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Rapid City Objectivity
I stopped counting at 20. That is, 20 different states I had adventured in and through this year alone. As any adventurer will eventually find, the balancing of home, bills, day job, friends, and in my case running a business in its seventh solid year along with remaining webmaster of over 4,000 web pages, all eventually takes a toll. I had been balancing it all and more for many years and thought I had not just a workable system, but a successful one.
Now I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about scuffing my diamond shoes. The opportunities that I have are unique to say the least and very much appreciated. I honestly don't know how I would make it through the work week without them sometimes. To set the scene I thought I had an impractical plan that I could still pull off. I could however, feel something new creeping into my psyche. It was growing each day in my otherwise happy life.
I think it was the 35 hours spent in the van over three days on this long enough legend trip that made the difference. It afforded me the reflective opportunity to finally identify that creeping monster. Being able to verbalize some of my thoughts with my fellow adventurers on this trip was most likely crucial. My therapists along on this adventure are Chad Lewis organizer of The Unexplained Conferences and lecturer of at least a dozen states himself this year from Texas to Minnesota. Along with entrepreneur Kevin Nelson, a bibliophile of more than a thousand books who never misses a chance to head out west. We had already spoken in Sioux Falls on Friday evening in front of a crowd 160 strong. Despite some surprise fees, taxes, and inventory requirements that didn’t have to be surprises, the conference was better than the previous year. The crowd in 2007 was nearly to the pitchforks and torches point after Kevin and I finished our set and thanked everyone for coming. See, the local newspaper had advertised that we would be including a ghost tour at the end of the conference. In actuality we were not. Understandably those who had been looking forward to that aspect of the evening were disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong. I have had an over abundance of positive experiences presenting at dozens of The Unexplained Conferences from fantastic crowds. It was the 2007 experience in Sioux Falls that drew sharp into focus the mob mentality versus the singular personality. I prefer the singular. The experience also reveals more specifically to the point of this journal entry, that the majority of people attending the conferences are interested in the paranormal as entertainment. Their approach is not the one in question here. My own is the one on the chopping floor today.
Jumping back into the year 2008, we had just finished up another conference in South Dakota. This one in Rapid City perhaps gave me the last experience needed to figure out what that gnawing internal monster was.
We’ll get to the monster, but for now the last clue. The crowd in Rapid City this year was much smaller. The question and answer segment of the conference was dominated by two ‘ghost’ groups in attendance. One group had questions that were as much statements as anything. Their proclamations hovered around the “…our equipment has proved that cold spots are ghosts and hot spots are demonic so why don’t we hear about people reporting hot spots or other groups looking into hot spots…”. It seems this persona is the type that stands up, when everyone else asks from their chair. It has been my experience that they are looking to tell the audience of their experiences more than anything else. This type of audience member drastically increased after the initial episode of Ghost Hunters aired, on The Sci Fi Channel, for better or worse. That discussion is best left for an entirely separate journal entry. It may be worth noting that the ‘industry’ today is very different from the industry that I initially remember. Ya know, I don’t think I’ve ever made that awfully obvious connection before this very moment.
See, I have always felt a little guilty and on some level like a failure because I changed my approach to the paranormal. I think I always felt that I made a decision then plotted a course, only having to change it after not succeeding. Not that I haven’t succeeded, but rather didn’t completely reach my lofty goals. Thinking back on my intimate perspective of how the industry has evolved over even the last five years brings me pause. Now with the words in front of me as I write makes it much more understandable. Hmm, wow. Yeah I am feeling better already. It is a bit like that old quote goes, ‘insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.’ I originally plotted my course in the paranormal with the information available at the time. When the environment changed and more or different information became available, then of course I should change my approach. Not to mention I’ve been headlong in the paranormal for far more than five years, and the changes in the last two decades are extraordinary on many levels. Epiphanies aside, that leaves us with one more groups’ question at the conference in Rapid City. Let’s call them group two.
Group two had some questions that were notably more neutrally stated. By acknowledging subjectivity in their own experiences, they created an atmosphere much more open to discussion. Kevin and I always invite people to approach us after our presentation. Often many have additional questions. Others simply more sensitive subjects that they didn’t want to discuss in front of the entire audience. Group two had many additional questions. The one fitting with my own monster was the difficulty they were running into with “clients.” The people (clients) that were contacting them would walk through finite terminology such as “is my place haunted” and “what is the ghosts’ name.” Group two conveyed to Kevin and I that they felt they had two options available to them. Option one was to tell people a place was haunted. Option two was to tell people that their place was not haunted. They were stalled at the fork in the road, knowing that neither path made complete sense to them. They were understandably confused on how to move forward. “Wow,” I remember thinking, a new group who is cognitive of objectivity. Not just objectiveness exclusively but are also wrestling with a reality based in actual knowledge rather than perceived knowledge. Sadly this is unique in my travels…very unique. I quickly assure them there are many other options. Kevin and I dutifully run through our experiences that might be of some help to them.
Image: Keynote Speaker Noah 'Winchester' Voss onstage in South Dakota lecturing to a sold out crowd of over 300 people.
I had an epiphany. It was at least hours after the last attendee had left for the evening and a beer or 6 later. Perhaps epiphany is too strong a word. Maybe more accurately depicted as, the moment I simply became more eloquent with my evolving mood on the paranormal. To state the obvious, if you don’t reflect about something it can be difficult to intelligently put that something into words. As you now know I had been struggling with identifying my internal monster. I was able to partially slay the beast by giving birth to a short, two word title: The philanthropist of objectivity. Alright, so yes that is like four words, sort of, but none the less this was the birth of a new idea. I had verbalized yet another way for me to look at and approach the paranormal field. Basically it was a much more obtainable goal. But was I lowering my sights and becoming complacent?
The abridged version of my time in the paranormal field was as curious youngster, avid researcher, to professional researcher, to investigator, to webmaster, to author, to adventurer, and so on. In the last few years I have had to make several changes after much self reflection on why I do what I do. At first it was for answers and to help quench a thirst of curiosity. As I grew so did my understanding. Not just in the paranormal fields but of many other additional realities due to my research, experience, and travels. I had to look at my involvement with the paranormal field not just as looking for answers and supplying the investigative world with the tools to help them, but as an adventurer. To reach that adventurer approach, I had to go through over a decade of evolving as an independent scientist and a person. It is hard to be disappointed as an adventurer. With that approach one can easily find success in any outing. You are not left at the end of fifty years looking back at your exclusive giant answer seeking scientific approach saying, dam. If you look back at all the adventures had, well I’ll let you know, but so far it feels good. However, I can’t make the full transition to exclusive adventurest either. I still yearn for more answers then come by the way of being just an adventurer. It seems I can’t be satisfied with just subjective experiences happened upon during an adventure. So I seek some balance between the scientific method, when encountering something unexplained, but not to the extent where it over shadows the entire adventure. Of course I still want to make a difference and leave this world better than when I arrived. So I don’t think my new philanthropist perspective is one of complacency. If anything it may be a bit righteous.
Maybe the best way to give the greatest scope behind the philanthropist of objectivity title is to use an example. Let’s go back to the statement from earlier of hot spots being demonic. My response on stage was calculated and brief. I responded “well it has been my experience in researching that there are hot spots reported in conjunction with possible paranormal events, simply less than the traditional cold spot but have been reported for some time especially by psychics.” I ramble on in long sentences when I speak too. I thankfully didn’t have to touch the demonic portion as Kevin jumped in “and as far as the hot spots being connected with demons, the obvious connection that I could make would be a societal one. The origins could be easily traced back to the bible and the different interpretations of Hell.” That’s the objectivity I’ve been speaking of. If we don’t have an answer to a question we won’t make one up. Nor will I expound upon wildly speculative theories, just to make myself look better. I could have spoken to the dozen pieces of equipment I sell on GetGhostGear.com that I specifically added for monitoring temperature anomalies (cold or hot spots). I could have spoken to the theory that a ghost needs to draw energy out of the surrounding environment to interact with our reality and hence create a cold spot or hot spot. I didn’t because the foundation of those theories are based almost entirely in conjecture and unquantified subjective realities. At the same time if someone is making a claim of proof, I feel the responsibility to look at that claim objectively. In this case point out, I’ll be it very softly, some possible holes in the theory. Most likely countless audience members did not agree with this interpretation of reality. I am continually striving to speak from an objective view point. The vast majority of the time, say less than 1% of our audience is receptive to this objective or qualified reality. They don’t seem to be apposed to the objective approach, rather what that approach illuminates about their own belief system. Regardless it does introduce a new reality to those in the field who could become the leaders of our industry someday. Perhaps with time as their experience in months become years, and years decades they too will have moments of self reflection.
Until next time, remember, adventures come to the adventuresome!
The philanthropist of objectivity
Noah Voss (Bio)
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