Turn on, tune in, heal yourself

When I first tried psychedelics in the 1970s, I wasn’t trying to heal myself. I was curious to find out how psychedelics, including LSD and “magic” mushrooms, could alter my consciousness.

image: New Scientist

My trip into hallucinogenic world of psychedelics wasn’t as studious as Aldous Huxley’s. He took notes as he journeyed into a state of altered perception. In his book, The Doors of Perception, he says:

“Half an hour after swallowing the drug I became aware of a slow dance of golden lights . . .”

That’s pretty much the way my experience went. It wasn’t always a joy ride –not something you tried casually. It required commitment and was truly a “trip.” Once you stepped onto that path, more like a conveyor belt, there was no turning back at for many hours.

“Turn on, tune in, drop out” was a phrase first popularized by Timothy Leary in 1966. He was a promoter of psychedelics as part of the hippy counterculture. Leary borrowed the phrase from the Canadian media guru, Marshall McLuhan.

Regrettably, after psychedelics became “recreational drugs,” they were made illegal. That’s when serious investigation into the medicinal applications of that family of drugs stopped.

One of those early studies in the 1950s was at the Saskatchewan Mental Hospital in Weyburn. That’s when the term “psychedelic” was first coined.   Saskatchewan was home to some of the most important psychedelic research in the world at the time. Treating patients with a single dose of psychedelic was seen as an attractive, cost-effective approach. It fit with the goals of a new, publicly funded health-care system started by Saskatchewan’s new premier, Tommy Douglas. The treatment was aimed at restoring health and autonomy to patients who had long been confined to asylums.

Since then, the prohibition of drugs has been a disaster. Instead of limiting drug use, making them illegal under the criminal code has increased the use of unregulated, contaminated and dangerous street drugs. This is especially true of synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl.

The trouble with opioids is that they are addictive with ever-increasing doses.

Now that the hippy era just a nostalgic memory and acid trips are no longer in vogue, the medical uses of psychedelics are being investigated again.

Health Canada has only approved psilocybin treatment for people in palliative care. The Vancouver Island based company, Numinus Wellness, is one of many who are looking go beyond that to the treatment of mental illness, addiction and trauma. Dr. Evan Wood, chief medical officer at Numinus says:

“With one in five Canadians currently grappling with debilitating mental-health conditions, we can’t afford not to look at psilocybin seriously (Globe and Mail, Sept. 4, 2021).”

The pandemic has further increased the incidence of mental illness.

The difference between using opioids versus psychedelics is that one or two treatments of psychedelics can completely change your view of reality.

“A session with psilocybin seems to disrupt this network,” adds Wood, “reset it and decrease its activity, thus alleviating the symptoms. The changes it appears to be bringing about with people are really profound. It gets at the root of what’s driving people to these mental disorders. Instead of giving them chemicals that numb those feelings, these treatments help you put that trauma behind you.”

Doctors’ cozy club limits our health care system

Canada doesn’t have a shortage of doctors; we have a closed shop that prevents foreign-trained doctors from practicing. The medical establishment prevents them from relieving our doctor shortage.

Image Stat News

About 5 million Canadians don’t have a regular family doctor. As a result, hospital wait times continue to grow. One study revealed that Canada has fewer physicians per capita than comparable nations: 2.7 per 1,000 people.

That puts us at 26th in countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

It’s not a lack of trying from foreign-trained doctors. They spend thousands of dollars to become certified as doctors.

To become licensed in Canada involves verifying one’s medical degree and previous practical experience, passing a language-proficiency test, and completing a Canadian medical residency or practicum. This can take up to a decade to complete and can cost as much as $28,000, including lost income from when they could be working.

Despite the effort, about one-half of the 1,000 doctors who immigrate to Canada every year abandon their medical careers (Walrus, May, 2021).

Doctors are retiring at an alarming rate. By 2026, 20 percent of Canada’s doctors will be 65 or older, according to the Canadian Medical Association.

The medical establishment ensures that Canada is short of doctors. The number of residencies for foreign-trained doctors is limited. And even when a foreign-trained doctor gets one of the rare positions, the chances of getting a license is low. Last year, Ontario had licensed only about two dozen spots — a negligible sum in a province with 31,500 practising physicians. British Columbia licensed zero.

The method of determining the number of residency positions is arcane. According to the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, “Provincial and territorial Ministries of Health determine the total number of residency positions available, the specialties in which they are available, and the proportion open to CMGs [Canadian medical graduates] versus [foreign-trained doctors].”

Investigative reporter for the Walrus, Jagdeesh Mann, attempted to find out how the quotas are calculated in B.C.:

“But attempting to understand how exactly quotas are calculated each year in B.C., for example, proved to be Kafkaesque. Starting from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., I was redirected to CaRMS and the University of British Columbia, then to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, and finally to B.C.’s Ministry of Health.”

Meanwhile, the already limited number of residency spots granted to foreign-trained doctors has declined since 2013.

The problem is about to get worse. By 2026, 20 percent of Canada’s doctors will be 65 or older, according to the Canadian Medical Association. Many doctors will be retiring soon.

When my doctor retired two years ago, I went without a doctor for over a year. I only got one after a referral from a friend.

The medical establishment is racist. Of the residencies that did go to foreign-trained doctors, most went to doctors from Europe. Only 15 percent went to those from Asia and another 15 percent to Africa. This, despite the fact that many immigrants would like to have doctors who are familiar with their customs and language.

Doctors hold a lot of power in determining the number of residencies. A doctor shortage ensures that they are in demand but they could loosen their grip on the number of foreign-trained doctors without damaging their fragile egos.

The new threat to health care is not privatization, it’s viral

The COVID pandemic has gone viral. I don’t mean the Delta variant. I mean the mania created by antivaxxers who have whipped up opposition to panic levels.

Potesters in front of Kamloops hospital image: CFJC Today

Antivaxxers are angry over their perceived loss of rights. At a Trudeau rally in Bolton, Ontario on Aug 27, 2021, dozens of protesters, some holding babies, shouted expletives, waved middle fingers, and made references to Nazis over megaphones. The rally was cancelled over safety concerns.

The viral nature of antivaxxers is not even about the disease –it’s about their purported rights and freedoms. Their rights are being infringed, they claim. They have the constitutional right to infect others with a potentially deadly disease because they selfishly refuse to be vaccinated.  

That’s the nature of viral crazes –they’re irrational.

Antivaxxers are mad as hell at the B.C. government for introducing vaccine cards. Some business owners have threatened not to screen customers for the card. But if they thought about it, they’d realize that customers are less likely to enter their premises if their health is at risk.

To be clear, I’m not saying that those who haven’t yet been vaccinated are antivaxxers. Most of the unvaccinated are not against the jab, they just haven’t found the time or motivation. Motivation was provided with the announcement of vaccine cards and vaccination clinics are suddenly busy.

In an attempt to invent a reason to call an election, Prime Minister Trudeau is trying scare voters into believing that the Conservatives will put an end to our cherished public health care system. He defended a tweet in his deputy prime minister that painted Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole as an advocate for private health care.

Twitter marked Trudeau’s retweet of the edited video of O’Toole as ‘Manipulated media.’

What O’Toole actually said was that that he wanted to find public-private synergies. Later, he said that he “100 per cent” supports the public and universal system and pointed to a promised $60 billion in health funding in his platform.

Nice try Prime Minister, but the immediate threat is not privatization but burnout of health care workers. Yes, privatization is a perennial threat but the urgent threat is the fatigue experienced by health care workers.

Nurses are suffering from burnout and frustration. They are tired of caring for COVID infected people who refuse to get vaccinated. Patients get sick from a preventable disease and then look for sympathetic treatment. Nurses are leaving Royal Inland Hospital at alarming rates.

However, the viral mania seems to have spread to some nurses as well. 

A group called “Canadian Frontline Nurses (CFN)” is advertising protests against vaccine mandates, which are slated to take place at Kelowna General Hospital, Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, and other cities across the country. The CFN website states their mission:

“To restore our freedoms and rights as Canadian citizens and reinstate the four ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice within nursing.”

A Royal Inland Hospital nurse told iNFOnews.ca that she is concerned about protests in front of the hospital.

Instead of investing reasons for an election, that is nothing but a power grab, Trudeau should address the immediate problems of our health care system.

How do you feel after starting a disastrous wildfire?

People start most wildfires according to BC Wildfire Service. Few admit it.

image: New York Times

They must feel awful. Their carelessness caused people to flee for their lives. Livestock and wildlife were killed. People homes destroyed. Smoke from the fires left lives compromised.

You probably didn’t mean to start the fire –it just got away on you. You were just doing things you normally do when fire risks are low, like burning garden waste or lighting a campfire.

Colton Davies, reporter for Kamloops RadioNL, tweeted that the largest fires this year were probably human caused:

“The 6 largest fires in BC this year have burned 422,000 hectares. Five were likely human caused: Sparks Lake (95,980 hectares), White Rock Lake (81,139), Lytton Creek (71,323), Tremont Creek (63,980), McKay Creek (41,110). All broke out on clear days with no lightning.”

People are angry at you for starting those fires. They want you to be held accountable. Jean Mitchell tweeted a reply to Davies:

“Thx 4 this compiled info, Colt @ColtonDavies. More & more I feel that Canadian Forces Technology could & should play a more significant role sooner than later in finding these culprits & holding them accountable. It’s well known that Armed Forces have a wealth of high tech savvy [Thumbs up icon].”

Lytton resident, Carel Moiseiwitsch, can’t believe that someone from her own town started a fire that incinerated her home and sent townspeople fleeing with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Instead, Moiseiwitsch wants to sue Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway – alleging the heat or sparks of a passing freight train caused the destructive blaze.

However, a Spokesperson from CN says that: “any conclusions or speculation regarding any cause of the Lytton fire or contribution factor remains premature.” CP says that video of a train with burning material purported to be the cause of the Lytton fire was nowhere near the town.

Fire information officer Erika Berg from BC Wildfire Service suspects that the Lytton fire came from within the Village:

“It is suspected to be human-caused, but that specific cause remains to be determined,” she said.

How could you live with yourself knowing you caused such devastation? Do you have the courage to admit that you did?

Mike Barre had such courage but he paid a price.

In the wildfires of 2003 that ripped through the North Thompson valley, Barre admitted to dropping a cigarette near McLure that started a fire that ravaged the area.

Barre had to live with the fact it was his cigarette that sparked the 26,420-hectare forest fire that burned 72 homes and nine businesses and forced the evacuation of 3,800 people, many of them twice.

“I went through hell,” Barre told The Kamloops Daily News a decade later (July 27, 2013).

His family paid the price as well; his son harassed by other kids. While the community forgave him, he divorced and finally moved away.

You know who you are. Why not clear your conscience and admit that you started a wildfire? It could lead to your redemption.

It will be painful at first but your admission could be instructive for future generations. With hot and tinder dry conditions forecast, your story could form the basis of a shift in our habits and the way that we live in our beautiful forests.  

Attitude adjustment would solve our homeless problem

Our attitude towards the homeless is a barrier to solving the problem. The old notion is that the poor deserve to be so:  if people would just apply themselves, they wouldn’t be homeless.

image: KamloopsThis Week

Finland’s experience shows how a shift in attitude makes a difference.

In 1987, Finland had a homeless population of about 20,000 out of a population of five million –a rate of four homeless per thousand.

To address the problem, Finland adopted a “Housing First” philosophy, said Juha Kaakinen (Globe and Mail, August 13, 2021).

 Kaakinen, chief executive officer of Finland’s non-profit Y-Foundation, was addressing a panel convened by The Canadian Urban Institute.

Another panelist, Leilani Farha, said that part of Finland’s success is the result of shift in mindset. For Finns, homelessness is not an option.

“People have a right to housing as part of their constitution.” said Farha,

Finland’s solved the problem with a partnership between federal and state governments, lottery corporations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The Y-Foundation, a non-profit organization, started buying private apartments in 1985 with grants obtained from the government run Finland Slot Machine Association.

In turn, the Y-Foundation subleased the apartments out to municipalities and NGOs. The rent plus the grants paid for the apartments.

Finland’s homeless rate is now one-fifth of what it was.

It’s tempting to think of housing the homeless as an expense when, in fact, it’s savings. Housing for all everyone has proven to be the most effective remedy for improving lives and saving money.

A study published by Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009 found that costs to Seattle’s public health system dropped by 60 per cent in the first six months after chronically homeless people with severe alcoholism were found homes.

Canada is not beyond hope. Our homeless rate is just above what Finland’s was in 1987 –about six homeless per thousand.

All levels of government are working on the problem.

The City of Kamloops’ Affordable Housing Reserve Fund allows for up to $150,000 per project for low income earners.

The B.C. government built 3,200 new affordable housing units last year and more are being built this year. (Full disclosure: I am the president of a non-profit organization that will take possession of the largest project in the interior built by BC Housing, opening in downtown Kamloops this fall.)

The federal government is working with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to build affordable housing. This year’s federal budget provides an additional $2.5 billion over seven years to CMHC.

Dignity and financial security are restored when the homeless are given homes.

Tina Dawson, 52, from Victoria, told the Institute’s panel about being homeless for first-time in the past year:

“Being newly homeless, I am gob-smacked at the way things are out of sight, out-of-mind, and the machine that is in place to keep people homeless. How on earth am I going to get out of this position? I’ve managed my entire life. I’ve raised three children. And I have no address. The problem is [putting together] the damage deposit. I’m on permanent disability. That’s hand to mouth.”

Those who work full-time at minimum wage jobs should be able to afford a place to live.

Surely that’s not too much of an adjustment in attitude to make.

The fungus among us: the next pandemic

I thought we were friends. You help me make beer, wine, bread and kombucha.

We help you spread your spores by clearing land for crops and housing. We warm the climate to make it comfortable for you to grow. You happily hitchhike around the world on goods and animals.

Every day, every person on the planet inhales at least 1,000 fungal spores.

Sure, you can be irritating at times with your fungal skin infections. You bug us with your athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm, and yeast infections.

But now you are turning deadly. What gives?

Up until now, doctors have considered Valley Fever an exotic “desert disease” confined to California, Arizona, the southern tip of Nevada, New Mexico and west Texas.

Now Valley Fever, caused by Coccidioides, is on the move. It regularly infects about 150,000 a year in the desert and it’s now moving north. With soil becoming drier due to climate change, Coccidioides spores are blowing in the wind and infecting people in Washington State (Scientific American, June, 2021).

While no statistics are available for Canada, Coccidioides has likely moved into B.C.’s southern desert interior.

When those spores are inhaled, they can migrate from the lungs into the bloodstream, and from there to the skull and spine. The lungs react by producing scar tissue that stiffen and block the lungs, reducing breathing capacity. Masses can form around organs and the membranes around the brain, causing death.

Because infections have been relatively rare until now, there are few antifungal treatments. Also, they are difficult to design because fungal and humans human cells are so similar. It’s challenging to create a drug that can kill them without killing us, too.

The yeast-like fungus, Candida auris, was virtually unknown until 2009. Since then, there have been outbreaks of infection in hospitals and long-term care facilities in Canada and around the world. Most infections occur in patients with weakened immune systems: those receiving chemotherapy or surgery and who are on large intravenous lines.

Former president of the Canadian Infectious Disease Society, Dr. John Conly, says that we have been ignoring the growing multidrug-resistance of C. Auris for decades.

“The ball was dropped for many years,” says Conly. He likens antimicrobial resistance to climate change as: “a slow-moving tsunami.”

The COVID pandemic brought on new opportunities for C. Auris. In the frantic interventions to save patients from the coronavirus –such as ventilators, immune-damping drugs, broad-spectrum antibiotics- patients are left vulnerable to the fungus.

In the chaos of the pandemic, few statistics of infection were kept. But a report from New Delhi found that two thirds of the patients who contracted C. Auris died after they were admitted to hospital with COVID.

Another so-called friend is revealing its malevolence.  On its good side, Aspergillus fumigatus serves as a clean-up crew. It encourages the decay of vegetation in the composting process.

One its evil side, Aspergillus causes of an opportunistic infection spawned when someone with a compromised immune system cannot sweep away its spores. In people who are already ill, the mortality rate of Aspergillus is near 100 percent.

Aspergillus can invade organs and the blood stream, including the brain. Professor Kieren Marr of Johns Hopkins Medical Center says:“This is bad. Aspergillus is more important in COVID right now than C. auris. Without a doubt.”

Fungi are woven into our lives, our environments and our bodies.  

Can’t we continue to be friends?

Trump’s great idea: rake the forests floors clean

Former President Trump has come up with another great idea. Everyone agrees that the source of wildfires is the buildup of flammable materials on the forest floor, so the obvious solution is to clean it up.

“I see again the forest fires are starting,” Trump told a rally in Pennsylvania. “They’re starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”

Well, duh. With B.C.’s forests littered with flammable materials, just clean them up.

Trump is very wise. He listens to world leaders. Trump said: “I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have, much different, we are a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”

The Finns are so negative, people like Malla Hadley who tweeted: “I grew up in Finland. a) it rains all year round. b) we have a lengthy and cold winter. c) Finland is a sparsely populated country with just over 5mil ppl, with land size ~3/4 of CA and most of it forests and lakes. d) no friggin body is raking the forests.”

But why not accept great ideas? Make Canada Rake Again!

Get the school kids out of their stuffy classrooms and into the forests this winter with their rakes. Let them commune with nature in a productive way.

Hard work builds character, contributes to success, and promotes happiness. Once the kids lift their faces from their screens, they will be liberated by a work ethic.

Giving kids trophies and high grades without effort has negative effects. When kids are rewarded without making the effort, it reduces confidence, promotes dependency, and robs them of their personal dignity.

It takes the right person to set up these work camps for kids, someone with the moral authority and integrity of Donald Trump. Since the former president is busy restoring the once great Republican Party, we’ll have to find someone in Canada.

That person is Maxime Bernier, leader of People’s Party Of Canada.

Bernier can set kids straight on role models. We certainly don’t want kids following wimpy young people like Greta Thunberg. Of her, Bernier tweeted: ”@GretaThunberg is clearly mentally unstable. Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear.”

Environmentalists plan to radically transform our society through hysterical fear that the end of the world is coming. We must defend our freedom to burn fossil fuel and preserve our way of life.

Bernier’s work camps for kids would instill pride in the way that Canada was before the immigration of non-whites. But, in a demonstration of magnanimity, there would be camps for white kids and camps for non-white kids.

Songs would be composed for the kids to sing while raking the forests, songs of the glory of the Aryan race.

Kids would carry little red books with the sayings of their great leader, Maxime Bernier. In quiet times of contemplation, they would be inspired by the truths within.

Don’t confuse all the homeless with Kamloops’ street menagerie

A few deranged, mentally ill and brain-addled addicts on Kamloops’ streets get a lot of attention. But don’t label all the homeless as troublemakers.

Image: Mel Rothenburger, Kamloops

Kamloops RCMP superintendent Syd Lecky shares in the frustration of residents and business owners who notice the same people committing crimes repeatedly.

“When you have them back on the street in a short period of time, it is frustrating,” said Lecky. “And it does challenge us in terms of being able to manage the risk… whether the risk for these offenders to continue offending, whether it be violence or property crime. It’s really going to create some pressure on us to be able to put an end to that.”

Some of the homeless are just regular folk who choose to live outdoors. I get that.

I first met my neighbour Paul when he was living in a river bank one block from my house in Westsyde. I say “my neighbour” because, except that he lived outside, he was friendlier than some of my neighbours.

Although he lived nearby, Paul was hard to find.

I discovered his campsite when I noticed that the grass had been disturbed down a steep river bank. Curious, I carefully descended the bank and found myself in an almost impenetrable thicket.

A voice came from my left: “Come around this way, it’s easier,” as he welcomed me to his humble abode. Paul, in his forties, had notched a level spot in the river bank and strung a tarp over his shelter; his modest belongings arranged around him. He introduced himself and I sat down to chat.

Years ago, Paul had been a sheltered neighbour just a few blocks away. After his divorce, he lost his house and wandered around from town to town before returning to Kamloops. He was outgoing and happy to tell me his life story. We exchanged cell phone numbers and I left.

When I went back a few months later, Paul was gone.

I understand the appeal of living outside. When I hitchhiked in Australia, I used to set up camp in the bush near small towns. I’d walk into town; my gear stowed in what I hoped would be in an undetected spot.

It was a great way to travel. I’d buy groceries and hang out with locals in the pub.

However, being homeless and living on the street is not so idyllic. It can be a living hell. According to the most recent survey of Kamloops’ homeless, 40 per cent of those surveyed were first homeless from ages 10 to 19. Many of those “aged out” of foster care with few survival skills.

Almost one-half of respondents indentified as indigenous.

Not only do many of these teenagers have few life skills, they can have disabilities such as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). That leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous individuals. They become a resource in the quagmire of street life; in prostitution and dealing drugs.

For indigenous street people who have aged out of the foster care system, the loss of identity is debilitating. They are doubly resentful of a system that is rigged against them –stripped of their culture and exploited by a toxic street culture.

If young people weren’t mentally ill and addicted to begin with, the gritty street life will soon make them so.

Regrettably, low-cost housing will not solve their devastating problems. At one time they might have been cared for in institutions such as Tranquille.

Now their future looks bleak.

We are being tested by smoke, fire, heat and disease

As we emerge from the pandemic, Kamloopsians expect that summer, especially this summer, will be liberating.

image: Globe and Mail

After being cooped up all winter, carefully  cloistering ourselves and observing ceremonial cleansing, we look forward to being outside, basking in the glory of Kamloops’ legendary heat.

But this summer, the heat is oppressive. And like the pandemic, the smoke keeps us indoors. Now all we want to do is seek the refuge of an air conditioned shelter.

It all tests our resiliency and takes its toll on our psyche.

Instead of being rewarded for our good hygiene in fighting the pandemic, we are stuck inside as thick smoke from wildfires that blanket the city.

When you’re choking on smoke and your eyes are watering, it’s bad for your physical health to be outside. And it’s bad for your mental health to be inside.

We imagined that the “new normal” will be adjusting to a world in which most people are vaccinated and COVID-19 is just another bug in the cast of flu characters.

But our new normal will have to include hotter summers, wildfires and smoke. The areas burned will become even greater.

The area burned by wildfires in Canada has doubled since the early 1970s, says Dr. Mike Flannigan, research chair for fire science at Thompson Rivers University.

And it’s only going to get worse, says Flannigan, – it’s just a matter of how much worse. Modest predictive modelling suggests the area burned in Canada will double again by the end of the century; more aggressive modelling predicts an increase by 11 times.

We are getting familiar with the measurement of the smoke hazard –just how bad is it? The hazard is measured by the weight of smoke particles in a certain volume of air; specifically, the weight of PM2.5 particles in micrograms per cubic metre.

What makes the PM2.5 particles so potent is that they can affect every organ in the body, not just the lungs.

Sarah Henderson, scientific director in environmental health services at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, says that the particles are dangerous long before you can smell and taste the smoke. At levels of only 30 micrograms per cubic metre, adverse reactions begin:

“When it looks really bad, people think it is really bad,” she said. “But it becomes unhealthy long before it looks terrible. The immunological response ends up causing inflammation, and that inflammation is systemic.”

Concerned about the smoke hazard, I recently installed an air sensor, made by Purple Air, in my house. While the weekly average reading has been nine micrograms per cubic metre, which is safe, sometimes it peaks at over 50.

George Bonanno, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, has studied people’s resiliency in the aftermath of hurricanes, terrorist attacks, life-threatening injuries and epidemics such as the 2003 SARS outbreak.

Bonanno’s research shows three common psychological responses to hardship. Two thirds of people are resilient and maintain relatively stable psychological and physical health. About 25 percent struggle temporarily with psychopathology such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder and then recover. And 10 percent suffer lasting psychological distress.

We are being tested on a number of fronts. Physical and mental illnesses are not a sign of weakness –they provide an occasion for everyone to rise to the challenge, to draw closer together and support those in need.

I believe you, UFO witnesses

For some inexplicable reason, the pandemic has generated increased numbers of UFO sightings. According to Ufology Research, sightings of levitating discs, erratic spaceships and floating triangular objects increased by 46 per cent in 2020 in Canada.

image: Scientific American Blogs

Eyewitness accounts from people who see Unidentified Flying Objects are often met with disbelief. Their sanity questioned.

I believe such reports because they come from ordinary people who are often trained observers. They have nothing to gain from reporting the sightings. It takes courage to report something strange in the face of ridicule.

The interpretation of what’s being reported varies over time.

During World War One, unusual sightings were assumed to be enemy craft. Allied pilots viewed strange objects which followed their aircraft and called them “foo fighters”.

The current portrayal of UFOs is relatively recent. The description of a ‘flying saucer’ became popular after pilot Kenneth Arnold saw nine glittering craft flying over Mount Rainier, Washington in 1947. He described them as thin, nickel plated, tailless, pie plate shaped objects with a convex triangular rear section.

Soon, everyone was interpreting what they saw as flying saucers.

Seeing a UFO is more than just a visual experience.  It is accompanied by a sense of awe and wonder. Author Andrew Pyper and a friend were sitting around a campfire in Ontario last summer there was a moment of what he described as “strangeness” followed by a flash of light. He and a friend saw:

“An orb. Roughly triple the size of Mars or Venus in relative terms of planets or stars you can see at night. Its light varied without sequence or rhythm, shifting on a spectrum between near-darkness and brief, explosive pulses. It was round, but bulged at its edges from time to time, suggesting the elastic, organic.”

The whole experience left him with “The sensation of being brought to the edge of an enormous revelation.”

For others, the experience goes beyond one of awe and wonder to one of abduction by the UFO.

I just finished re-watching an old movie Fire in the Sky. It’s a movie made from a book by Travis Walton in which he tells of his terrifying abduction by aliens.

Walton and five crew members were returning from a day’s work clearing brush in Arizona when they saw a glowing light in the forest. They first though it was a fire. As they came closer, they saw a saucer-shaped object hovering above the ground about 110 feet away.

Walton got out of the truck to investigate and was struck by a beam of light that knocked him unconscious.

Walton said that he awoke in a hospital-like room, being observed by three short, bald creatures. He fought with them until a human wearing a helmet led Walton to another room, where he blacked out as three other humans put a clear plastic mask over his face and examined him.

After a search failed to find Walton, he was found walking along a highway five days later.

While I believe Walton was telling the truth, I doubt that he was abducted by aliens.

It seems to me that something profound happened to Walton. In a different time, the experience might be told in a language of the day –perhaps as a visitation of angels.

Witnesses of extraordinary phenomena should be believed and supported. They are not crackpots. What should be doubted is the interpretation of what they experienced. That will be viewed in the framework of current myths and legends.