Humans Are Haunted

There are ghosts everywhere. If you live, you will be haunted in some way, at some point. You will be haunted by ghosts that are uniquely tied to you and you alone. You will be haunted by family ghosts, neighborhood ghosts, and the ghosts of social upheaval experienced by millions. You can ignore your ghosts, both private and public, you can deny them, you can alter the chemicals in your brain to keep them at bay, but they will still be there.

Ghosts are everywhere.

It's a quaint notion that ghosts live in haunted houses, safely contained by boarded up windows and keep out signs in overgrown yards. It's a quaint notion that ghosts are only discontented souls of the dead who, although they have supernatural powers, still follow a set of rules that serve only to keep us, the living, safe from them. There are many quaint notions about ghosts, their very nature inspires that kind of thinking and always has.

There are people who fervently believe in ghosts, despite the fact that they've never personally experienced anything in the least bit supernatural. They believe because they want to believe. Or they just do believe, they have faith. Sort of like having faith in anything— a personal god, endless petrochemical supplies, love at first sight. But the faithful believers are probably in the minority.

Most people tell themselves and everyone who will listen that are no such things as ghosts. They scoff at believers. They foster a smug sense of their own superiority. They disbelieve.

Question: If a ghost haunts a forest, but there are no living people in the forest, is the forest really haunted?

Answer: No, the forest isn't haunted— because there's no such things as ghosts.

It's as if not believing in ghosts denies them the power to exist. Sort of like thinking there are no such things as atoms, because hey, I've never seen an atom—have you?

But wait, that's different, atoms can be seen by scientists with specialized equipment... they've been proven to exist. Yes, that's true. But what about the time before the specialized equipment was invented? Atoms were suspected and experienced in intuitive ways by people before they had any scientific ways of reliably revealing their existence. Did atoms not exist in that time before? Were atoms just ghosts who haunted the minds of scientists?

So maybe it comes down to personal belief. Like with anything. You either believe or you don't.

People do change their minds, though, don't they? Especially when confronted with personal experience, or compelling evidence. If you have a supernatural experience, your options are to believe there is more going on in the universe than we may be able to see with our naked eyes all the time, or plead temporary insanity.

It's all in your mind. You imagined it. Take some drugs. You'll be fine.

That's a funny notion to me. Personally, I'd rather believe that there's more going on out there, then believe my brain is permanently broken. But that's just me. And I believe in ghosts. After all, I am one.

Let me explain.

You don't have to be dead to be a ghost or to haunt someone. You don't even have to be a person, or an animal.

I am haunted by ideas.

I am haunted by places, New Orleans and New York.

I am haunted by time, so haunted by time. Nothing plays tricks on me as much as time does. In my repertoire of ghosts, time is my god damned poltergeist.

I am haunted by choices, made or not made.

I am haunted by a lover that I may never meet.

I am haunted by the father I didn't have and the grandfather I did.

I am haunted by three mothers—the one who had me, the one who took me, the one who was cheated.

I am haunted by a brother who died, a brother who lived and a brother who got away.

I'm haunted by the god damned number three – father, son and holy ghost is just the least of it.

I am haunted by the people who left me.

I am haunted by the people I left. Worst of all by the ones who loved me, and maybe love me still.

I am haunted by the life I want and the characters who want me to give them life. Artworks are ghosts until we bring them into being, sometimes even after.

Desires are ghosts.

Memories are ghosts.

I am haunted. I also haunt. I am a ghost.

I'm at peace with that because, as of this writing, I'm also alive. And the possibilities are endless, until it ends. And according to my belief, maybe even after. So, I give in to my ghosts. Some of them, not all of them. Some of them are poisonous and hurtful. Some of them have inspired huge, thick wall building.

And then, thankfully, there is also love. I love some of my ghosts. I love all those little people my son grew into being and then left behind. The two year old with golden curls and tiny fingers that plucked goldfish crackers from my palm, the four year old who painted circles inside of circles and called them rooms. Eighteen little ghosts and counting.

I love my characters too, even the bad ones. They have haunted me relentlessly, I think because they have the most to gain. The more they haunt me, the more they can inspire me to write about them, the more likely they are to escape from my mind.

Fictional characters are a unique sort of ghost. They pass out into the material world through one human mind, like a birth. And then, if they are lucky and compelling, they come back into countless other human minds and become known. They develop into real people in the sense that they are known, their stories and their personalities are known.

At some point, all of us become memories. So who is real? Does a person who possesses a temporary body for a finite lifetime have an advantage over a person who is known by thousands, maybe even millions, and will live for as long as people can call their image to mind? I think real is all relative.

What's the point of all this rambling? The Bella Vista Motel.

(Originally posted Saturday March 15 2008)