This appeared in a pagan newspaper in either late 2021 or early 2022. The newspaper changed hands and the online articles were removed. No answer was given by the current owner regarding the status of the pieces that I and other authors had submitted. So, I offer it here for your enjoyment.
It is late summer, and a coolness has come to the mornings, threatens to linger until an hour before lunch, and promises to stay for the day after the equinox. Soon after that we will observe Samhain or Halloween, followed by All Soul’s Day, and then Fête Guédé in Haiti and New Orleans. The fall is approaching, and I know I will be asked, as I am every year when the weather turns crisp, whether I believe in ghosts.
Belief does not enter the process when I contemplate the continuing presence of the dead. There is no need for belief. Ghosts are, without dispute, quite real.
I have no need for mediums, seances, or Ouija boards when I stare into the mirror each morning. In my face are my late father’s heavy-lidded eyes which he took from his father. In the drawer of my writing desk sits a sepia-toned photograph of my paternal grandfather’s father who shares the same taxed visage and, more strikingly, a chin hovering somewhere between nonexistence and prominence, a feature so awkward that it skipped two generations only to vex me (and so I cover it now with a goatee.) The phenotypic inheritance I received from my mother is equally omnipresent in my reflection, a thousand generations of ancestors pour from every cell provided I am not so vain as to fancy that my accidents are somehow self-begotten.
And if my body is accident then my mind must be substance, the seemingly unknowable quintessence that conveys being. Yet even this nebulous quality of self is not me as it, too, is borrowed from the dead. My thoughts are shaped by philosophies constructed by other people whose names I half recall from history classes taken long ago: Euclid, Socrates, Aristotle, Cleopatra the Alchemist, Plotinus, Aquinas, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Freud, Jung, and Russell. Behind those minds lurk a thousand more luminaries: Imhotep, Thales, Plato, Augustine of Hippo, Noether, and Wittgenstein. And so on until the names are lost to the shadowy realm of prehistory and only the roughest outlines of the dead glow through the fog to illuminate the present.
Moreover, with respect to the atomic structure of consciousness, the words I choose are never my own. In my efforts to demonstrate my own perspicacity, I create nothing—I merely reorder those words crafted by others long since turned to dust. My only hope in this act of burglary is that nobody notices I have vomited pilfered cognitions into space, each of them veiled in equally stolen phonemes and graphemes that I brazenly claim as my own.
“Do you believe in ghosts?” Someone will ask me in the next few weeks.
Such a silly question!
I am made of ghosts.