I don’t believe in ghosts, although I’ve seen my share.
Sean Connery as Allan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
One of the unforgettable memories of my teaching career is of sitting in on the English class of Nichols School legend William F. Kimberly (1929-2011), to me the model of a man who knew where he could do the most good for life and stayed true to it all his years. I’ve led some good lit classes in my day, but anyone who could stay that psyched for eighth-grade grammar year after year was off the chart, and it was recognized even in a school accustomed to excellence. “Kim” never accepted offers to teach the older students. “I’m a middle school guy,” he always said.
That line came up at his memorial service and was in my ears at the reception an hour later when a friend introduced me to his circle as an author.
“But you just do… ghost stories,” said his woman friend. I kept my smile. My mind flashed to all the images of this book: ancient ruins, sacred sites, fantastic creatures, Longhouse legends, and history replaying itself in our cast of jubilant, flamboyant ghosts. What could I say to her in two seconds that would convey the slightest sense of the subject I know? And she’s not alone in her thinking.
For all the cult devotion to paranormal “reality” TV and fundamentalist eruptions elsewhere, those who pull the strings of our age do so with the psychological bedrock of materialist-physicalist theories. (No gods, ghosts, angels, or Heaven.) My greatest objection to this outlook in the humanities is that, after cutting what it considers worthless, its substitutions can be so deadening to the imagination.
The ultimate villain of The Neverending Story is “the Nothing,” the certainty of disbelief that chips away at the empyries of fantasy and leaves only vacuum. Humanity progresses, but do we want to leave every part of ourselves behind? Should children grow into adults too serious to laugh?
I’m a supernatural guy.
“That’s right,” I said. “Just ghost stories.”
© 2020 Mason Winfield