Friday, November 28, 2008

The Lingering Dead

Is it possible that the spirits of the newly dead linger for a short period of time and spend this time looking in on their loved ones and saying good-bye to their old life? Would it be unreasonable to assume that there is a transitional time for them?  It seems sensible to me, and I suspect that whether this happens or not may depend on the desires of the dead person and also on their state of mind, their awareness and their openness to the possibility. 

There is evidence for this but it is all anecdotal. I submit the following true stories which were told to me as additional anecdotal evidence that this may be true.

A couple of days ago, a vocabulary discussion in my high school reading class took an unexpected turn.  I told the class that after my father died, as I was walking in my mother's yard, I heard something that sounded like someone had breathed into my ear and made the sound, "shooo." This was very similar to a word, soof,  that a character says in the novel, So B. It. I told them that I wondered if my father hadn't been trying to say my name (Judy) to try to get my attention. Immediately 4 hands went high into the air and I could tell that they had something they very much wanted to share.

A******** shared a story she has been told about herself. When she was three years old, her mother and grandmother heard her talking to someone in the living room, and when they came in, there was no one there. She told them that she was talking to her great-grandmother, who had recently died.

K*** shared that when he was six years old his natural father died. They were living with his grandparents at the time. His grandmother reported seeing the rocking chair where his dad liked to sit moving on its own, and K*** had an experience of his own in the chair. He felt as though someone put hands on his shoulders and pressed down, as though someone was standing behind him. He is now 14 years old and says that when he visits his grandparents, he feels he is also visiting his father, because he feels his presence there.

M***** shared that when he was a young boy, his grandmother died during the night while he was asleep. The sound of ambulance sirens woke him up. He claims that he saw his grandmother in the living room watching the paramedics wheel her own body out to the ambulance, and that this freaked him out.

T***, whose mother died in a car crash when she was a little girl, had two stories to share. First, she told us that her aunt claims that as she was sitting drinking at the kitchen table, her dead sister came and sat across from her and spoke to her. T*** also shared that she had gone to sleep in her parents' bed. She woke up thirsty and asked her father to get her a drink of water. After he left, her mother appeared next to the bed. She screamed, and her father dropped the glass and it broke.

These stories are anecdotal, of course, not proof of anything, but provide further evidence of the continuation of the life of the spirit after the death of the body. All of the current teenagers (between the ages of 14 and 16) were age 6 or younger when they had their experiences. All of their visions were of a recently passed loved one.

I said to the last two, "I don't understand. Why did you freak out when you saw the person who had died? It was someone you loved. Why weren't you happy to see them?"

They looked at me in a pitying way. In unison they exclaimed, "Because they weren't supposed to be there!"

The image of the rocking chair is from Quality House

Monday, November 3, 2008

Seeing Things

I was getting to ready to cut up a potato on Sunday, when I noticed a letter formed by the dark areas of the potato skin that looked just like a capital letter E.  Hmm, was it a sign, I wondered? And if so, of what or whom? Aha, Einstein, perhaps? Why not?

I was reminded of the devout or deluded souls out there who find evidence in nature or in common objects that they claim proves a certain belief, whether in ghosts, UFO's or Jesus, and I started wondering why. Why do they see Jesus on a slice of toast, the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, faces on Mars, and angels in misty photographs? Why are there two YouTube videos of "Cheesus," little Jesus-shaped Cheetos that their owners are afraid to eat? Why do people flock to see Jesus in a rust stain, the Virgin on a garage door, or in a motorcyclist's road rash? 

I don't have a firm answer to the question. I am often baffled by the illogical ramblings of the village idiots. Here are my best guesses. And let me say, that I think that, except for those who are out to fool the rest, many of these people appear to genuinely believe. There's no lacking for sincerity here.

1. Attention. Clearly the people who find these things and tell their neighbors and call FOX news want attention. And a divine apparition is going to get attention, so can't rule this one out. The current modern stream of apparitions in various food items started in 1977 with New Mexico's Maria Rubio, who found a small image of Jesus on a tortilla she was fixing for her husband. This lead to a small shrine in a shed, visited, one assumes, by thousands. There were other competing Holy Tortillas that came out in the next year or two. Sadly, in 2005 the original Jesus tortilla was broken when Mrs. Rubio's granddaughter took it to school for Show and Tell and someone dropped it.  Tragedy or comedy? You decide.

2. Justification. Being able to produce something unexplained in a grainy photograph or video that justifies a belief, whether in E.T. or Bigfoot, may make the swampland of belief the believer is standing on seem a bit firmer. Visiting a shrine to one of these apparitions may be considered  proof of devotion, pennies in the heaven bank.

3. Boredom. Let's face it, many people lead desperate lives of tedious boredom. Having something to show everyone else may make them feel interesting for a while, or at the very least, less boring.

4. Inferiority Complex. Let the Jones's try to keep up with them for a change. How do you top Jesus in your neighbor's potato chip?

5. Spiritual High. Religious believers want to experience closeness with the divine. However, some people misconstrue an excess of emotion as spiritual experience. They work themselves into an emotional tizzy, like whirling dervishes (no offense to the dervishes). No dizzying rush = no spirit = no testimony. Don't want to be without one of those. Some may use apparitional objects as the focus of meditation in an effort to invoke a spiritual experience. I wouldn't be able to do it. Meditate on a tortilla with a thumb-sized Jesus burn mark? Not going to do it for me.

6. Mammon. Let's not forget the profit motive. There have been numerous items, some obviously faked and others produced by nature, sold on ebay. It's hard to associate pure motives to those.

You can see many of them here in this video. The song is by
The Bucky Burro Band.

There are a lot of things in this world that deserve attention, but these examples of wishful thinking are just sad. Long story short, the gullible will frequently be fooled by pareidolia, the random shapes that appear naturally, and seem to our eyes to contain faces or look like what they are not. There's a wonderful collection of them at this website: Things that look like other things.