The Silence of the Plants: A Story About Crop Circles
Author’s Note: I once spent an entire summer researching crop circles. This short story is the result. Originally written in 2018.
For over 500 years, people thought that crop circles were some kind of extraterrestrial phenomenon.
That is, if they thought of them at all. Most people laughed them off or ignored them completely. Some weren’t even aware crop circles existed.
But the people who had heard of crop circles believed that some alien intelligence from another planet was leaving messages in their cornfields in the form of geometric, mandala-like patterns.
It never occurred to them that they might be wrong.
Given their primitive superstitions and beliefs — most notably that human beings were the pinnacle of intelligence on planet earth — it’s easy to see how people would make this mistake.
At the time, virtually all human beings believed they were superior to and the master of all life on earth. They had an extremely hard time acknowledging even the most blatant displays of intelligence (sagacity) from creatures not only equal, but actually superior to humans in cognitive ability.
People would witness ants constructing elaborate feats of civil engineering, and explain it away with claims that the ants were merely “worker drones” acting out of base instinct.
They saw no irony in calling ants worker drones as they commuted each day to an office building and sat miserably in a cubicle all day long until 5 o’clock came and they had permission to go home.
This, of course, was a choice, they told themselves.
(But from above it looked like worker drone behavior.)
They would listen to bird calls and whale songs, and claim that only humans possessed language.
They saw slime mold create the Tokyo transit map in a matter of hours — an accomplishment it took people 100 years to complete — and were too stupid, or too arrogant (or both) to be amazed. Not to mention humbled.
So, naturally, for 500 years, humans believed that crop circles must be the creation of some intelligent race of beings in the sky. Because they’d already discounted the possibility of any other intelligent life on their own planet.
They saw no similarity between this narrative of intelligent beings from the sky and every other creation myth and religious dogma that man had been telling himself since the beginning of artificially recorded time.
Humans were divided into two main categories: the believers and the skeptics.
Believers were convinced that extra-terrestrial intelligence was the source of the crop formations. Skeptics were equally convinced that the crop formations were all made by humans.
Both groups were wrong. But, in the way that humans so often do, never doubted themselves. Instead they made fun of one another, and continued to make the evidence fit the story they already believed.
Crop circles — the real ones, not the clumsily made hoax formations that humans created in order to “prove a point” and debunk the whole idea of crop formations as worthy of serious attention and inquiry — are fascinating in a number of ways.
For one, none of the plant stems are ever broken. Instead, the nodes of each plant that is part of the formation are elongated, and occasionally exploded as a popcorn kernel in a microwave. The stem is bent in a precise angle, but never cracked or broken.
It was almost as if the plants themselves decided to end, as a ballerina bends at the waist in an attempt to tell a story with the position of her body.
It never occurred to anyone that perhaps the plants themselves were intelligent, and had in fact made the formation without aid from some invisible and advanced intelligence in the sky.
It made more sense to the believers that a UFO had applied a “strange combination” of extreme heat and extreme cold, simultaneously, to a very small part of the stem, in order to make the plant bend in a very particular direction.
The fact that this had to be done to hundreds of thousands of stems in a matter of second did not strain people’s ability to believe this story in the least.
Unknown alien technology is beyond our ability to comprehend. Just as god works in mysterious ways and it will all make sense eventually, if you just have faith.
Occam’s razor was known in those days, but obviously not well understood.
So, as you would expect, assumptions proliferated, unquestioned and unexamined. The reality of Occam’s razor to primitive humans was not that the simplest answer was most likely to be the correct one, but rather that the idea that was easiest for a person to believe was most likely to be the correct one. They always went for the answer that caused the least amount of cognitive dissonance and that aligned most easily with their pre-existing beliefs, even if logically it made absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever.
Ah, homo sapiens.
When scientists looked at samples from a crop formation under a microscope, they regularly found “strange metallic spheres” in the dirt surrounding the plants in the formation.
Presumably this was some sort of exhaust from the spaceship, or a byproduct of the hot/cold corn bending blowtorch, or the glowing balls of light, or whatever it was these researchers believed had been used in the crop circle formation process.
Once you’ve committed to the extra-terrestrial creator theory of crop circles, it’s pretty easy to make the rest of the data fall into line and become evidence to support the hypothesis.
To be fair, this was true of any theory advanced by pre-non-duality humans.
So the fact that the plants in a formation (or perhaps it was the electro-magnetically charged spheres in the dirt) interfered with terrestrial electronics — draining phone and camera batteries, or occasionally stopping the pacemaker of an unfortunate farmer or tourist who went to investigate a new formation — was also thought to be proof of aliens having visited earth.
The electromagnetic field emanating from a crop formation was presumably thought to be some kind of spaceship exhaust.
We’re pretty sure no one ever thought TOO hard about any of this, because humans seemed to experience actual physical pain when they attempted to exert their cognitive abilities beyond what was needed for daily existence, which at the time consisted mostly of watching television or reading what passed for the “news” on their “smart” phones.
Even after people realized that the plants in a crop formation would rise back up, presumably without spaceship intervention, and proceed to grow 40% faster and better than the unaffected surrounding crops, they still clung to the men from outer space (or men from nearby with ropes and boards) hypothesis. It more or less explained everything, although no one was ever able to come up with a satisfying answer to WHY the aliens would bother to make complex, beautiful pictures in their crop fields.
There were theories, of course. Some suggested that human time travelers from the year 8100 had made the complex pictures in English wheat fields which could be deciphered because it was written in binary code, with which they were familiar.
(Notice how they were so unable to comprehend of the possibility of an intelligence superior to their own that even the extraterrestrials eventually became humans from the future. It was literally unthinkable that intelligence could be non-human.)
Though the actual content of most of these messages, even when encoded in binary, remained unclear, there was one popularly referenced translation that was said to be a warning from benevolent aliens.
“Beware of those bearing false gifts and promises.”
These messages appeared in June 2015 in Turin, Italy, and then in Georgia around the same time.
As of 2025, no gift-bearing little green men had been reported to have come out of the sky. Or if they did, it was not widely reported.
The same crop formations also exhorted humans to “Expose hidden knowledge to all citizens,” so it seems reasonable that whoever was hiding knowledge also intercepted the aliens and their gifts, and hid those from people as well.
This was an unfortunate decision for homo sapiens as a whole, because according to the crop artists, as they were called, “advancement is imperative for planetary survival.”
Around the year 2020, humans started to figure out something was wrong.
Now? The future is history.