Another enjoyable book I highly recommend to any adult is The Book of Questions, by Gregory Stock, PH.D. (1985, 1987) (ISBN 978-0-89480-320-8). As The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes is filled with humorously provocative answers, this book is filled with seriously provocative questions. There are more specialized books by Gregory Stock, such as The Book of Questions: Love & Sex and The Book of Questions: Business, Politics and Ethics (both of which I also highly recommend to any adult). But The Book of Questions is the basic text from which the above were derived. And it includes questions for just about every topic.
These questions inspire readers’ answers that can be as provocative as the questions themselves–answers that can provoke further discussion. And there is one, in particular, for which I’d like to share my answers:
Do you believe in ghosts or evil spirits? Would you be willing to spend a night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted?
I believe in ghosts, in a sense–though not in the conventional one.
The idea of ghosts has always fascinated me. If they exist, what are they? One hypothesis is that ghosts are simply images left behind, by the deceased–like footprints. When you see these images, you’re not seeing the deceased person, or even the spirit of the deceased person–you’re seeing an imprint, an impression. There’s a section in this poem of mine which alludes to this idea: Planetary perfection gleams from her naked hips, as she spins through her new house. And when the wrecker’s ball busts it a century later, I see her for the first time. Yet in explanations of this imprint-hypothesis, the image is almost always one of a deceased person doing something routine–such as sweeping the porch or gazing through a window. The only problem: You never hear of a ghost shitting, pissing, masturbating, or engaging in any other unmentionable, yet very routine activity! Still, despite this possible flaw, I find the imprint-hypothesis reasonably valid.
Another explanation is more direct: Ghosts are spirits of the deceased, who have returned to have a desire fulfilled, or to serve a purpose in someone’s life. I once asked a fellow college student why he believed in ghosts. And he told me of a personal experience I could not (and still cannot) dismiss: When he was a child, and his mother was pregnant with his sister, his ailing grandmother expressed her desire to see the newborn baby before she died. But she died too soon. One night, not long after his little sister’s birth, his grandmother entered his room, after visiting his sleeping parents. He happened to be awake, or was awakened by her light. For she appeared as a figure so bright that he couldn’t make out her face. Yet he knew it was his grandmother. She said nothing, and he felt no fear at all. Instead, her love surrounded him, as the light surrounded her. As she left, and walked toward his sister’s room, he quietly followed. And surely enough, he found her, standing over his sister’s crib, gazing at the sleeping baby she’d desired to see before she’d died. Then she was gone, never to be seen again, in this world. Her desire had been fulfilled, after all.
Though I wasn’t completely convinced this had occurred, I was completely convinced that he believed it had–and I still am. I don’t believe in angels–supernatural beings created specifically to serve humanity. Yet I do believe in the possibility that the Creator allows some of the deceased to return to this universe, for purposes such as the one illustrated in my friend’s story. Still, why doesn’t this happen more often? There must be other beloved grandmothers with the same desire and the same fate, who are not allowed to have this desire fulfilled. And why do the deceased only intervene in our lives in fiction? Consider all the people who commit suicide every day–surely the deceased would rescue them from this most final act of desperation. But they don’t. Like the aforementioned imprint-hypothesis, this idea that ghosts are the deceased (or at least their spirits) who’ve returned, though reasonably valid, has at least one flaw.
Referring back to Dr. Stock’s question as to whether the reader believes in ghosts, I answer, …in a sense–though not in the conventional one. And this is what I mean: My hypothesis is presented in another section of the same poem of mine: They wave from a carousel, as I approach the separate universe we call Heaven. For ghosts don’t haunt us, we haunt them. Yet they don’t mind.
I propose that, if there is life after death at all, it’s not in this universe. In other words, even with light-speed-travel technology, we could never reach the hereafter, as we could a distant galaxy. Just as this universe is, for all we know, infinite–the number of universes is, for all we know, infinite. And what we call Heaven is a separate universe. When people say a person has gone to be with God, this may be closer to the truth than it seems. Certainly the deceased may live in a universe that is closer to the Creator than this one. Yet though this separate universe is in a different dimension, it’s in the same space as ours. In other words, the deceased may live among us, though we almost never see them– or sense them in any other way. They could be moving around us, even through us, enjoying a world much like our own–though hopefully better.
And this is what is meant by the line: For ghosts don’t haunt us, we haunt them. When people see ghosts, they are simply seeing into this separate realm. The deceased are not visiting this universe– the living are visiting, or at least approaching, that of the deceased. And the deceased (for lack of a better word–since they are more alive than they ever were in our universe) don’t mind, because we cannot possibly harm them.
Now, (all seriousness aside) I’d be willing to spend a night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted, under the following conditions:
It would be a one-story house.
It would have electricity and running water–and both would be operational the entire time.
It would be reasonably comfortable–with all the amenities of a modern home, including a television, computer (with Internet service), refrigerator, microwave oven, air-conditioning/heating, etc.
There’d be a delicious, catered dinner awaiting me–as well as a catered breakfast in the frige. There’d also be plenty of Moosehead and Guinness in the frige.
I’d be paid $5000 the next day.
The house would be supposedly haunted by only one ghost–that of a woman with the looks of Greer Garson…
…and the personality of Drew Barrymore.
Otherwise, forget it!