Earlier this year, when I downloaded the Radio Misterioso podcast in which my friend Greg Bishop had a guy by the name of Bruce Duensing as the guest, I knew nothing about him or his ideas –a big stain in my UFOlogical record, given how he’d been blogging about the phenomenon for many years. That day I ended up listening to that episode twice in a row, fascinated by the things Bruce was saying with regards to UAPs –his favored acronym– which heavily resonated with my own thinking.
Since then I timidly started to have a little bit of online interaction with him, on Facebook and his blog posts, which were definitely not ‘UFOlogy 101’ material. Bruce’s paragraphs were packed with content, and his writing style was often oblique and obscure in meaning, which was not done out of intellectual pedantry as much his most honest attempt to elucidate upon a mystery which is oblique and obscure in intention to begin with.
It nevertheless made me realize that when it comes to UFOs I’m still at the Kindergarten level, and I had much to learn from him.
On the morning of Thursday, June 4th, Greg read a message on the Facebook wall of Bruce’s daughter, informing of the passing of his father after having gone through open-heart surgery on the previous Monday. The news hit me harder than I’d expected, seeing how I was just (barely) starting to know him. Perhaps it was because that same week I myself had gone through a different kind of personal transition, after being fired from the job I’d worked in for the last 15 years.
Transience. It’s something we rarely notice because we’re so focused on the trivial minutiae of our daily routine, yet it’s always happening all around us. It’s only when a certain critical mass is reached in our cognitive awareness –an accident, being fired from your job, the death of a loved one– that we stop acting like automatons for a minute, take stock of our surroundings and we begin to pay attention.
(Maybe UFOs are meant to be a wake up call intended to shake us out of our dull complacency, before we fall off the cliff ahead)
Transience and Transition seemed to have been in Bruce’s mind, even to the last. The name of his blog was ‘A Transit of Contingencies’ and the title of his last blog entry was ‘The Voyages of the Dead’, which of course caused me to speculate: Was the title a hint to his fears about the appointed surgery? An indication of depression? A premonition even?
The last paragraph in the post, which I urge you to read in its entirety, is not only a fitting way for a great intellectual to say adieu, but it also captures Bruce’s love of art, literature and poetry, and perhaps his yearning to reconcile the oblique and obscure within himself:
In every fiction there is an element of truth and the same could be said by reading that statement in reverse order, and so this writer thinks on poetics as a series of observations that indirectly point to a reality not directly manifested in their sentences.
The same may apply to us.
After the sudden shock of the news, Greg asked me to come to the show the next Sunday to talk about Bruce and how he had began to influence the both of us in the way we look at UFOs, forcing us to adopt a broader, bolder scope of it and other phenomena. Robert Brandstetter, a brilliant friend of ours who uses the alias ‘Burnt State’ in the Paracast forums –and also shares with us a nascent kinship with Bruce and his ideas– was also invited to join in, and even though I still felt a certain inadequacy in being part of this radiophonic eulogy –a close friend of him or one of the many people who discussed things with him online, would have been far more suited to speak with authority about his philosophy and who he was as a person– I accepted the invitation; in the end I think we did an acceptable job, and the three of us conducted an amenable ‘jamming session’ in saying farewell to our departed peer –The lion’s share of the credit should go to Robert, who did an outstanding job re-reading Bruce’s blog, and researching additional info about his background, like his love for clockwork toys and model trains which IMO was very telling of his analytical albeit-whimsical character.
(The images above were the ‘notes’ I doodled to prepare myself prior to the radio show. “What am I?” is the answer Bruce once gave to Greg’s question: ‘If you ever met an alien being, what would you say or ask to it?’)
We wrapped up the session by having Robert read the Thomas Wolfe quote Bruce had chosen as the intro for his last blog post, and after that I requested Greg to play Café Tacuba’s ‘Olita del Alta Mar’ (Little Wave of the High Seas). Not only it’s a song I loved the moment I first listened to it, but that Sunday morning –as I was getting ready for Radio Misterioso’s nightly broadcast– it was thanks to Bruce that I finally understood the true meaning behind the lyrics: A human life is like a wave in the sea; it’s made of the same stuff as the sea, but for a little while it has a distinct shape and momentum; like all waves it reaches its peak at one point, breaks into the shore, and then recedes back.
You could say the wave ceased to exist, even though its water never left the sea. The fact the wave had a transitory existence is what gave it its shape and beauty, the force carrying it ashore waning and then gently returning that which formed the wave, to the immensity from whence it came.
Safe travels, Bruce. And godspeed.