I am afraid of everything.
Heights. Flying. Enclosed spaces. Spiders, snakes, cockroaches. Dogs. Rapists. People I don’t know. Giving birth. Scary movies. Answering an unknown number on my phone. Drugs. Driving an automatic. People touching my neck. Tunnels. Camping. Calling customer service numbers. Doctors. Drowning. Sharks. The dark. Walking alone late at night. My own death. The death of anyone I love.
Trying new things. Being wrong. The unknown.
When I was little, I was afraid something – a very nebulous, ill-defined something – was gonna “get me” in the night. There was some sort of monster that could pop out of my closet or from under the bed and attack me. This didn’t make sense because there wasn’t even an “under the bed” to emerge from – my bed rested on a frame made of drawers. There was literally no empty space beneath my mattress. I combated this fear rationally: as long as at least one foot was under the covers, I was untouchable. No matter how hot it was in mid-July, I had to keep some part of my body under blankets or I was sure to die.
I have never been afraid of ghosts, however.
I don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve never felt an otherworldly presence. Theatres always come with a resident phantom, and I’ve worked in a lot of them. I’ve never come face to face with a pale specter of death.
I’ve gotten goosebumps, I’ve heard strange noises, but I’ve never thought there was anything other than a logical, scientific explanation for what I was experiencing.
Lately though I’ve been talking to people – well-educated people I respect – who’ve been telling me about their encounters with beings from beyond. I made a friend recently who claims to have spent the past few years co-habitating in a rural farm house with Casper’s cousins. He says skeptics have visited him and asked when he got the white cat they saw streaking down the hall. He doesn’t have a cat. He’s woken up to a man crying in the corner of his bedroom.
This sounds terrifying to me. But I wonder if I went there, if I’d see anything. Do you have to believe to experience these things? Do you have to “be open” to letting these things happen to you? And if you have to believe it to see it, well…that logic makes my head hurt.
Another friend who has witnessed shadowy post-life visitors told me it scared her that I DON’T believe. I thought this was silly. If I’m not scared, if I don’t believe in it, it can’t hurt me. Right?
But I wonder if she’s kind of right. Maybe I should be scared for myself that I don’t believe in ghosts. Not because I’m in for a harsh reality check when some ethereal being inevitably haunts me out of my cynicism. But maybe my lack of belief in ghosts is directly linked to my lack of belief in God. Or romance. Or a fulfilling give-and-take unconditional love. If I don’t think these things exist, can I actually experience them? If they truly existed, wouldn’t I get slapped in the face by them no matter my convictions? Can magic purposely avoid people who don’t believe: ghosts only condescend to appear to ghost-hunters? God only helps those who pray? (God certainly does NOT help a lot of his faithful.)
Am I doomed to a banal, overly rational life without any magic because thus far I have found no just reason to believe in magic?
That’s a pretty sad way to live.
I’m not overly rational. My behavior more than proves that. But I don’t think I’ve ever come face-to-face with any of those mystical, miraculous things I’ve mentioned. I’ve never had to try extrahard to explain away something that blatantly existed outside of science. And at this point I’m not sure I know how to MAKE myself believe in ghosts. Like little Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street, do I just repeat over and over, “I believe, I believe, it’s silly but I believe” until I find myself tormented by a grim grinning ghost?
And then what? I run screaming in panic? Is that a good thing? Do I really need to give myself MORE things to fear? Because that’s a pretty terror-inducing list: Ghosts. God. Romance. Unconditional love.
What do you think? Do you believe in ghosts? Do you think opening yourself to spirits ultimately could unlock your life for all magical experiences? Is it all connected?