Inspired by an article in the Washington Post
(OK, perhaps ‘inspired’ isn’t exactly the word, for one reason or another…)
“How to talk to aliens about death” by nm whitley
Last week, all my alien overlord could talk about was the baby panda.
He was fascinated. He called up videos of the panda on the computer, and I dug out the worn old copy of their storybook about a baby panda.
Like the rest of us, my alien visitor couldn’t wait to get a look at the cub. It was I think a wholly new concept for him, actual live mammalian birth.
Then yesterday, I read in the news that the panda had died and I gasped aloud. My alien overlord asked me why and I instinctively lied.
I told him a mosquito bit me.
Lying about the harsher realities of life, and death, comes all too naturally to me. I guess I tend to have a romantic notion of what aliens imagine the human condition to be, and I just want to keep that big, shiny bubble intact.
Experts say this is an mistake. They say leaving aliens to explain life’s questions to themselves is the stuff nightmares are made of.
There are lots of good resources on the Web for explaining the human notion of ‘death’ to aliens, detailing how to use concrete language with our literal-minded visitors and how to incorporate the conversation into a larger discussion of belief and faith with them.
My advice? Trust your aliens.
Be open and honest. They’re a lot more psychologically resilient than you think. Death is a reality that is best addressed before tragedy occurs. The death of a baby panda, soul crushing as it may be, is an opportunity. The silver lining to a dark, ominous cloud.
Have you talked to your alien overlords about the dead panda?