The Common Fascination with Ghosts and My Wonder of Why People are Afraid of Them

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

From Jesus’ disciples thinking that He was a ghost when He walked out on the water to their boat, to the tradition of people gathering around a campfire to hear a ghost story (in which one of the storyteller’s buddies is waiting in the woods to scream at the right cue), ghosts are a classic and preconceived idea.  The thing that gets me about ghosts is this: What are they actually going to do to you?

Yes, ghosts are spooky, creepy, and flat out scary in an old school kind of way.  But I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone in my life that has ever been injured, held hostage, or killed by a ghost.  In every ghost story I’ve ever heard, the worst thing about seeing a ghost is… well, seeing a ghost.  Even if ghosts existed, it’s no more threatening than paying $8 to go to a “spook house” and getting frightened for two seconds because a guy in a hockey mask jumps out at me with a plastic machete.  He can’t touch me, or hurt me.  At best, he’s just there for dramatic effect.

The fact that if ghosts existed they’re harmless is made obvious through the term itself “ghost stories”.  They’re stories.  Fiction.  They often involve a person who suffered a strange death in a house or in a field decades or centuries ago who can still be seen or heard on the right night.  Or like in the bed-and-breakfast where my wife and I stayed at out in Salem, Massachusetts, in which previous guests wrote in the sign-in book that they heard footsteps at night and heard the doorknob being jiggled.  Still though, even if that were true, I’m still here today telling the story.

A natural defensive response to this is someone telling me a “demon story”, which is totally different.  The movie Paranormal Activity is about a demon-possessed girl, not a ghost.  That’s part of the reason it’s so popular and so scary.  There’s a major difference between ghosts and demons, and a lot of people don’t realize that.  A ghost (or apparition) is the appearance of a person who has already lived and died.  A demon is an evil spirit which may inhabit a living person or animal.  (Surely a quick search on YouTube by typing in “actual exorcism” or “demon possessed person in Africa” is at least a little convincing.)

The New Testament is full of situations where people were possessed by a demon, so Jesus or His disciples casted the evil spirit out.  In particular, there was that one time where Jesus cast a multitude of demons out of a man into a herd of pigs, which immediately ran to the ocean and drowned themselves.  But even though I am aware of demonic presences in real life, I fully realize that the greatest concern of the satanic force is hinder me in my spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and to prevent me from building up the Heavenly Kingdom.  Not to possess me.  Because they can’t- I’m already spoken for.

What truly scares me at night?  Being outside in the woods, knowing there could possibly be a mountain lion or a Copperhead snake that sneaks up on me.  (One of my current favorite TV shows is I Shouldn’t Be Alive, which comes on Wednesday nights on Animal Planet- I’m a little bit obsessed.)

A few times throughout my life I have been stuck in a heavy-feeling dream where I felt like something was oppressing me or weighing me down, where I even heard strange, slow motion voices that I can not distinguish. I tried to wake myself up, telling myself it was just a dream.  I tried to speak, but couldn’t.  Until I said, “Jesus! Save me, Jesus!” I immediately woke up to realize that I physically said those words out loud and that those spirits whispering in my ear or whatever they were doing had disappeared.

I take it I’m not a very well liked guy by the dark side of the invisible spiritual world, because never does a day go by where I don’t somehow publicly acknowledge that God is relevant in my life and that He is responsible for something good.  Instead of letting demonic forces trying to threaten my spiritual life, I do my best to live a lifestyle that hinders their mission. Some people are fascinated the possibility of seeing ghosts; I am fascinated by how through my relationship with Jesus Christ, I pose a threat to the wrong side of spiritual warfare.

“You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that- and shudder.” -James 2:19


The Art of Storytelling: How to Be a Good Storyteller- Start in the Action or Plot, Note the Irony and Comedy, Then Do a Quick Recap

I’m not good at it.  I just follow a formula I made up.

Last month my Italian second cousin Phyllis from Kenosha, Wisconsin left me a comment on my post People Watching in Nashville Traffic, saying, “I love your stories!”  Until then, it had never crossed my mind that I even told stories.  I’ve always seen myself as a younger Grandfather Time- the voice of a man who keeps one foot in the past and one in the present, in order to keep a nostalgic feel on everything “new” idea I write.  Just an involved narrator.

I’ve always thought of myself as a commentator on life.  A writer of nonfiction.  There’s no hesitation in me admitting I’m no good at making up stories- fiction is something I am only a spectator of, not a creator.  What I can do is embellish the story that is already there.

Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon

By connecting the facts to old school pop culture references with a subtle smart Alec touch.  Finding ways to make the ordinary occurrences of life seem more interesting than they are.  My favorite author, Michael Chabon, refers to it in his book Maps and Legends, as “the artist’s urge to discover a pattern in, or derive a meaning from, the random facts of the world”.

 

And that’s basically what I’m doing.  And I get so much out of it.  It makes me feel like, in a sense, I’m about to prove the world’s wisest man ever, King Solomon, wrong, when he said there’s nothing new under the sun.  (Though he’s still obviously right.)

Because everyday life events actually are more interesting than they seem.  They may just need to be seen from a reversed diagonal angle.

So now I’m embracing the fact that intermittent in all my quirky observations are actually little stories.  The tag “storyteller” became even more real to me yesterday as I was conspiring with my sister to write Which Role Do You Play in Your Family? When I asked her what my roles are, the word “storyteller” came up write away.

There are certain things about yourself you can only learn from other people.

Frank Lapidus

Maybe my surprise in all this is the connotation that the word “storyteller” conjures up in my head.  Some eccentric, animated man looking like Frank Lapidus from LOST (for some unknown reason) telling a corny ghost story to a bunch of kids gathered around a campfire who all gasp at the end of the tale when he says, “And the ghost of Tom Joad still haunts this campground today in the form of the wolf that killed him…”  And of course, right as he finishes that sentence, the storyteller’s buddy, who has been hanging out in the woods waiting for his cue, howls at the top of his lungs, for dramatic effect.

 

But now I get it.  Storytellers can also recite true stories.  Nonfiction.  That is my specialty.  And now that I better understand who I am as a writer and communicator, I am starting to realize my frustration when people don’t tell stories the way I like to tell them (and hear them).

Like the guy at work who drags out the end of the story until the last sentence.  And I think to myself, “You can’t do that!” Because I get annoyed waiting to find out the point of the story and I stop listening and start thinking about something else, and whatever I start thinking about instead ends up becoming a new post on this site a few days later.

Or the friend of a friend who uses the punch line or climax of the story as the opening line.  Again, “You can’t do that!”  Because then I feel like there’s really no point in sitting around to hear all the details.

What that tells me about my own form of storytelling is that I have a formula for it:

1)     Start the story in the first moment of action and/or the plotline.

2)     Get to the resolution of the story by the second paragraph, approximately 1/3rd or halfway through the length of the post (or if the story is being told orally, 1/3rd or halfway through the time set aside to tell the story).

3)     Spend the rest of the time or page space picking out the irony and humor of the story’s events.  By not ending the story when the story actually ends, but instead, ending on an provoking or comedic recap note, it opens up the door for the listeners to share in the story- because the story is resolved, yet left open-ended.  (Like the finale of LOST.)

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on storytelling, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Batman or Superman?

I never realized what an epic question it is. But ask someone, while being sincerely enthusiastic, and you’ll watch that question become a conversation worthy of a bonfire setting.

Not a question of who’s better, or more popular, or cooler. Just simply:
Superman or Batman? In fact, I’m learning it’s one of the best questions one human being can ask another.

What do both of these superheroes have in common? They both came out at the same time. Respectively, 1938 and 1939. They both were created by Jews. Respectively, Jerry Siegal and Bob Kane. And they both have had several incarnations of television shows and movies in their 70 years so far.

Superman Pro’s:
He can fly. He has a steady love interest. Well-balanced American values. X-ray Vision.

Superman Con’s:

Nerdy alter-ego. He has a boring day job. He’s a not even a human- he’s a freakin’ alien. Must have easy access to telephone booths.

Batman Pro’s:
Intimidating costume. He has a faithful sidekick. Billionaire. Cool gadgets and martial arts training.

Batman Con’s:
Can’t really fly. No X-ray vision. Traumatic childhood. Lives in a cave and seems to like it that way.

Major differences:
*Superman is an alien pretending to be man. Batman is a man pretending to be a bat.
*In the 70 years of existence of both superheroes, Superman tends to be more popular among who were young during the first 35 years (1938-1973), whereas those who were young during the 2nd half of the 70 years (1974-2009).
*Superman has had more positive exposure through TV shows throughout the decades. Batman has had extreme success through several movies in the last 20 years.

My first instinct was to say that Superman is better. Almost seems like the obvious choice. He’s was raised in the rural Midwest by Methodist parents. He embraces the average American image. And has perfect blue/black hair.

But Batman is more of a real person to me. With the murder of his parents when he was a young boy, he had to both deal with that and take over their empire business. (Superman’s parents were murdered too, but he was just a baby when it happened.)

He is dark and mysterious. And intentionally embraces the whole bat theme simply because he thinks it’s creepy. So he knows it will freak out his enemies. Which he has plenty of, unlike Superman.

To many, I’m sure Superman has much allure simply because he is just that- a super man. With super powers.

But I choose the underdog of the two superheroes. Batman is a real man with no special powers. He is a self-trained man who worked hard to get where he is. He just uses cool gadgets and fights in hand-to-hand combat. Oh, and he has a really cool car.

Vote below:

How to Hang Out with Friends and Have Fun

 

An instinct we had as kids is that we always knew how to hang out, without a plan or agenda. In the way that Adam and Eve were not at first aware of their nakedness, we used to have the blessing of being unaware of social awkwardness and social cues. It’s an ability that began to escape us sometime around junior high. When I was a kid, it didn’t matter which friend I was hanging out with after school or spending the night with, we never got bored or recognized that we were about to run out of activities or subjects to talk about.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that as kids we knew “how to play”. Though I may not be a girl, I remember my sister and her friends always seemed to be playing “House”. Females socialize. Males, on the other hand, compete.

As boys we would go outside, often to the woods, to play out some sort of good guys/bad guys scenario. Our version of “Cops and Robbers” was more like Ninja Turtles Vs. Shredder. Bikes and water balloons were often part of the plan. When we got tired, we’d go inside and play Nintendo until we had regained enough energy to initiate a wrestling match on the carpet. And there was the trampoline too. Hours of fun.

But as adults, we don’t use “playing” anymore as the main way to interact with our friends.

It’s not as simple as an adult just to tell a friend, “Let’s hang out at my house after work today”. In many cases, the hanging out is done outside of the home. Instead of playing like we did as kids, adults talk and “catch up”. But there is always a staple to bring the people together. It may be sharing a meal, going to watch a game or movie, or a showing up at a party associated with a holiday or sports event.

But the most simple and common thing I see is people going out for coffee, beer, or wine. The drink serves as a campfire. In the same way people gather around a campfire and find comfort in it with those around them, a drink of choice magically sets the fertile environment for good conversation no matter the location. If by chance the friends find themselves in a noticeably quiet moment, it’s easy to fall back on the easy conversation piece: “Starbucks is wonderful”, “Good beer”, or “I love this wine.” Obviously it’s good. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the modern day campfire.

The one exception and yet another reason to love Paul Rudd in a bromantic situation…