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25 years of holding the question
on February 1, 2012
This book shows us a man, having apparently experienced both trauma and truly unexplainable events, trying his best to make sense of his life. We see a nearly heroic effort to forge a positive, or at least forward-looking, interpretation of events that seem almost hopelessly overwhelming.
Throughout the Communion series of books, Strieber's core thinking has been consistent:
* Something very strange has happened to me, and it seems to be ongoing.
* I did my due diligence in checking whether it's all simply a psychological problem, the most likely option. The tests say I'm totally stable, if more than a bit stressed out.
* If that's the case, then what really is going on? It certainly seems important in any number of ways.
* I'm a writer, so I'll write about it.
* It seems to be far more complex than "Aliens in space ships." Way too many pieces just don't match up with that 1940's-era judgment.
* Okay, then let's avoid drawing any conclusions that would force us to dismiss big chunks of the evidence. However comfortable it'd be to have premature "certainty," we should try to keep the questions open.
* In the meantime, I'll do my best to find what personal meaning I can from the experience, and share this with my readers.
In some ways "Solving..." is more of the same, and this is not a bad thing. It gives new views of events we've read about in previous books while expanding upon them from the perspective of a quarter-century of experience.
Yet it also reveals new experiences, along with childhood memories that the author has only recently been able to assemble into a clear narrative. The core of the book is his unique way of looking at the way the world seems to have more than a single layer -- the cumulative result of his efforts to find clear meaning out of the strangeness he's been exposed to over the decades.
Strieber also makes use of his position as host of his radio program "Dreamland" to investigate other phenomena that may be related to his experiences, and ties them together as best as anyone could be expected to, being the slippery subjects that they are.
Throughout the book is a thread of long-resigned disappointment and sadness concerning the ease at which so many people seem willing to not only dismiss, but belittle and show raw unkindness toward those who dare to discuss these topics -- topics that have emerged as a new taboo in our society. Strieber has had this prejudice thrown in his face for the 25 years that he's been "out," and the reader both feels compassion for his treatment, and understanding for all those others who hesitate to make their own emergences from this particular closet. His frustration at seeing this reflexive attitude stifle investigation of what may be a situation that affects us all, is palpable.
If there's a part of his thinking that doesn't sit well with me, it would be his tendency to take everything very very seriously. And yet knowing the degree of trauma in his experiences, it's difficult to begrudge him this attitude. Although some of what he went through could be considered fascinating, or intriguing, or even sublime, his own lingering PTSD speaks a strong warning that caution is advised. The book is clear that while, "Yay, space brothers!" is a hopelessly reckless attitude, neither is pessimism an appropriate response.
As with the other books I've read from the author, the writing is engaging and vividly imaged. He's trying to explain what's basically unexplainable, which perhaps forces a balance between clarity of thought and depth of feeling. It's a good read.
Whether you have the mental flexibility to allow that this might be happening (physically or spiritually), or on the other hand you have the level-headedness to be confident that it's all simply psychological phenomena -- either way this book has value. It's a record of a man relatively isolated from his own home culture doing his best to come to terms with what he has perceived as his own experiences.
If you can take the true-believer glint out of your eyes, or the condescending sneer off of your lips, you can find here a record of somebody facing an overwhelmingly personal challenge, that we can all find useful in our own times of trial.