Oops, the world will not end on Dec. 21, 2012 after all. Slight miscalculation, folks. We may have fifty to sixty more days (or years, depending on which news you read this morning. Dammit. Of all the cosmic events to miss. If it’s years, I’ll be dead by then, shot by a jealous husband at 103. (Let me see…that’s 2060…yep, too late.)
In a perverse kind of way, I actually enjoy the commercial exploitation of this phenomenon. For one thing, I am fascinated by the market for gullibility. From politician Jack Conway’s apparently genuine fear of Aqua Buddha and his worshipers to recalculations of the Apocalypse, the human animal provides a unique kind of entertainment.
For another thing, I sense a kind of intellectual cleansing here. Perhaps I am too hopeful, but I figure that people who spend lots of money on movies and books chronicling bizarre events that never happened and never could happen are somehow being marginalized. That’s a good thing. Their money is being extracted from them and put to better use. Likewise with their time. Chasing lights in the sky keeps them from doing real harm elsewhere.
Would that all human folly were this transparent, limited to the obviously silly. It is not. When I first got to my present academic institution, I attended a workshop for new faculty. Part of the day was spent on the history of Illinois State, including the lore surrounding Ange Milner, or more specifically, her ghost. Our presenter told the entertaining story of Ange rearranging books in the wee hours of the morning in the basement of the library after which she is named. Fun stuff. Then she went on to tell about current employees of the university who had seen Ange or had “close encounters.”
Have you ever made fun of something only to realize the person you are talking to is serious? You guessed it. I piped up, half grinning, “Please tell me we do not have grown men and women on this campus who believe in ghosts.”
Quickly I thought through all the options. Number one–she is hearing impaired and I need to repeat myself. Scratch that. Number two–I have an incredible booger hanging out and she is trying to figure out how to tell me. No, I did a nose-check just a second ago. Number three–she believes in ghosts! Sure enough, after some hemming and hawing, she more or less confessed. Given my verbal bludgeoning of that perspective, an outright confession would have been embarrassing. Rightly so.
Since then, more than one colleague has solemnly described his/her encounters with or declared belief in Ange Milner’s ghost. What is it with us? How can the most magnificent thing we know of–the human brain–come up with a way to go to the moon and yet believe in ghosts and a thousand other kinds of nonsense? I wish I had an answer to that. Suffice it to say that the problems we face in the next few years will not come from the center of the Milky Way or in the form of almond-eyed extraterrestrials. They will come from our own foolishness. We will be hit by a bus driven by our own leaders while gazing stupidly at the sky.
Terry has never seen a ghost, but he has seen some people who look like ghosts.