Of Love and Saucers – and Myths and Christmas

 

Sex sells, which I suppose is why @ejhill egged me on to write for Ricochet about one David Huggins, an elderly New Jersey man who claims to have long ago lost his virginity to aliens who have been visiting him ever since. (Huggins is the same fellow @majestyk briefly mentioned in his recent piece on UFOs.)

More remarkable than Huggins’s claim that his first girlfriend was an alien named Crescent, or that he served as a stud to sire countless alien progeny, is the fact that Huggins won’t stop painting pictures of it. Yes, Huggins paints alien porn. Alien porn isn’t all he paints – of his hundreds of paintings of encounters with aliens, many, perhaps most, aren’t pornographic. But enough are for one reviewer to dub his oeuvre “the X-rated Files.” Oh, did I mention these paintings are featured in both a coffee-table book and now a documentary movie? The movie, Love and Saucers, is out on DVD just in time to make a last-minute Christmas gift for that hard-to-shop-for relative.

I look at Huggins’s paintings and my first thought is, why? Specifically, what drives a man to make so many oil paintings without, well, becoming a better artist? Many reviewers call the paintings impressionistic or primitivist, but the truth is they’re amateurish, achieving neither realism nor any eye-catching style which would make deviations from realism charming. Oils are a messy medium to master. Painting on canvas is also expensive and bulky – especially when compared to your typical sketchbook. Why oils? The rest of you, though, might wonder less why oils?, and more why aliens?

Those reviewing Love and Saucers note that Huggins doesn’t seem like a con-man, an attention-whore, or mentally unstable. He just seems like an ordinary guy who believes what he believes, and can’t be talked out of it. This reviewer observes,

The quiet, introverted 72-year old New Jersey resident had, for years, lived what many would dub an ordinary life. He was married and had a son. He had a job and artistic talents that he had once hoped to explore professionally. He was a typical family man, until the memories returned. Huggins began to recall a six-year-long sexual relationship he had with a being of another world, which began when he was 17. Until he was in his early twenties, Huggins was routinely visited by unearthly creatures and carried out a lascivious affair with the same female caller. Aside from her above average height, pale face, and large black eyes, she appeared largely humanoid, though her companions were often far less so. As memories of this affair returned to him (and contributed to his subsequent divorce), Huggins felt compelled to capture them in oil, painting dozens if not hundreds of scenes from that six-year period.

Do you notice what I notice? His unearthly memories “returned” as he painted them.

Looking at Huggins’s art, I’m reminded of other – frankly better – artists, many of whom developed an elaborate personal mythology. One of whom was a friend of mine who drew creatures not unlike some that appear in Huggins’s paintings, only better-rendered, and part of a Tolkienesque mythological landscape – that is, fictional, no matter how real his inner mythscape may have felt. In fact, Tolkien himself qualifies as one of these better artists, as anyone who’s seen Tolkien’s illustrations (for example, his delightful Christmas illustrations) can attest: Tolkien never saw a need to commit his illustrations to canvas, but their artistry is obviously superior to Huggins’s work.

When we “see” something, we apprehend it directly, rather than through the pesky filter of words. The mechanically-minded do this all the time. For example, this past weekend, my husband asked me for help on some math, on interpolating a surface between four points. I quickly “saw” a way to do it, finding it fastest to sketch the interpolation I “saw,” leaving words and formulas for later. The mythologically-minded may likewise apprehend myths by “seeing” them. Those of us (at least in the modern world) who apprehend our myths this way are usually well aware we’re doing it with our mind’s eye, not our body’s eye. These are things we “see” because seeing is how we understand them, not because they’re “really happening.”

Tolkien rather famously persuaded CS Lewis that Christianity is true myth. That is, Christianity is a myth – a story humans use to make sense of the world – whose essentials really happened. Christians differ on how much of the story is “essential” – that is, how much of it you have to believe really happened in order to be a proper Christian. I’m a Nicene Christian, so I consider the Nicene Creed a pretty good benchmark: I believe the events described in the Nicene Creed really happened, and I count anyone who believes likewise as an orthodox Christian. Others believe Christians should treat all stories in both the Old and New Testaments as factual in order to be orthodox. The way I see it, though, it matters less, for example, whether the man called Job described in the Book of Job really existed than it does that the Book of Job tells an insightful story about the nature of suffering. While I’d be surprised if several major Bible stories had no historical basis, my faith in Christ’s story does not depend on all portions of the Bible being fact.

It’s even possible – though not orthodox – to consider Christ’s story a vital one despite considering it a fiction. After all, as fans of all sorts of fiction know, good fiction helps us understand the world, despite not being factual. Someone who believed Christ’s story was good fiction – the best fiction – the fiction to live by – wouldn’t be an orthodox Christian but would be Christian in a sense. How, exactly, we’d treat a story as important enough to live by without also treating it as if it were true is an interesting question. In fact, my own conversion consisted of my realizing I found Christ’s story compelling enough to treat as if it really happened.

The larger point, though, is that even orthodox Christians treat Christianity as myth. We think about the Christian story mythically. Its mythology shapes our inner mythscape. The visual thinkers among us “see” Christian mythology in our mind’s eye, come to understand it by picturing it, by personalizing Christian iconography – see, for example, my (admittedly not very original) doodle of peace as the all-consuming fire of the Holy Spirit. We may even experience religious visions, and we don’t have to believe these visions “aren’t imaginary” in order to find them insightful and meaningful. Imagination, after all, is as much a means of God-given understanding as all our other faculties are.

Which brings me back to Mr. Huggins. Huggins is a long-time science-fiction fan, who has collected over 2000 sci-fi films on VHS. It would be natural for Huggins to have a science-fiction-based internal mythology, a mythology which he develops by painting paintings, just as so many others have used illustration to develop their own internal mythscape. What’s odd about Huggins is that he believes the mythology he discovered through his paintings isn’t just mythology, but memories. The same reviewer I quoted above continues,

Huggins doesn’t carry the cross of a man whose life has taken an unwanted and uncontrollable detour; he is simply a man who lost his virginity to an alien and has spent decades painting his affair.

concluding with,

Did he sire half-human progeny in another world? Does it really matter? His beliefs are sincere, and as a result, so too is his art, and everything else is secondary at best.

When you’ve spent so much of your life “remembering” your starring role in alien pornos that it busts up your marriage, your life may not have taken “an unwanted and uncontrollable detour”, but it has taken a turn for the worse. It’s difficult to imagine how Huggins treating these stories as real wouldn’t matter to his family. If we have some choice in which myths we treat as real, then consideration for those around us ought to influence our choice. If you can avoid busting up your marriage by keeping your pornographic myths to yourself, well, maybe that’s something you should consider doing. Of course, this reasoning doesn’t just apply to the pornographic, but to any myth which might seriously disturb the equanimity of those who matter to you. Including political myths.

It’s hard to develop a political perspective without developing a political mythology to go along with it, complete with political villains and heroes. I’m not saying our political mythology is only a fabrication, just that, fabricated or not, political myths matter to us for more than their factual value. In particular, the effect of the political myths we choose to believe on those around us – and especially on those dearest to us – is worth considering. And it’s maybe not the worst thing when we decide to cherish a political myth a little less simply because its effect on those around us is ugly.

Contrary to the quoted reviewer, it’s not enough that Huggins’s “beliefs are sincere, and as a result, so too is his art,” and it’s not true that “everything else is secondary at best.” It does matter that Huggins’s art is ugly and creepy. It matters that the beliefs motivating his art are nuts, even if he seems sane otherwise. And it matters that those beliefs have put a strain on his family.

It’s also true that Huggins’s bizarre beliefs have brought attention to his artwork that it wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Fruitcake beliefs are one way to get attention in the attention economy, and it’s hard to think of a belief more fruitcake than his treating this twisted personal mythology of his as fact.

The Christmas myth is, by comparison, old hat. Even shopworn by now. But whether you consider Christmas true myth or fictional myth, the myth of Christmas is altogether more charming, more wholesome, and of more lasting value than the myth Huggins’s paintings narrate. Huggins seems to have found meaning and comfort in the myths he paints, but beyond a few UFO true believers, his is not the sort of meaning and comfort that can be shared. Indeed, his mythology alienates (pun intended) ordinary decency. All of us, I’m sure, could name some political myths that are similar – myths unable to inspire meaning and comfort outside a small circle of true believers, myths many decent folk find alienating. Whatever political myths we find plausible or implausible, comforting or discomfiting, welcoming or alienating, Christmas is a good time to remember we have other, more lasting, myths in common, too.

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  1. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: It’s also true that Huggins’s bizarre beliefs have brought attention to his artwork that it wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

    This parallels the thought I had when first seeing your posted example of his work, namely maybe if he is just not a very good artist, painting imaginary beings may be the best way to avoid criticism of his artistic ability. After all, who can say aliens don’t really look like that? If that is the real truth of the matter the breakup of his family is an even more tragic result.

    Thanks for a very thoughtful and interesting post.

    • #1
  2. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    OkieSailor (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: It’s also true that Huggins’s bizarre beliefs have brought attention to his artwork that it wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

    This parallels the thought I had when first seeing your posted example of his work, namely maybe if he is just not a very good artist, painting imaginary beings may be the best way to avoid criticism of his artistic ability.

    It’s hard to avoid wondering that, isn’t it?

    • #2
  3. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    I only suggested this to @midge because in my house we no longer do sex as a serious subject. Just comic relief.

    • #3
  4. She Member
    She
    @She

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Fruitcake beliefs are one way to get attention in the attention economy, and it’s hard to think of a belief more fruitcake than his treating this twisted personal mythology of his as fact.

    I’m calling foul on behalf all all people who like fruitcake.  I’m tired of all these micro-aggressions against fruitcake.  Knock it off, please.

    Also, given the weird sexual proclivities of so many humans (please don’t ask how I know this, I might tell you), I can’t see why people feel the need to introduce aliens into the equation.  It seems to be a fairly common thing, though.  I wrote about Nancy Lieder in this post, earlier this year.  Ick.  Glory be.

    Once I’ve got my head round these two objections to what is probably a marvelous post, I’ll read the rest of it.

    Peace out.

    • #4
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    EJHill (View Comment):
    I only suggested this to @midge because in my house we no longer do sex as a serious subject. Just comic relief.

    Wait, there’s a life-stage when it’s not comic relief?!

    • #5
  6. Paul Erickson Inactive
    Paul Erickson
    @PaulErickson

    Of course Huggins lives in New Jersey.  And of course we have space aliens here.  Most can be found holding public office.

    • #6
  7. Jason Rudert Inactive
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    You won’t be laughing when the news headline reads, AREA PAINTER FOUND DECAPITATED.

    • #7
  8. Jason Rudert Inactive
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    There appears to be kind of a “sweet spot” for mythology to be a compelling and enduring force in peoples’ lives, much as the Earth has to be a certain distance from the Sun for life to exist.

    It has to be supernatural enough to rise above the mundane, but just logical enough to explain a few things–it helps to have a mythos that answers questions rather than raising a bunch of others, and it helps to be optimistic,  or to give people some hope for something better–so neither Huggins’ fantasies, nor the Cthulhu Mythos will ever really be an animating force in anyone’s life.

    • #8
  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Paul Erickson (View Comment):
    Of course Huggins lives in New Jersey. And of course we have space aliens here. Most can be found holding public office.

    • #9
  10. Gitter Member
    Gitter
    @TheRoyalFamily

    She (View Comment):
    Also, given the weird sexual proclivities of so many humans (please don’t ask how I know this, I might tell you),

    Do tell.

    She (View Comment):
    I can’t see why people feel the need to introduce aliens into the equation.

    There’s only so much you can do with mere terrestrial fetishes.

    • #10
  11. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Gitter (View Comment):
    There’s only so much you can do with mere terrestrial fetishes.

    Sez you.

    • #11
  12. Whistle Pig Member
    Whistle Pig
    @

    Very nice writing.  Thanks for taking ej’s suggestion.

    • #12
  13. TheSockMonkey Inactive
    TheSockMonkey
    @TheSockMonkey

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: It’s even possible – though not orthodox – to consider Christ’s story a vital one despite considering it a fiction. After all, as fans of all sorts of fiction know, good fiction helps us understand the world, despite not being factual. Someone who believed Christ’s story was good fiction – the best fiction – the fiction to live by – wouldn’t be an orthodox Christian but would be Christian in a sense.

    The Bible calls that sort of person antichrist.

    For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

    II John 1.7

    (Just to ease confusion, John doesn’t limit “antichrist” to a specific person, the way we use the term today.)

     

    • #13
  14. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: It’s even possible – though not orthodox – to consider Christ’s story a vital one despite considering it a fiction. After all, as fans of all sorts of fiction know, good fiction helps us understand the world, despite not being factual. Someone who believed Christ’s story was good fiction – the best fiction – the fiction to live by – wouldn’t be an orthodox Christian but would be Christian in a sense.

    The Bible calls that sort of person antichrist.

    For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

    II John 1.7

    @thesockmonkey, who are those who find Christ’s story compelling, even though they doubt its factuality, trying to deceive? How is the one who would “go with him in the gloom, / Hoping it might be so” deceptive, rather than merely doubtful?

    Some who begin doubtful about the facts of Christ’s story are nonetheless won over by the power of the story in the end. In the meantime, I’m not sure how calling them “antichrists” helps. Rather than helping, doesn’t it risk breaking bruised reeds and demanding that those with the misfortune to flicker be extinguished?

    • #14
  15. TheSockMonkey Inactive
    TheSockMonkey
    @TheSockMonkey

    I’m not the one applying the labels. I’m only telling you what the Bible says. Granted, one could interpret the verse differently. Perhaps we should make a distinction between those who still haven’t learned the truth about Christ as a real Person, who lived in real history, and really died, and was physically resurrected. Perhaps John was talking about those who refused to see the truth, and were teaching others that Christ was only an inspiring myth.

    I certainly don’t wish to bruise any reeds, but on the other hand, we can also harm people’s faith by telling them it’s OK to believe in a fictional Christ.

    Sorry if this takes us too far off-topic.

    • #15
  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):
    I’m not the one applying the labels. I’m only telling you what the Bible says. Granted, one could interpret the verse differently…

    One could, for example, interpret the verse in context.

    The “antichrists” of the Johannine letters weren’t the not-yet-converted or those with private doubts. They were those who, though originally brethren, claimed for themselves an authority to teach a false teaching, thereby spreading disunity among the brethren by spreading this aberrant teaching.

    The specific false teaching addressed in the Johannine letters was docetism – a belief that the Christ, while truly divine, was not fully human, but a nonhuman entity who either merely appeared to be human, or who merely occupied the human Jesus’s body, wearing Jesus as a human suit. This must have been particularly painful for John, since many gnostics considered John’s own gospel a docetic gospel. That is, John was quite possibly dealing with the added horror of those spreading this false teaching saying they got it from him.

    More generally, when we quote Scripture, we’re not just innocently stating what the Bible says. We’re also asserting that the verse we’re quoting is relevant – else why mention it? For example, if a friend of yours called you one night saying, “My husband has been in a horrible accident that crushed his arm, and the surgeons are worried they might have to amputate the hand,” replying with, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell,” would be “only telling [your friend] what the Bible says,” but I hope you see why your friend might consider it rather un-Christian, in that context.

     

    • #16
  17. TheSockMonkey Inactive
    TheSockMonkey
    @TheSockMonkey

    Thank you for specifying the sort of person you were talking about. That is helpful.

    You might have merely said that you agree with the distinction I drew, and dispensed with the absurd example of the severed arm. That’s a very poor comparison to what I said.

     

    • #17
  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):
    You might have merely said that you agree with the distinction I drew,

    The following words

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):
    Perhaps we should make a distinction between those who still haven’t learned the truth about Christ as a real Person, who lived in real history, and really died, and was physically resurrected. Perhaps John was talking about those who refused to see the truth, and were teaching others that Christ was only an inspiring myth.

    I certainly don’t wish to bruise any reeds, but on the other hand, we can also harm people’s faith by telling them it’s OK to believe in a fictional Christ.

    Sorry if this takes us too far off-topic.

    were not yet in your comment when I originally replied to it. Of course my reply would not agree with a distinction you drew only retroactively, in an edit you made to your comment after I had posted my reply to you.

    • #18
  19. TheSockMonkey Inactive
    TheSockMonkey
    @TheSockMonkey

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):
    You might have merely said that you agree with the distinction I drew,

    The following words

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):
    Perhaps we should make a distinction between those who still haven’t learned the truth about Christ as a real Person, who lived in real history, and really died, and was physically resurrected. Perhaps John was talking about those who refused to see the truth, and were teaching others that Christ was only an inspiring myth.

    I certainly don’t wish to bruise any reeds, but on the other hand, we can also harm people’s faith by telling them it’s OK to believe in a fictional Christ.

    Sorry if this takes us too far off-topic.

    were not yet in your comment when I originally replied to it. Of course my reply would not agree with a distinction you drew only retroactively, in an edit you made to your comment after I had posted my reply to you.

    I was referring to your second reply to me; not your first.

    • #19
  20. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):
    You might have merely said that you agree with the distinction I drew,

    The following words

    TheSockMonkey (View Comment):
    Perhaps we should make a distinction between those who still haven’t learned the truth about Christ as a real Person, who lived in real history, and really died, and was physically resurrected. Perhaps John was talking about those who refused to see the truth, and were teaching others that Christ was only an inspiring myth.

    I certainly don’t wish to bruise any reeds, but on the other hand, we can also harm people’s faith by telling them it’s OK to believe in a fictional Christ.

    Sorry if this takes us too far off-topic.

    were not yet in your comment when I originally replied to it. Of course my reply would not agree with a distinction you drew only retroactively, in an edit you made to your comment after I had posted my reply to you.

    I was referring to your second reply to me; not your first.

    As was I.

    • #20
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