I can’t define the line between sanity and insanity, but I know it when I see it. I could see it in Kurt Vonnegut, who was pushed to the precipice of that line as a POW in Dresden during WWII. Vonnegut stayed mostly on the sane side, in part by fictionalizing his experience in the novel “Slaughterhouse Five”. David Hamel, saw many of the same horrors at Dresden, also as a POW, but in dealing with the terrors he saw, he went sailing over that line in a single bound, and he never looked back.
It is hard not to compare Hamel to a character from a Kilgore Trout novel. Trout was Vonnegut’s mythical and mystical science fiction writer. In his own novel “Breakfast of Champions”, Vonnegut wrote, “Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne.” Well, David Hamel ate the sugar, and he may have suspected the champagne, but he died at 81 having produced only a lot of excrement. He loved his wife and he hurt as few people as possible. That may qualify him for sainthood, but it did not, as many people think him, make him a genius.
According to David Hamel, on Sunday, October 21, 1975, he was watching the TV show “The Waltons” with friends in his home outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, when he was contacted by two aliens from the planet “Kladen” who appeared out of the snow on his television screen. Unseen by the others in the room they zapped him across time/space to their spaceship, where they communicated their science to him, telepathically. They said they were entrusting him with the “survival of the species”. Hamel explained, “They planted these drawings in my brain. They gave me all the instructions I needed. It is now up to me to make it work.” But thirty-two years later, David Hamel died without ever making it work, even with the enthusiastic assistance of several determined acolytes. Evidently the aliens did NOT give him all the assistance he needed. How incompetent of them.
Hamel fiddled in the Quonset hut (above) in his backyard for decades and sent dozens of drawings of the resultant “alien inspired technology” to the patent office in Toronto, in a deluge of “perpetual motion” machines, “pollution free endless energy machines” and “anti-gravity machines”. However, the Canadian engineers and scientists at the patent office deemed his solutions to these fundamental conundrums to be unworkable. How incompetent of them, too.
When asked by one true believer how his spaceship would work, Hamel replied, “F--king energy.” Well, to be more specific, some “f--king” combination of magnetic energy, vibrations and granite spheres would combine, he insisted, to make his “spacecraft” weightless. “Do you understand now? Or are you just stupid”, David would then ask. To the true believers that question was more proof of Hamel’s genius. But I think it actually proved that the actual answer to Hamel’s question was yes, they were just stupid, and desperate to believe in somebody or something.
One believer spent 12 years collaborating with Hamel, and $5,000 of his own money on an 8” version of the device. When last heard from he was still saying he needed another $7,000 to build a version big enough to actually work. Neither the believer nor Hamel offered an explanation as to why model airplanes function but models of this flying saucer do not. Another supplicant spent a month working closely with Hamel, invested his life savings, was even divorced by his wife, and yet remains still earthbound. And still he believes in the genius of David Hamel. It makes the faith of the Hebrews almost seem passive.
David Hamel believed that Stonehenge was a landing site for UFOs - never mind the big rocks scattered in the way. He believed the Dead Sea Scrolls were alien instructions on how to achieve certain alternate realities, written perhaps by some bronze age Hebrew Timothy Leary (and what will our ancestors make of the real acid head?)
David Hamel believed in Atlantis, and never mind the evidence of Santorini and Crete. David Hamel believed that the key to the Bible, The Torah, the Koran and even the Book of Bonkinism (“Cat’s Cradle”), was revealed in a spider’s web. David explained, “Did you ever see a spider weaving his web, and then suddenly jump horizontally to another branch without any apparent gravitational forces affecting him? This is the scalar….The spider rides the scalar of the earth.” There was no mathematics, no suggestion on ways to prove the reality of the scalar. And any attempt to discuss air density on the body of spider was dismissed by David as all lies. He might as well have been a Tea Party member discussing a flat tax. David also said, “They (the aliens) were eating my peanut butter to teach me a lesson”. And he said, “The end of the world is not far off, and we need some of us to survive. Otherwise, all is lost.” It's an interesting philosophy; either we live or we all die. And the meaning is....?
Well, it’s clear that something was lost. And I think most of us know what it was; David Hamel‘s sanity. There is no indication that Hamel weaved his fantasy for profit, because he never made a profit. And this puts him in a different category from Vonnegut, the author, who left behind a small fortune. Two books were written about David but he never wrote one himself. And while Vonnegut, POW survivor, used his fantasies, David Hamel, POW survivor, was used by his fantasies. Vonnegut knew how seductive insanity can be (“God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater”) so I think he would have sympathized with David Hamel. But there is a difference between sympathy and respect. To join in the fantasies of the insane is not a show of respect. So do we laugh at David Hamel or do we cry?
I figure we are all in pretty much the same situation as the Kilgore Trout character (“Breakfast of Champions”) named Zog from the planet Margo. Now, Zog resembled a human, but he communicated by farting and tap dancing. According to Vonegut, “Zog landed at night in Connecticut. He had no sooner touched down than he saw a house on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap dancing, warning the people about the terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golf club.” Zog certainly meant well. But if it was your house on fire, what would you have done?
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