Monday, May 17, 2021

SMDH..., Old Rich Men Fearing Death Stay Fiddling With Their Bowels and Whatnot

NYTimes |  What’s across the River Styx? Robert Thomas Bigelow would like to know. Wouldn’t anyone, especially now? But Mr. Bigelow is not just anyone, or any 76-year-old mourning a wife and confronting his own mortality. He’s a maverick Las Vegas real estate and aerospace mogul with billionaire allure and the resources to fund his restless curiosity embracing outer and inner space, U.F.O.s and the spirit realm.

Now he’s offering nearly $1 million in prizes for the best evidence for “the survival of consciousness after permanent bodily death.”

In other words, was Hamlet right to call death an inescapable boundary, “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns?” Or does consciousness in some form survive bodily death — what the Dalai Lama called how we merely “change our clothes”?

Is Raymond Chandler’s Big Sleep only a nap?

Mr. Bigelow believes so. “I am personally totally convinced of it,” he said.

A daunting quest, perhaps fringe to some, but the shaggy-maned and mustached entrepreneur, the sole owner of Bigelow Aerospace and Budget Suites of America, is not easily put off. He amassed a fortune to pursue his interests, including the designing and building of inflatable astronaut habitats for NASA, like his soft-sided expandable activity module called BEAM attached to the International Space Station.

His aerospace ventures have been financed by his Budget Suites business, one of the first extended-stay rental chains, now housing some 15,000 people in three states. The profits have enabled him, he says, to sink more than $350 million into Bigelow Aerospace, “my own real black hole,” as he put it in recent phone interviews.

They have also enabled Mr. Bigelow to indulge a celebrated, if sometimes derided, interest in what he called “anomalous events” including his 20-year ownership of a spooky Utah ranch overrun by flying orbs and other creepy phenomena. The strange goings-on drew the interest of the Defense Intelligence Agency and, through funding secured by Harry Reid, the former Democratic Senate majority leader, led to the formation of a Pentagon effort to study unidentified flying objects — the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, revealed by The New York Times in 2017.

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