The amazing photo above is by Vic de Vera and can be found at flickr.com
Most of us fear dying and death, even those of us with faith. It seems like a cosmic disaster waiting to happen, over which we have no control whatsoever. I have stated here that I have a solid belief in the afterlife, but on gloomy days near the end of October, I am not so sure. Death seems to be lurking in the plants and watching from the darkened hillsides. Death has not happened–it’s lurking. This is why cemeteries and abandoned (and possibly haunted) houses are so peaceful. Death paid a visit, left his signature, and moved on. Ironically, these are the few places where Death does not linger; why return to the place you already robbed of life as we know it?
The haunted house has a life of its own, but it’s a mysterious, post-mortem existence. We feel and intuit the vibrations of something moving and conscious, yet it does not resemble our version of life. It’s removed, yet palpable; distant, yet permeating. The haunted house beckons those afraid of death, because death isn’t there–it came and went, and we find something like solace examining the remains. The structure hangs on, yet is dissolving slowly into the ground. The energy of those that occupied it continues to haunt the walls, the ground, the dilapidated staircase and the rotting kitchen. The haunted house is a corpse, yet it is also something that has been reanimated or set free to exist differently. It frightens us, because we don’t understand what has been left behind, and since we don’t understand it, we fear it.
That fear, however, is a delicious emotion because it masks the essential fact of abandoned houses and cemeteries–something has survived. That makes us feel a strange hope, a dark joy: there is such beauty in the endless workings of decay. Decay creates and revives, transforms what was into something nameless and subtle–what a relief to escape death and enter the realm of the unknown life.
I find death in the most “alive” places, such as malls, airports, cafes, schools, the workplace, the freeways, everywhere there are too many humans playing out the drama of the everyday. In those places, death has its pick of potential victims. In the semi-silence of the haunted house, in the peace of the cemetery, death plays no part. He is distracted by other pursuits. This is why I am a “ghost hunter”–in those hours where I occupy a space abandoned by everyone, a space that has lost its purpose and is forgotten by ambition or any other human emotion, I am free.
True liberation is, for me, becoming part of what everyone else has left to quietly decompose in the solitude of someone’s failed project. Reality is giving up the grand schemes in favor of communion with something just beyond the veil of our terribly insufficient perception. A tiny peek into God’s world is far, far better than a million suns illuminating the pathetic paths of our modern life.