Some people make a living forming declarative statements without holding back fear of ridicule or offensiveness. But even such individuals can struggle with telling everything. And this weekend, a well-known skeptic and disbeliever in all things supernatural who built a career on being blunt made one of the biggest leaps of his life. It came in the form of two words, written in a post on his blog.
It was a major leap for 81-year-old James Randi, best known for his "Million-Dollar Challenge" offering a hefty prize to anyone proving parapsychological phenomena. He has written various books on psychic fraud and paranormal hoaxes and helped found the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). For some, he's a hero. To paranormal enthusiasts, he's a naysayer. Yet no matter what your stance is on ghosts might be, he is now a brave man. After watching the film Milk and realizing the shift in climate and attitude toward sexuality, Randi broke his 70-year silence.
I applaud Randi for his public announcement. While we may disagree on various points and hold differing views on a variety of topics (and agree on many points at the same time), what he did took a lot of courage. When you're in the public eye making such a simple statement about who you are as a human being can be the biggest challenge in your life. You face ridicule and the possibility of losing disapproving individuals in your life. The world suddenly views you not for who you are but who you love.
Whether you're a skeptic or a paranormal investigator, admitting who you are and saying those two words is the ultimate example of speaking the truth. But it's up to the individual to make such a statement on however public a scale. Some people believe the more visible and famous you are the more important it is to come out of the closet. I personally understand the reservations that come with these things and while I may not be thrilled when someone decides to keep their private life private I can respect his or her reasoning. It's a sad truth that most people decide to keep quiet as not to face the small-mindedness of society which could destroy life as they know it. Like a haunted house, people fear the unknown and that with which they are not familiar. Rumors and misinformation are accepted as fact. Stereotypes are taken to be reality. Fact and fiction blur.
So now, the skeptic community has James Randi and Derren Brown. But who do we have in the paranormal community? Well, Ian Shillito makes one. Where are the others? Where are the big-name paranormal celebrities in the North America? Does the predominance of straight, white, Christian males on ghost hunting programs make coming out too terrifying? Quite possibly. Hopefully, that too will change. As Harvey Milk said in his final audio recording, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let the bullet destroy every closet door..."