Monday, March 3, 2008

The During and the After

I'm watching A&E's show Paranormal State, which I enjoy mostly for it's status as pure comedic gold. The show tracks Penn State's Paranormal Research Society, a ghost/spirit/energy hunting group headed up by a kid named Ryan, who provides most of the humor. Apparently, when he was younger he had some paranormal experiences, and carried an interest in the subject through to college, where he managed to found this society, which allows him to make every case and bump in the night about him. I do actually find the subject matter interesting, but it's this kid's approach to it all that kind of removes it from the possibility of getting too serious. One thing that it does sweetly remind me of is just how much a college environment becomes your oyster if you're a bit of a force of nature yourself, which this kid clearly is.

That being said, the subject matter is fascinating to me, not only from a Where We Go When We Die perspective, but also from a more mystical place. I feel like much of Christianity doesn't quite deal with the afterlife or lack thereof in a manner that covers the paranormal activity that goes on. (For more on why I swear I'm not nuts, hang tight for a paragraph or two.) The general understanding is that you die, and you go to heaven, hell, or purgatory, according to your mileage/doctrine. There's relatively little said about people who just...hang. Generally, I find that Christians of any stripe, pressed for explanations, will say that any paranormal "stuff" is evidence of a demon or angel making a quick stop in. That doesn't really jive with me. I dunno. I'm sure there are mundane angels and average demons, but I've always kind of thought of angels as exceptional souls, elevated to a position of glory in heaven, and vice versa for demons. Maybe it's more adversarial than others would like, but I like to think of angels as my backup, in case the Divine Shit ever hits the Divine Fan and all that Armageddon jazz actually goes down. I want someone special weilding the flaming swords, you know? Not...well, not, frankly, the etherial version of myself. When I went out shooting with my friend the Marine, I could sorta deal with a Glock 9, but a .45 caliber gun was simply beyond me, and this is the kind of stuff that indicates that I should stick with not joining the armed forces. Does that make sense?

What about people who just hang around and knock wine glasses off tables or make rapping noises in the middle of the night? Shouldn't angels and demons be occupied with more pressing matters, be it a boring staff meeting with the Lord or some kind of Hellblazer style war of good and evil? And in most descriptions of heaven and hell, your soul goes SOMEWHERE, leaves the earthly plane, and has a bunch of stuff to do. Well, okay, so where does moving people's shit around come into that agenda? I'm not really sure if any religion has come up with an explanation for that level of petty participation to my satisfaction. Most non-Christian religions either have a similar if-you're-good-you-go-here, if-you're-bad-you-go-there concept, or else say something to the effect of your soul's energy dispersing or being recycled, in which case there's still not a lot of hang time for people to chill and pester their relatives.

When I lived in Bethesda, I lived in a two bedroom apartment with a friend of mine. We had this bathroom that for all intents and purposes we should have loved, but...I didn't, quite. It was all retroed out, and we painted the walls hot pink, which looked SO fly against the black and white tile that was there, but I still didn't particularly love being in there, and I am totally a bathroom hang-out person. Even with the nice decor, I just didn't get the chill out vibe in there, and I didn't spend any more time than I needed to in there...for instance, I tended to do my eyebrows in my bedroom with a handheld mirror. Weird, but not too weird, I mean...who contemplates their relationship with their bathroom?

One night, my roommate and I were both in the bathroom for some reason. But all of a sudden, we got this overwhelming feeling that someone was in there with us - I couldn't even bring myself to turn around and look at the shower because I was SO sure someone was going to be there. We both stopped what we were doing at almost the same moment, looked at each other, and my roommate said "someone's in here." The VERY SECOND she said it, all the lights went out, throughout the entire bathroom.

I don't know if I've ever felt so terrified.

We shrieked, grabbed each other, and sprinted into my roommate's bedroom, where we lit every candle we could find, jumped into bed, and stayed fucking put for the rest of the night. We decided after much discussion that something bad must have happened in the apartment, in the bathroom, or someone must have been very sad or angry, just all of the time. It was just such an intense feeling, for no reason whatsoever, that I can't explain it, and I've tried. So the short story is that I believe in ghosts, though I might not understand in a theological sense how they "work." After that night, there's no way I can't believe in them.

And to the man - because it was a man - in my bathroom in Bethesda...I hope everything is okay for you now.

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