Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Answers! Or Maybe No Answers!

I enjoyed Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted by Eric Nuzum. I don't think I purchased this book; it may have fallen into my life either via a sample copy sent to the bookstore where I work from the publisher, or maybe it came into my life via the proverbial back-of-a-truck-book-distributor method. By that I mean, if you receive your book damaged from the distributor, you call them up and tell them. They either issue a call tag (pre-paid postage via UPS or FedEx where they pick it up an give you a sticker to slap on it to send it back free of charge to the distributor) or they say you can "donate or destroy" the book. This translates to "Take it home and read it"; I figure they're donating it to my home library. Book distributors often only want damaged books back if they're above a certain dollar value, so often they tell you just to keep it. I joke that the best way to get me to read a book short of sending me a free copy is sending me a damaged copy that the distributor doesn't want back. Sometimes I end up reading stuff that I wouldn't normally have bought but ended up in my life because of the donate or destroy method. I should get a Henry Rollins-style back tattoo that says "Donate or Destroy." However, the past few years I've been pickier about what to take from the donate or destroy pile because I've amassed more than I can really ever reasonably get to.

Anyway, Giving Up the Ghost is about this guy's preoccupation with this dead friend in his life that he had a crush on when she was alive, a friend who helped him through this paranoia about some ghost in his house that was haunting him. At some point he goes on sort of a semi-spiritual voyage bordering on the edge of ghost hunting, and goes to all these haunted places to sort of, figure it out.

I love this quote from page 53!

It wasn't until I read this that I realized that I think, in the back of my mind, I might have always thought all this too, or maybe I wanted to believe all of these things. Or at the very least, I wondered all this were true. When my mom died, I think I might have gotten ever so slightly paranoid that somehow she was suddenly able to see everything I was doing, even at embarrassing personal moments. You know how when someone dies people are always like, "They're watching over you"? That might initially be comforting but the more I thought about it, the more bothersome it became, for reasons of privacy invasion. Who wants to be watched when they're wiping their ass? Who wants to be watched by their mother while strangers hold their hair back in the American legion hall toilet as they vomit from too many vodka and diet sodas on new year's eve (thank you, whoever you angelic strangers were, I will always love you, my dear cherubs)?

Also, if our souls do live on after we die, does it necessarily mean all the secrets are illuminated? I have no idea but there is that part of me that I think has always assumed this is true but another part of me that theorizes that just because we're dead, it doesn't mean everything becomes illuminated. Maybe the truth of the universe is in a different department that is nowhere near souls accounts receivable department. It reminds me of some novel I read, though I can't remember what book it was, but it was some novel where some dead person's soul enters the afterlife and is saddened to learn that they don't get all the answers they seek. Some angel says something to the soul to the effect of "Oh you humans, you're so stuck in that primordial Christian theology with such a sense of entitlement about getting answers when you die. Just because you're dead it doesn't mean you learn anything." I wish I could remember what scene in what novel that was. I want to say it was a Kevin Brockmeier book maybe? Anyway, it always stuck out in my mind as being one interesting take on considering the sort of enlightening answers we might get or not get after the curtains close on our mortal coil.

Do the dead have some way of effecting our life besides just spooking us? Are they spooking us? Is that them?

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