Tag Archives: superstition

The Ghost Dog

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Before I begin this very confusing and confusticating tale, I need to start by stating clearly that I do not believe in ghosts.  I am firmly convinced that there is a rational scientific explanation for everything, and those things we may be tempted to see as a spirit living on after death of the body are really only misperceptions of other things… and wishful thinking.

In spite of all that, we have a ghost dog living in our house.

I know that contradicts everything I just said, but human beings are like that.  Practically everything about this life is shot full of contradictions and impossibilities.  So, let me lay out those contradictions as I encountered them.

This house we live in now was built in the 1970’s.  It was lived in by a middle-class white family.  A woman showed up here ten years ago wanting to look at the house because she grew up in it, and it had been sold when her parents died.  So this house is not young enough to be free of potential spirits of those who lived before.  But no tragic deaths, the kind that the lore says cause ghosts to walk, happened in this house.  Except for the possibility of a family pet hit by a car in this neighborhood.

The first time I saw it was when I got out of the bathtub one evening in early January.  As I opened the door to the bathroom, still not having my glasses on, I saw a dog sitting in the upstairs hallway, panting with its tongue hanging out.  Now, we do have a dog, but our dog, Jade, is a small yellow-and-white dog.  The dog I glimpsed out of the corner of my near-sighted, astigmatic eye with no corrective lens in front of it was a rather large chocolate brown dog.  I jumped a bit and looked directly at it.  It was no longer there with a speed that gave the lie to the notion that it was a real dog.  It had to be a trick of the eye and the goofy old brain.  Our mind is wired in a way that makes sense out of every visual stimulus-blob  in the best way that it can.  I must have misinterpreted some shadow or blob of color in a way that my brain instantly converted into a chocolate-brown Labrador-retriever sort of dog… with a goofy, open-mouthed dog-smile.

So, I didn’t really think anything more about it.  I investigate ghost stories and conspiracy theories all the time as a part of the kind of surrealist writing I like to do.  I always find those wedges of doubt that smugly allow me to dismiss the Don Knotts’ Mr. Chicken response.

Then, I saw it again.  I have to get up in the night to go to the bathroom at least three times every night.  About a week ago, I was making one of these necessary nocturnal treks when I happened to look down the staircase in passing.  I saw the tail end of a big chocolate-colored dog trotting past on the way towards the garage.  My heart leaped.  And then I reminded myself we have a dog and she lives on a very different schedule than we do.  I went to the bathroom, and then went down the stairs to investigate.  The family room door was shut and blocked with a clothes-hamper.  We have been trying to keep the dog out of the family room because she has a bad habit of trying to pee on the family room carpet in the middle of the night to mark her territory.  There are certain discolored spots on the rug that we have worked very hard to keep dry.  And I found our dog asleep on the foot of my son’s bed where she always sleeps.  Whatever I saw wasn’t her.  But again, I didn’t have my glasses on.  I began mulling over the possibility of this post at that point.

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Last night made this post a necessity.  While returning from my nocturnal pee-break after midnight, I distinctly heard a dog whimpering, coming from the landing of the stairs.  I stepped into the landing, and I still heard it.  If it was not a dream sound or a misinterpretation of my own stomach growling, then I was hearing an invisible dog whimpering.  It didn’t last for more than a minute.  Again, the dog herself was nowhere near the place.

Should I be scared?  Of course not.  Ghosts don’t exist, do they?  And even if this one does exist somehow, it was a beloved family pet, more likely to protect us than hurt us.  So I was able to get back to sleep easily.  But this post became absolutely necessary.  If you read in the newspapers that a family in Carrollton, Texas was eaten by wolves in the middle of the night some night… tell somebody about my unfounded suspicions.

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Notes From the Archangel Michael

I was born and raised a Methodist.  But I married into the Jehovah’s Witness faith.  Yes, those annoying little people who come knocking at your door offering free Bible studies and wanting to talk to you about the “good news from God’s Word the Bible”.  I was one of them for the better part of 20 years.  And I want to tell you from the outset that I have been guilty of knocking on doors.  I have been threatened to have the dogs sicked on me.  I have been threatened with guns by Winchuks, Hickenloopers, and other rednecks.  Laughingboy Larry, a seventh and eighth grade former student of mine even begged me to come to his door so he could throw a pie in my face.  I requested lemon meringue pie because… mmm, lemon meringue!  Jehovah’s Witnesses are not bad people.  They are real honest-to-God Christians who believe and teach the essential lessons of Christianity, Love and Forgiveness.  Some of the finest people I have ever met are self-sacrificing, hard-working Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I would never speak against them.  But this post has to explain why I no longer am one of them.

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I have always been a reader of the Bible.  I began seriously reading it in my youth when I was a victim of sexual assault and the life-threatening depression that can cause.  A very thoughtful and loving Methodist minister, the father of my best friend, taught me how to use the Bible to seek answers and find comfort.  As a Jehovah’s Witness, I have read the entire Bible cover to cover twice.

But I have also always been a Christian Existentialist, even before I knew what that was.  I believe that existence precedes essence.  There has to be a real, observable rock in front of me before I grant faith in the existence of a rock.  I don’t accept “rock-ness” as something that is real because other people tell me that “rock” exists.  If God is going to be the rock upon which I build my faith, then I have to observe that God is real.  I need proof.  Superstition is acceptance of something without proof.  As far as I can tell, almost all religions… organized religions… are based on superstitions.  “How do you know that Jesus loves me?”  “Because the Bible tells me so.”  “Why must I believe I go to Heaven when I die?”   “Because your father and his father before him believed it.”  “Can I accept these as real reasons… as evidence?”  “Of course not.  These things follow the patterns of superstition.”

“Kill the infidel! Die a hero’s death, and you will be granted 99 virgins in paradise.”  “How do you know this to be true?”  “Allah has told me in a dream.”

 

So, if you follow any of this (undoubtedly due to the same curse of relentless intelligence that plagues me), you are probably wondering why I don’t just come out and claim to be an atheist like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens?  Well, because I believe in God.  I have seen the proof.  When I talk to God, he answers me.  When I ask him to guide me, he sends signs and leads me to the answers I seek.  He comforts me, even though it is only by helping me to find comfort in my own mind… my own self.  He helps me find the power within me to do what is right and overcome what is wrong.  Why, then, am I not still a Jehovah’s Witness?  Why am I not still knocking on doors?

The truth, as I see it, is… each of us must find God for ourselves.  Each of us must obtain the certainty we seek with our own efforts, or be satisfied with a perpetual state of not knowing all the answers.  Either result is perfectly acceptable.  Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that you can’t obtain eternal life unless you believe what they believe, do what they do, and accept everything just as they interpret it from their magic book.  Personally, I believe there is no eternal life.  I am made of star stuff (as Carl Sagan used to say, because science has mathematically proven it is true).  When I die, the configuration of star stuff that is me will simply be no more.  But I have existed.  And my atoms will go through a large number of processes that disperse them and turn them into something else.  My individual consciousness will be disbanded, but the overall consciousness of the universe will remain.  The universe is greater than I am.  In fact, the whole human race could wink out of existence in a massive fireball that consumes planet Earth, and the whole still remains.  I don’t have to worry about any of it.  I am the author of my own story.  I am responsible for its content, both good and bad.  And I am not sorry for any of it.

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Most of the angels used in this post are by William-Adolphe Bouguereau…and one is by me.

Now you know the awful truth.  Mickey is a humanist.  He thinks for himself about everything… even matters of religion.  How horrible!

“Tell me, oh great and powerful, Vishnu, will I be offered 99 virgins in paradise if I kill him for you?”

“No, Singh-Rama O’Malley.  You are simply being stupid and superstitious.  And besides, that particular superstition doesn’t belong to my religion.  You are mixing things up.”

“Oh, sorry, Lord Vishnu.  But is it okay if I don’t kill myself for my error?”

“Singh-Rama, you are a child of the universe… no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding… as it should.”  (Note; These last words are the words of the poet Max Ehrmann in his wise poem, Desiderata.)

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Numbers!

“In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” a very bad thing for the Native Americans it turned out, and in 1942 Hitler threatened the Jews of the world with annihilation at a speech in the Berlin Sportpalast in January of that year.  1942 and 1492.  What does it mean that my house number is 2914 Arkady Street?  Who is doomed to die?

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Don’t you think I know how crazy that is?  Numbers can’t possibly mean something like that.  Can they?  But all my life I have been plagued by a confluence of numerological signs and connected meanings.  And I don’t think I am alone.  Perhaps it is even a fairly common mental disorder.  Triskaidekaphobia is an irrational fear of the number 13.  And Friggatriskaidekaphobia is fear of Friday the 13th.  Is this a rational fear?  Maybe it was for the Knights Templar, because on Friday the 13th in 1307 Philip IV, King of France arrested virtually all the Knights, confiscating their fortunes and torturing them, then putting them to death after forcing them to confess to blasphemies.  And this was not the origin of the superstition.  There were 13 people present at the feast of Passover in the Upper Room on Nisan 13 (of the Hebrew calendar), the day before Jesus was executed on Good Friday.  When the 13th person left the other 12, that person was Judas Iscariot.  Either numbers do have consequences, or the world is just as crazy as I am.

Okay, so it’s the latter.  The world is just as crazy as I am.  But it is not all bad and dark omens.  I was born during a blizzard in Mason City, Iowa in 1956.  In 1985, the car I was driving had the mileage meter roll over to the point that the last four digits readable were 1956.  That same day I made love to a woman for the first time in my life.  I kept watching the odometer.  In 1994 the last four digits (in a different car) rolled to 1956 on the way home from a date at the Pizza Hut in Pearsall, Texas.  The woman I had dated married me the next January in 1995 and the first four digits turned to 1956 nine months later on the day my oldest son was born.

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And Douglas Adams fans like me all know that the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42.  This magic number is revealed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy that has more than three books in it.  Do I actually believe there is anything to this numerology claptrap?  Are we connected to the universe by numbers and equations through science, particularly physics?  Do numbers have mystical values that can be interpreted for our own benefit?  No.  Yes.  And maybe, I just don’t know for sure yet.  I believe in magic.  But I also believe in science.  Equations measure reality, but only through words can we define it.  Did I make you laugh?  Did I reveal myself to be totally bonkers?  Did I make you actually think?  Again… No.  Yes.  And maybe, I just don’t know for sure yet.  Unfortunately, there were 513 words in this essay… so I added this extra sentence.

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