12:55pm

Fri December 7, 2012
Arts Weekly

Clarence: Angel, Apparition or Alien?

On December 24th, 1945, a small town businessman from upstate New York was in the fight of his life.  Deeply troubled by a fiscal misdeed, 38-year-old George Bailey was suicidal.  That evening’s events have since evolved into an American myth.  Today, we re-examine his vision and explore other interpretations, including a couple of theories his “guardian angel” was not heaven sent.

Perhaps, it is no coincidence George Bailey’s “crucial night” came just as the first UFO’s were reported over America.  While there is no hard evidence, there are indications the businessman interacted with a highly advanced race. 

For example, at the beginning of his tale, a conversation takes place among the stars, in which an intervention in human affairs is discussed.  Only one member of this race is seen; Clarence Oddbody who bears the rank of A-S-two.  Apparently his society is hierarchical and, perhaps, based on a military model. During a pre-mission briefing, these aliens seem aware of both past and future events.

And it seems their alien powers include a tool which would seem miraculous, even today.  Apparently, they could shift into a parallel universe; a universe without a George Bailey.

Professor Susan Gardner, who’s a physicist at the University of Kentucky, strongly emphasizes she’s a faithful believer in the original interpretation.  Still, theoretically, Gardner admits George Bailey may have shifted into a parallel university.

“In principle, that’s just a hypothesis.  It doesn’t have to be so. It can be so. And I don’t know of any experiment that can rule it out nor rule it in, but as soon as you say it’s possible, then you can speculate on other possibilities,” said Gardner.

While there is some science that indicates parallel universes exist, Gardner says there’s no known physical theory which even suggests people could travel from one universe to another. 

Secondly, as conjectured, the number of parallel universes could be infinite.  So, Clarence, who’s described as “having the IQ of a rabbit, would have an easier time picking a Triple Crown winner.

“As far as we know, this way of to think about quantum mechanics is completely abstract.  That we don’t know of any tangible way of going from one reality to another.  And, moreover, being able to find a reality that’s so similar to what George actually had, but only adjusted in this very fine detail just somehow boggles the imagination.”

Given such odds, there’s an explanation much more plausible than alien abduction. George Bailey may have been delirious.

The disappearance of eight-thousand dollars left the CEO of the Bailey Brothers Savings and Loan Association despondent and violent.  Seeking comfort in alcohol, he begins to drink, and then suffers two blows to the head…one in a barroom brawl and the other in a car accident.  UK Neurologist Kevin Nelson says the combination could have sparked a physiological response.

“It would have been more of what we call delirium.  The psychiatrist calls delirium.  It’s a confused state, where you become disoriented and you may have a long narrative that has no direct basis in reality, but may actually call upon elements of reality,” said Nelson.

Unlike a normal dream, a delirium borrows freely from a person’s memories and would seem very real to George Bailey.  Plus, delirium can happen very quickly.  George’s angelic vision begins and ends at the same place on a snow covered bridge, suggesting it may have lasted just a few seconds. 

As he considers suicide, the neurologist says George Bailey’s body could have gone into survival mode, sparking a near-death experience.

“He was confronting the most imminent danger and his body was reacting to that.  And he brought that confrontation into the narrative of his delirium….a delirium that was very likely triggered his intoxicated state as well as his concussive head injury,” said Nelson.

In exploring George Bailey’s vision, it’s important to remember, his trip into an alternate reality did nothing to resolve his fiscal problems. 

If not for the generous people of Bedford Falls, it seems likely the businessman would have done hard time.  Instead of a financial bailout, George Bailey got an attitude adjustment.  He grew from “a frustrated young man” into a man who treasured his life. To one of Kentucky’s foremost experts on angelic behavior, that’s exactly the kind of work done by the heavenly host.

“Angel’ isn’t the actual name of the being.  It’s a function. It comes from the Greek word ‘angelus,’ meaning a messenger. So when we talk about an angel, it’s a purely spiritual, created being who’s been sent by God to bring some message for the person’s good,” said the Most Reverend Ronald Gainer, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington.

Bishop Gainer points out several angels also have names..and those names mean something.  For example, in Hebrew, Raphael means “God Heals,” Michael means “God’s Hero” and Gabriel means “Like God.”  Coincidentally perhaps, in Latin, Clarence means “Luminous.”

There are other indicators of Clarence’s divine origins. To the Catholic Bishop, the existence of angels makes theological sense.  Gainer says people, who are finite beings, made of flesh and spirit would need someone as a go-between between themselves and a purely spiritual, infinite divinity.

“Greek philosophers, pre-Christian times, would argue that there is a hierarchy of being, or a chain in being and if we don’t posit something between the human person and God, then there’s a gap,” said Gainer.

Bishop Gainer says biblical angels take on different appearances.  In Genesis, three angels in human form predict Abraham and his wife Sarah will soon be parents.  In the Gospel according to Luke, a host of angels scare the heck out of some shepherds.  In the “Acts of the Apostles,” an Angel breaks Saint Peter out of jail.  And sometimes, Gainer says they use psychology.

“Angels often appear in dreams and give God’s message again.  The message comes from God. They’re simply the carriers,” said Gainer.

So, there seems to be some common ground between the Bishop and the Neurologist. Life changing experiences can happen solely inside someone’s head. And, whether an angelic vision or a delirium or a near-death experience, they can profoundly change the direction of lives.  

“They bear tremendously important fruit.  They do change our lives for the better and they do give us direction and they do give our life greater or more full meaning.  George would be forever changed.  These are very lifelong lasting experiences,” said neurologist Kevin Nelson.

Bishop Gainer adds people like George Bailey must also choose change.

There are different ways to look at Clarence: as a real angel, as a product of George Bailey’s psyche or as a space alien.   And George Bailey’s trip might have been miraculous, delirium or a visit into another dimension. However, there’s agreement on the result.  Through a powerful life-changing experience, George Bailey made himself into a contented man, and, most folks hope, Clarence earned a promotion.