Death has never particularly bothered me. Growing up, we had a lot of pets; therefore, we also had a lot of little popsicle-stick crosses in the back yard. While it was very sad when a pet died, I had no problems dealing with the process of death or the body. I also come from a big family and grew up in small towns, so there were fairly regular funerals to attend. This exposure to death, I assume, is part of what makes me more accepting than, say, someone who’s been sheltered.
As well as being exposed to death (and not being squeamish), I have the benefit of the maternal side of my family being… I believe fey is the word they like to use. Of course my grandmother would read your tea leaves, but first you had to put the Ouija board away neatly. When there is some big announcement, it’s never surprising that at least a couple of people already know about it, either through a dream or some form of divination. Naturally, there are members who couldn’t see a ghost if it were sitting on their lap, but the ones who can see said ghost are not mocked. A certain amount of the supernatural is just a normal part of the day.
In university, I had the pleasure of studying Eastern religions. I’d known about reincarnation, but the more I got into studying it, the more sense it made. For those of you who required something scientific to wrap your mind around, I’ll use the theory of Conservation of Energy. (My maternal grandmother had a hell of a lot of energy, and it had to go somewhere when she died. And there are no ghosts trying to clean my room, so I assume her energy went somewhere more useful.) My general theory is that ghosts are just blobs of energy that haven’t made it into a new animal/vegetable/mineral form yet. Some people can see the energy, and some can’t.
Yes, I can see ghosts. No, I don’t want to argue with you about it.
All of this became relevant a couple of weeks ago at a writing workshop. One of the writers put in a chapter from a book about the family’s “spirit reading” business. The stories are all about the clients who come to get guidance from or connect with people who have died. Naturally, it can be difficult to critique writing when the subject matter is one that makes you (inwardly) snort in derision. Every other writer at the table began their critique with a caveat: “I don’t believe in this stuff…” or “I wouldn’t ever read a book like this….” They made it crystal clear that they were turned off by it. The discussion even got away from the “spirit guides” of the book and went on to religious beliefs in angels, etc. — far beyond what the author would have needed to know about the perspective of his critics.
When it was my turn to critique, I just dove straight into the sentence structure and exposition. In the end, I felt a little guilty that I let the one other fey person in the room take all the flak –he took it well, though. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want anyone to know that I believed in his subject matter, but that I didn’t want to get into a debate about the afterlife. Logic dictates that it’s a waste of time to get into such discussions: no one’s view will be changed, especially when we’re all sitting in a brightly lit room in a Toronto library. (Now, if we held the workshop in, say, the Donnelly Barn, we might get some converts. That place is just freaky.)
Well, actually, there was another thing that kept my mouth shut… and it was the sort of thing that probably coloured my critique more than skepticism coloured the critiques of the non-believers. My problem was with the charging of money for “readings”. I feel kinda sorry for those members of my family who aren’t able to connect with anything that isn’t empirical or concrete: it’s like they’re missing out on something really good. If one of them asked me a question about someone who had died, I wouldn’t demand $20 before I gave them an answer. People don’t ask ghosty questions when everything’s copacetic; ghosts get questioned when everything is falling apart. Would you charge a homeless person money before you gave them food or warm clothing? When your child fell down, would you extract a dollar from their pocket before you gave them a hug?
I’m wondering now if I should tell the author this. Or should I bank on the fact that I didn’t make any unique literary suggestions? Do I (she says, tongue in cheek) assume that his literary spirit guide will warn him about me?
I see now why people play sports: personal beliefs have no bearing on where you tell someone to kick that ball.