects could in fact be evidence of some other life-form cruising Earth's skylines. To be exact, Ufology reported that 1,004 sightings were made by Canadians in 2008. This figure represents a 25 per cent increase from the previous year and the highest number in 20 years.
What made 2008 such a hot year for spotting UFOs? While there are more reporting mechanisms (especially through the Internet) than ever before, one journalist suggested that more people are looking to the heavens, perhaps seeking some spiritual respite from the stresses of these economically challenging times. This theory reminded me of a recent feature in the Calgary Herald on the increasing attendance at Calgary churches. One regular church-goer suggested that the rising number of people attending services had to do with the need for stability and faith, an anchor needed by many in difficult times.
Some people seem to take the advice to "chin up" literally. While some look to the sky as a heavenly sphere and a space for contemplation, perhaps others look to the sky as a reaffirmation of that X-Files-like objectivism that reality exists beyond our experiences-- that our experiences and observations of these UFOs signal that something (whether provocative or pragmatic) is out there. The bottom line is that whether we are looking to the sky for conspiracy theory confirmation, in hope of enlightenment or by virtue of student poverty that forces us to seek out cheap, if not free, entertainment, more eyes seem to be gazing skyward.
This explanation strikes me as somewhat lame, at best. But maybe looking back in time 20 years at what was moving and shaking the world in 1989 could lend some legitimacy here. A little research provided some good indicators that perhaps bleak events in the world do move us to look elsewhere: Chinese authorities take a hard line on civil disobedience, ordering the massacre of thousands of student protestors in Tiananmen Square, Beijing; George Bush Senior is inaugurated as the 41st President of the United States (that's reason to seek rescue by other life-forms from militant American Foreign Policy); the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran places a bounty on the head of author Salman Rushdie following the release of his controversial novel, The Satanic Verses.
The best I can do is to answer all of these questions with another question; one asked so simply by Kermit the Frog: "What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing and what do we think we might see?"