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Who’s to say?

| Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

While preparing Flaherty Hall for Welcome Week, a fellow member of hall staff asked us if we believed in ghosts or aliens. While most of our hall staff answered ‘yes’ to one of these questions, only two of us answered ‘yes’ to both. Personally, I don’t believe I can discredit the existence of anything that I can’t see because I have no proof that it doesn’t exist. Though I also have no proof that these extraterrestrial beings do exist, I’d rather give them the benefit of the doubt than be unpleasantly surprised when they eventually do find us and make us their minions. In the event that they are not real, my belief in aliens and ghosts isn’t hurting anyone, and there is no shame in having a trivial inclination that the otherworld is closer than we think.

This conversation, however, sparked a recurring discussion I constantly find difficulty having with myself, though I also find it to be an interesting discourse: What is considered “real,” how do we know what is real and who is to say what we don’t perceive is real, isn’t? I am a huge believer that this life is a simulation, but I am also a believer in God, and both of these phenomena lead me to believe and trust in things that I cannot see. I have never seen God before, or at least not in the capacity that a Middle Eastern being in a white cloak and a halo hasn’t descended from the sky any time recently. However, I also have no reason to believe that this experience couldn’t possibly happen at some point in my life or in another life. Sure, we have never seen anyone come down from the stratosphere with a choir of angels before, but who’s to say it couldn’t happen at some point? In addition to my inability to believe that we are simply here on Earth to live and die and become worm food, I see no reason to not believe that there are outside forces monitoring the ins and outs of our lives as if we were Sims waiting to be tasked with something. Whether this outside force is God or some coalition of life-givers directing the world as we know it, what real evidence is there that any of these things don’t exist? To step into a more spooky realization of our existence, what happens if these things do exist?

On a more tangible scale, so much of what we know to believe is true today has been proven to be at the very least inaccurate, if not flat out wrong. In my previous column “Ask Me About George Washington’s Teeth,” I commented on how much of our American history, specifically the history of civil rights and slavery, are inaccurate and missing volumes upon volumes of information which not only directly correlates to how our country operates and visualizes people of color, but also challenges the narrative of how we chose to repair the damage done to people of color in this country. What was presented in our history classes and textbooks hides countless underlying levels that we as learners are just now discovering and developing. The documentation and knowledge we are learning now might be completely jarring, but what about the texts, literature and history that were destroyed or unable to be saved? What about the languages and cultures we haven’t stumbled across and taken over so that we could narrate their stories as our own? (Colonization, am I right?) What about the civilizations. empires and narratives of people that were not documented and thus have no record of ever existing? Since we have no proof of their existence, at least not yet, how can we say they don’t exist, especially now knowing the small capacity of things we didn’t think existed before?

On an even smaller lens, we ask ourselves these jarring questions in some capacity every day. What is real love? What does it mean to be a good (insert relational human occupation here)? How do I know if I’m doing life right? What if (insert probable experience here) happens? We can give general answers to these questions and similar ones, but ultimately the answers are completely up to us. We perceive these questions however our minds choose to, so there is no singular way to understand them. Therefore, all of our answers will be just as unique, boundless and probably pretty vague. Real love could mean that someone cares about you exponentially, but what does that look like? Most people would simply give up and say “when you know, you know,” but what does that even mean? These questions and answers aren’t concepts we are meant to visualize or completely understand; they just exist, and we leave it up to chance and hope to believe that there is an answer out there somewhere.

I know I probably won’t ever be able to completely verbalize a real answer to these questions in my lifetime, let alone in a 900-word Viewpoint column, and I’ve probably asked several more questions than I have provided answers, but I find that this conversation always challenges, frustrates and inspires me. I am not saying we should start blindly believing in everything that comes our way, especially if there is evidence of its existence or lack thereof. However, the belief in the unknown does provide me with the opportunity to believe in myself, especially when I am unable to see the outcome. Who’s to say I won’t be great at the things I desire and work at? Who am I to say I am incapable of doing something when there is no proof at the present time that I can’t? Whether it’s your belief in Bigfoot or the occupation of your next moment, the perception of the unknown deceptively and interestingly takes up so much of our lives.

Sydni Brooks is a senior studying English and gender studies. She hopes to continue her work in writing and editing in her career while advocating for women’s health issues. She can be reached through her email [email protected] or @sydnimaree22 on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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