Meet Ali Free
Hello everybody, I’m Ali. I read a lot of blogs regularly (too many, really, for the health of my eyes and grades) but, oddly, this is the first time I’m doing one myself. As a young adult and a burgeoning activist, I’m very pleased to have been invited to participate. I feel that this will give a space share my thoughts and to grow as an atheist, a writer, and a general thinking-person. Where to start? The beginning, I guess. I’m thinking this and maybe the next few will focus on my development in a godless household.
When I was 10 or so, I fell briefly, passionately in love with the field of cryptozoology. Cryptozoology, if you don’t know, is a pseudoscience dealing with imaginary creatures like Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster. I prefer its literal Greek translation, though, for its optimism: “study of hidden animals.” I thought that was pretty much the coolest stuff ever. I mean, an ancient hidden tunnel underneath Loch Ness? Wild, secretive anomalies of evolution wandering our world? To a geeky little kid, there are few things cooler. I was dead set on being a cryptozoologist when I grew up (which prompted quite a few of those horrible “you want to be a what? A what? What’s that? Oh…okay” reactions from adults), and I fantasized about somehow stealing this one particular book on the subject from the library so I could keep it forever. It had so many great stories! And information (sort of)! And colored pictures!
Did I really believe it? I don’t know for sure; both my memory and the concept of belief itself are a bit vague. I know I didn’t believe in the fairies and the moth-men and really a lot of the other stuff that was in that book. But the Loch Ness Monster and a few of the others? I wanted to believe so badly and I loved the idea so much that I probably did.
I remember my mom was a bit puzzled on how to deal with this. I was lucky enough to grow up in one of those lovely families where knowledge is pursued, interests delved into, and questions (mostly) patiently answered. What to do, then, when your kid starts going wild over something patently ridiculous? I love her response because it embodies her signature practicality. “Honey, that job doesn’t exist. There aren’t any paid cryptozoologists. They may write books and appear on the history channel, but that’s not a real field of study.” She probably wanted me to stop telling people I wanted to be one when I grew up, because, as so often in my life, it was just weird. Not really a cute weird, just weird.(My stepdad, who works for the public library, was mainly concerned about my not stealing the book.)
BUT ISN’T IT COOL LIKE THEY’RE PROBABLY THERE WE JUST HAVEN’T SEEN THEM YET THAT’S SO AWESOME I’LL FIND THEM YOU’LL SEE!
“Ali,” she said, and I’m of course paraphrasing, “there are a lot of people in this country who live in forests or around them. There are a lot of people who look for Sasquatch, as well as scientists who study forests and ecosystems. If there was such a thing as a gigantic ape-man, there would have been actual evidence. If these pictures and sightings were real, scientists would have found something.”
I slipped out of that little obsession shortly after. She was right, after all. My mom has the especially irritating habit of actually being right most of the time.
I suppose that laid a lot of the foundation for my eventual atheism. Though I was too young to fully articulate it, my mom and my stepdad indirectly taught me the difference between evidence and “evidence,” that science is to be generally trusted, and that personal sightings or desires to believe are not. Consciously or not, I’ve applied those concepts to much of my life. It made it easy that I was raised secular and atheism was a natural next step. I wonder now what would have happened had I gone through a similar phase but with, say, Christianity. My bet is that my parents would have reacted a similar way. There is such a thing as truth, and while some things are fun to think about, they remain just that and nothing more.
I wasn’t too young to be disappointed in the death of my mysterious, mythical creatures. I’m not now.
There are a lot of things that I think would be fascinating (if not necessarily good) if they were real. I’ve gotten into quite a few conspiracy theories over my short few years, and I’ll probably continue to read about them. I’ve even flirted with the ideas of a god and heaven and reincarnation at one time or another.
But just because you want it to be true, and just because there are books and “experts” on the subject who appear on such misleadingly-titled media like The History Channel, that absolutely doesn’t mean that it is.
I’m telling you, though. I would be so f’in happy if there really was an ancient Loch Ness monster that lived in secret tunnels. My conclusion has been reached, but really I’m just waiting.