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The real UFO phenomenon: The people so enthralled by them | READER COMMENTARY

The image from video provided by the U.S. Department of Defense labelled Gimbal, from 2015, an unexplained object is seen at center as it is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the wind. “There's a whole fleet of them,” one naval aviator tells another, though only one indistinct object is shown. “It's rotating." The U.S. government has been taking a hard look at unidentified flying objects, under orders from Congress, and a report summarizing what officials know is expected to come out in June 2021. (Department of Defense via AP)
The image from video provided by the U.S. Department of Defense labelled Gimbal, from 2015, an unexplained object is seen at center as it is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the wind. “There's a whole fleet of them,” one naval aviator tells another, though only one indistinct object is shown. “It's rotating." The U.S. government has been taking a hard look at unidentified flying objects, under orders from Congress, and a report summarizing what officials know is expected to come out in June 2021. (Department of Defense via AP) (Department of Defense)

“What we have is a mystery,” you conclude in your recent editorial about UFOs (”The Pentagon’s UFO report is coming soon; here’s what it’s likely to say — and what you should make of it,” June 2). I couldn’t agree more. But are we sure we’re looking for the mystery in the right direction?

I’m persuaded that we’re not. That we mistakenly turn our eyes to the sky to understand what UFOs are when we ought to be looking inside ourselves.

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I’m a teenage “UFOlogist” from the 1960s who grew up to become a professor of religious studies. For me, UFOs are a human phenomenon — specifically, a religious one with the potential to tell us important and exciting things about who we are as individuals, as a culture and as a species.

UFO witness Lt. Cmdr. Alex Dietrich, interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, spoke of the people who’d responded to her on Twitter about UFOs. “I’m fascinated,” she said, “with their fascination.”

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So am I. So, I think, we all should be.

David J. Halperin, Durham, N. C.

The writer is professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of North Carolina and author of “Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO” (Stanford University Press, 2020).

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