Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Glenn Campbell: The Turkish Biography

Is this real or a bizarre dream? I'm in hostel in Vilnius, Lithuania, writing a one-page autobiography for the Turkish edition of my collected essays. We're talking about an actual physical printed book containing some of my essays and book chapters translated into Turkish. This would be my first ever published book! Apparently, the translation is complete on the "first" book and publication is moving forward. The publisher in Istanbul has asked me to provide a biography, so this is what I've come up with...

Glenn Campbell is best known in the United States as an expert on Area 51, a secret military base in Nevada rumored to hold alien spacecraft. In 1993, having had some financial success in the software business, Campbell moved to a tiny desert town just outside the base to determine if the UFO rumors were true. To him, it was an intellectual challenge: to dive into a chaotic sea of fantastic claims and try to make sense of them. He became less a UFO researcher and more a curator of known information about the base. His sensible, factual approach to the base drew the attention of journalists and TV shows and helped make Area 51 a popular topic in the mid-1990s.

Does he believe in UFOs? Campell’s answer is typically pragmatic. He says he neither believes nor disbelieves. He believes only that UFOs are irrelevant to our life on Earth. Whoever the aliens may be, they are obviously keeping a low profile and not interfering overtly in our affairs, which is all we can ask of foreign visitors.

As the new century approached, Campbell grew weary of Area 51 and the constant media pressure to provide UFO evidence that wasn’t there. None of the information he collected provided any persuasive evidence of an alien presence at the secret base; yet the media was constantly distorting information in that direction. The facility itself was real, but its primary purpose was the testing of conventional military hardware, like unmanned aircraft used in recent wars. Campbell’s most valuable lessons from Area 51 had nothing to do with UFOs or the military. This was a place to learn about humans and their belief systems. Given ambiguous evidence, people see what their prior investments require that they see.

In the late 1990s, Campbell’s life took a different turn, as he became a husband and family man. That adventure blew up dramatically in 2003, leaving him with a new set of life lessons. Unintentionally, he became involved in Family Court in Las Vegas, the place where divorce, juvenile delinquency and child welfare cases were resolved in America’s most hedonistic city. For two years after his own divorce was settled, he studied the court system for his own amusement. He felt that this should be the “new Area 51”, the place people should focus their attention if they want the real secrets of the universe. You don’t understand love until you see how love breaks down. Unfortunately, he had much less success attracting the media than he did at Area 51. They wanted UFOs, not messy human dramas.

This is when Campbell began to write about more universal topics. His philosophy was formed within him, and he needed to get it out. He tried writing books, but there seemed to be little commercial market for what he had to say. Eventually he shifted his attention to short essays that he could complete in a day. He would wake up with an essay idea and complete it by noon. 2006-2008 was an especially productive period when he wrote most of the works found in this book.

Today, Campbell travels continuously and is highly active on social media. He writes fewer essays, compacting more of his wisdom into 140-charcter messages on Twitter (@BadDalaiLama). Campbell is constantly experimenting in photography and video to express his philosophy, but he has less time to write about it. The essays in this book may represent the Golden Age of his philosophy writing.