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


Major Nerds and Super Geeks: We Become Specialists in What We are Naturally Good At and Love to Do Anyway

In order to be cool these days, you have to embrace your inner dork.

By a college student’s junior year at a large university, there is no denying what he or she is majoring in.  Because by that point, there are certain undeniable quirks which have been weaved into the way they speak, how they spend their free time, or most importantly, who their friends are.  So when I chose the term “Major Nerds” as part of the title for this, it’s a play on words with a dual meaning like the classic TV show “Family Matters”.  It seemed to me that while in I was in college, a student became a nerd or a geek for whatever their college major was.

For me, the easiest ones to spot were the drama majors.  When a drama major walked into a room, they basically sang everything they said.  Their private conversations were never private; instead, everyone else in the room was an audience member for their traveling play production.  Of course they were also some of the most sincere and friendliest I knew in college.  Or were they just acting?  I guess I’ll never know.

I earned my degree from Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world.  So it’s no surprise that in addition to every typical degree you could think of, they had a few peculiar options as well.  In particular, I’m thinking about the Worship majors.  These were the students planning a career in leading worship music at large churches… I guess.  Because every time you saw them, they were carrying a guitar playing “Shout to the Lord”, somewhat successfully drawing in a crowd of people singing along.

And if they weren’t doing that, they were inviting people to their “Night of Praise”: As part of their graduation requirements, the Worship majors had to entice an audience to come to a worship service in which the Worship major ran the thing.  For me, it was the most random thing someone could major in at our college.  I just couldn’t understand why a person would be willing to limit or brand themselves with such a specific degree.

What if after a few years of leading worship at a church, they decide they’d rather work in a bank?  And during the job interview, the employer says to them, “So, I see you have a college degree in… worship?”  And too, it’s just a weird concept to me that a person has to learn to worship God or lead others in worshipping God.  It makes sense, but also, like I told my friend James Campbell, whom I recently lost contact with because he evidently “quit” facebook: “Is that really something that you have to be taught?  Isn’t that comparable to having to take a class on ‘how to make love’?”

Then again, I’m not the one who feels I was called by God to work in the ministry.  So of course I can’t relate.  As for me, as if it wasn’t blatantly obvious, I was an English major.  To caricature us, I would say we were a strange hybrid: Decently liberal and very artistic on the inside, yet pretty conservative and sophisticated on the outside.  In other words, baby Literature professors in training.

Our heads were in the clouds, yet our feet were on the ground.  We were trained to dissect and diagram every situation into literary components; we were the Grammar Police to our dorm mates (see I am the Human Spell Check).  We were the only students who actually enjoyed writing papers.  In fact, I didn’t start out as an English major- I became one my junior year when I realized that if I enjoyed writing term papers, and all my friends came to me to proofread theirs, that maybe I should stop looking at some big dream of a career and just to what came easy to begin with.

And though those last two paragraphs about English majors were written in past tense, I can’t say that any of those characteristics about me have changed, simply because I graduated.  In fact, they’ve only increased in intensity.  In my office, I’m still the guy people come to when they need a letter written or an important e-mail proofread.  Obviously, I still enjoy writing- you know, hence the website and everything.

And really, that’s the way it works.  Most people end up majoring in whatever comes most natural for them anyway, for however they are wired.  Is it true that Finance and Accounting majors love working with numbers?  Sure, but it also comes easier for them then it would for me.  We all still like being challenged in our particular field.  When we can succeed in the difficult tasks of our specialty, it furthers us in becoming a locally recognized expert, equipped with knowledge and experience that impresses and possibly intimidates those who in different fields than we are.

I can tell you why the “k” in knife is silent and I can spell any word correctly without thinking about it, but I can’t do numbers.  I can’t do science.  Nor am I a computer whiz.  There are so many things I’m not good at and that I know little to nothing about.  But when it comes to the English language, literature, creative writing, and any kind of written communication in general, I’m your guy.  In other words, I was an English major nerd.  And always will be.

I use the word “nerd”, but I could say “expert”, or “go-to-guy”, or “whiz”, or even “buff”.  It’s all the same.  We all like to be good at something.  And when we can, we like to THE person for our niche.  Which often means we all have a bit of quirkiness attached to us.  Everyone’s at least a little weird.   Even the people we think who are the most normal.

Which Role Do You Play in Your Family?

As I a guy who doesn’t know anything about cars or building stuff, or even computers, or how to really fix anything, or sports (golf included), or politics, or business (investments and stock market crap), there aren’t seemingly many important roles left for me as a man in a family. 

Sure, I can tell you which actors from Saved by the Bell are Jewish and which songs were hits in 1983 and how tall Albert Einstein was and I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than five minutes every time, but how does that fill any kind of necessary void in family dynamics?

I am a walking Wikipedia with an unforgettable memory of life events, sometimes nearing borderline Asperger’s.  So by default, what is my role in my family of six?  And to see the full picture, what are the roles of each member of my family? (My parents, my sister, her husband, and my wife.)

Me: The storyteller, the writer, the historian, and the event planner.  What drives me are memories.  Good memories take place because of events.  So I enjoy planning the family’s activities. 

I tend to be the one in the family that decides what we will do with our time when we’re all together.  And if I didn’t have an agenda for everyone to follow, it’s possible we would all just sit around and do nothing.  It’s possible we wouldn’t know where to go to eat, and end up settling for something mediocre like Outback or Chili’s. 

But I take the responsibility on myself for the six of us to decide where those memories (including potential funny stories and inside jokes) will take place.  And because “life happens” around food and entertainment and going to new places, my niche is being the one to set the backdrop for those events.

My role doesn’t fall into any of the typical manly stereotypes; I am the Montgomery Moose, the Desmond Hume, the John Cusack, the Pat Sajak.  The host, the MC of the evening, the narrator, the journalist of past, present, and future.  I just can’t fix anything.

My wife: The organized one, the teacher, the nurturer, the listener.

My dad: The mechanic, the electrician, the carpenter.

My mom: The financial expert, the chef, the encourager, the conversationalist.

My sister: The interior decorator, the helper, the initiator.

Her husband: The computer whiz, the tech expert, the sports enthusiast. 

Not that anyone can limit the talents and capabilities of their own family members down to just a few roles.  Because family members are not just stereotypes or TV characters.  They’re family.

What brought all this to mind is by watching the wonderfully crafted sitcom/drama Parenthood.  I love the dynamics of the family and how they all interact.  It hit me that the members of my family all have specific roles like the characters on that show.  And also, it seems the entertainment world is oversaturated with superheroes. 

I just wanted to know what my “superpowers” are.  Now I know. 

(And in case you’re still curious, Screech and Jessie were played Jewish actors, on the show Saved by the Bell.)

Would you, the random or regular reader, be willing to share with me your role and your family members’ roles in your family by leaving a comment below?  This isn’t a clever marketing ploy to boost my numbers or make this post seem more interesting.  I am just truly interested in this topic and want to know what other random family roles are out there. 

Medium and a Half: The Average and Normal Size?

Being average does not equate being normal.


My body must be disproportioned. Medium-sized anything fits a little too short and tight once it’s washed.  Anything that is a large-sized ends up being a little baggy even if it’s washed in hot water and dried on “high heat”.

When a long sleeve shirt fits me right, the sleeves are always a little bit too long and the bottom of the shirt is too short.  So there’s not much to tuck in.  That either means my arms are shorter than normal or my torso is longer than normal.  Or maybe a little bit of both.

And pants, those are always weird.  My pants size is 33×31.  I am the average American male height: 5’ 9”.  And my weight is normal for my height: around 160 pounds.  Yet it’s almost impossible to find my pants size when I buy pants.

I have to settle for either 34×30 or 33×34.  So my pants are either a bit too big around the waste and a little too short in the legs, or they’re too long.

If I’m so average-sized, why don’t clothing companies make clothes that fit me?

Conspiracy.

Storms off, stage left.  Pants dragging the ground.

Mr. Daydream’s Personality Pyramid: Humorous, Philosophical, Analytical, Dramatic

It’s always funny to joke about other people having split personalities.  But the truth is, we have all split personalities.  It’d be kinda weird if we didn’t.

I’ve said before that I tend to “pull an Andy Bernard” in that I mirror personalities in order to better relate to people, which is found in the fundamental teachings of Dale Carnegie, the author of the famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People.  But that’s different than the idea of having split personalities because mimicking another person’s manner of speech and body movement doesn’t reflect my own true split personalities.

We all have at least a few different “default mode” personalities we fall back on, which direct and guide our choices of words and actions.  After a little bit of self-analysis, I have narrowed my own collection of personalities down to four main selections:

Humorous

Philosophical

Analytical

Dramatic

Humorous: I am starting with the one at the bottom of my “personality pyramid”, the one the general public sees the most.  The most unguarded.  It’s my surface personality that is appropriate for most situations which is found in everything I do, even serious tasks.  But not “Jim Carrey/get hit in the head with a frying pan” kind of humor, though.

A more subtle type usually delivered in “dead pan” style, where I don’t laugh at my own attempts at humor.  I don’t tell jokes; I translate real life situations into jokes by sliding in sarcastic commentary about them, adding in nostalgic and pop culture references whenever I can.

Right now one of my major comedic icons is actually Alec Baldwin, a man who used to specialize in drama.  To me, that’s the funniest kind of humor out there.  Like the stand-up styles of Conan O’Brien, Joe Rogan, Zach Galifianakis, and Doug Benson.  But not so dry to the point of David Letterman.

Philosophical: For a guy who has never smoked pot, the conversation topics I come up with would reflect otherwise.  There’s a theory out there that whenever a person is exposed to the psychoactive elements found in marijuana, their “third eye” opens up, causing them to see the world in a different perspective.  But I think I was born with my third eye open.  That would explain a lot, actually.

When a person asks me, “What’s up?” or “What’s new?” or “What’s going on?” or “Whatch ya think?”, they will most definitely get an answer.  Not, “oh, not much” or “same ole, same ole”.  Instead, they will hear that I am currently debating whether or not I would be able to carry out capital punishment myself or whether Batman or Superman is the better superhero.  My third eye absolutely effects what I say, therefore coming across as my “philosophical personality”.

Analytical: Despite seeing the world through an abstract lens, I actually see everything in terms of black and white, cut and dry, “either it is or it isn’t”.  There is a formula for everything.   There is definite right and wrong.  That’s the teacher side of me.  I like explaining things to people.

My analytical personality is the one that will spend countless hours searching which celebrities are Jewish or learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.  It’s my necessary inner dork.  It’s the part of me that has an elaborate system for keeping shoes looking new, despite being 8 years old, but I’ll have to get into that in a different post.

Dramatic: At the top of my personality pyramid is the one I reserve mainly just for close family and friends, because it is my personality that is engrained into my emotions.  This is not a personality that needs to be seen by the general public.  Its function is to manage the aspects of my life which are the most important to me.

My dramatic personality allows me to display necessary emotions where love is involved.  I do my best to confine my emotions to just the people I am closest to.  Otherwise, I could end up an emotional guy who wears my heart on my sleeve.  I am not afraid to be vulnerable enough to show my emotions, but I think it’s important to save them for the right situations and the right people.

So that’s how it works.  We are wired with different personalities equipped to suite the right situations and the right people.  The main four personalities that I named most likely do not correspond to hardly anyone else.  Everyone else in the world has their own combination of split personalities which they must decipher in order to better understand who they are.

We’re not crazy.  We just have split personalities.  Isn’t that crazy?

Would You Define Your Life as a Comedy or a Tragedy?

The same question goes for the movie Garden State.

I have struggled for a solid ten years trying to figure out what makes things funny. Universally, seeing someone fall down (who doesn’t get hurt) is always funny, but I don’t know why. Defining what humor is, is almost impossible to simply and briefly put into words. What I can do is make a judgment call on whether something as a whole is a comedy or a drama.

One of my college professors taught me there is a clear way to distinguish between the two: Comedy involves a protagonist who in the beginning of the story is standing outside the borders of his society and by the end of the story is accepted into it. Therefore a tragedy is when the protagonist in the beginning is accepted as part of the society but by the end is expelled from it.

To test this theory on comedies, I will take Adam Sandler for example: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Water Boy, The Wedding Singer, and Big Daddy all involve a character who starts out as one or more of the following: incompetent, poor, lonely, selfish. By the end of the movie, Adam Sandler’s character is accepted into the fold as these previous attributes are resolved. So I can see how the definition of a comedy works here.

For tragedies, I will take some horror movies for example: The Blair Witch Project, Skeleton Key, The Strangers, Quarantine, and Carrie. The protagonists end up either dead or in a really bad situation by the time the credits roll. So I can see how the definition of a tragedy works here, as death or loss of freedom is a way of being ousted from a society that the protagonists were once a part of.

The end of a movie ultimately defines it as a comedy or tragedy. Garden State, which is more a drama than anything, ends with Zach Braff’s character being able to overcome his dependence on his doctor’s/father’s misdiagnosed prescription of anti-depressants and feel alive for the first time as he moves back home to New Jersey, making new friends and finding love: That’s a comedy.

Using this theory, these other genre-vague movies would also be considered comedy: Fight Club, Forrest Gump, and Elizabethtown. And these would be tragedy: Into the Wild, Vanilla Sky, and One Hour Photo.

Life is comprised of rotating moments of comedy and tragedy. Times where I’m on the outside looking in and I get in (comedy) and times where I’m inside but am pushed out (tragedy). In ways big and small. But a person’s general perspective will cause him or her to see it ultimately as one or the other:

If life is comedy-in-progress, then life is me trying to figure out how to be normal enough to succeed in being accepted by my immediate society, eventually dying satisfied, knowing I’m surrounded by those who love me.

If life is tragedy-in-progress, then life is me already having everything I need and want in life but having it all taken away from me in the end, eventually dying sad and alone.

Big decisions, big decisions. I’ll go with comedy-in-progress.

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Stage Presence: How I Went From a Shy Kid to an Outgoing Local Actor, Thanks to Eddie McPherson

Growing up, I was labeled a “shy kid”. But in 1989 when I was in 3rd grade, a young local playwright named Eddie McPherson had faith and saw potential in me, recruiting me to portray an island native boy named Maybe in a play he wrote. Wearing a loin cloth, a rope belt, and a khaki colored t-shirt, I spoke in broken English. (Though off the top of my head I can’t think of any island societies where a white boy with brown spiky hair would not be speaking English as a first language.) This play, Captain Gilabo, would be the vehicle that introduced me to a life where I realized it was actually easier and more natural to be on the stage than it was to hide in the corner, afraid of the spotlight.

Eddie McPherson

Every year he would choose me to play a decent sized role for his newest play, from 3rd grade until 9th grade when he moved away from our small town. But my participation in drama didn’t stop only with Eddie McPherson’s plays. During the summers of my childhood to support local charities, for my senior class play, in the after school program I worked for, and in college, I had stage presence. Actually ending up on the front page of my hometown paper several times, promoting the current play I was in.

Not that I was an amazing actor, it’s more that I learned that a good majority of people didn’t necessarily want to be in plays. But for me, I realized that if I simply memorized my lines and pretended to be someone else, I could pull it off. (Because we all have to adapt our personality to better suite those we are around on a daily basis, it seemed to me that acting is a constant part of life anyway.) I became a hometown child actor not because I was necessarily great at it, but because I was willing to do it.

Simply put, I didn’t have much competition. That’s one of the same reasons I have such a passion for writing. The truth is, hardly anyone I know writes on facebook. It gives me the corner on the market. If it was a crowded market instead, I doubt I would be as inspired to participate so regularly. But knowing my competitions were “25 Things” forwards and “What Kind of Hot Pocket Are You?” quizzes, I learned to take advantage of the “notes” tab.

I am convinced there are many entertaining, insightful, and talented people with an impressive ability to write. But they just don’t do it. I wish they would. Some of the best inspiration I get is by reading the writings of the people that hear the same dog whistle as me.

The inspiration and the audience are often one in the same.

The people that are tired of the all too familiar Christian writing involving a predictable moral point like “just trust in God and everything will be alright” like it was copied and pasted from a 2001 email forward that says only people who really love God will send it to everyone in their contacts, or the seemingly smart but ultimately depressing, Debbie Downer-like “my take on what’s wrong with today’s church” bit.

And people who realize that reminiscing about the memories we all share is more fun than worrying out the future and things we can’t control. And people that like to be made aware of the subtle, random aspects of life that we accept yet don’t notice. “Christian Seinfeld with an actual point.”  When people ask me what can of stuff I write, that is my answer.

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