Do You Believe in Ghosts?

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?

Categories: Fluff and Philosophical Nonsense | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Do You Believe in Ghosts?

  1. nadine

    there are no ghosts. no aliens. no monsters under the bed. no god. no gnomes or elves or sprites. no vampires, zombies, or werewolves. no witches or wizards. no santa, tooth fairy or easter bunny. just us humans. isn’t that scary enough?

  2. Bill

    The problem with ghosts and god is this: a thing happens and a believer assaults you with the line “There’s no explanation for that” or even more condescendingly “You can’t explain that!”

    Whether or not you or the rest of the rational, scientific community could explain this particular event is irrelevant.

    What is important is that the acolyte believes two things: a) that no one outside their club could possibly explain the event, and b) that they, the believer, holds knowledge of the only true explanation.

    Have you ever known that person who hates it when you tell them how a wondrous rainbow is born, or what causes the fiery display of a sunset? They act for all the world like you just smashed all their childhood fantasies – that the truth behind these things somehow ruins their beauty and the ability of a human to appreciate that beauty. I simply do not understand this on any adult, rational level. In fact, I am often more amazed at how the conspiracy of a few atmospheric elements can create something so amazing to see.

    But believers want – no, perhaps they need – to create a reality of their own.

    I could go on and on but I’ll put it simply. I have never seen or been provided with evidence of anything “supernatural”. Most things that awe believers I see as having simple, humble explanations. And with to the few things I can’t immediately see a solid, rational explanation for, I find the strength of will to say that it is okay. It is perfectly alright to be lacking a present explanation. My world does not crumble. My reality does not falter. My inability as a human being to find an answer does not fret me because I know that this does not mean that there is no explanation – just that I have failed to see it.

    But some people do not have the constitution or the desire to live with such ambiguity. They must have an answer – a special answer – and in comes the supernatural. It makes them superior, after all, because their invocation of the supernatural can always answer a question even when a rational person falters for a second.

    Are there ghosts or gods or vampires or werewolves?

    I do not know. I do not presume to (definitively) know. But I will say that as of yet I have never found any convincing evidence of the numinous. And furthermore, to sort of steal from Ayn Rand and Aristotle, that which is real persists despite any effort to disbelieve or ignore it. Therefore, being a believer cannot be a prerequisite for being able to experience anything which is, in fact real. Reality will always school you. Mercilessly.

    So have no fear – that which is real can be found and that which is not cannot harm you.

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