Ben Camino's Ghost Dance:
Ironic All Hallows' Meditation
This universe is a horrible place. Literally the setting for a horror show of unbearable trauma. I would say unimaginable except that it is precisely in the imagination where this horror performs its most brutal, beautiful dances. This we know. This needs very little explanation. From so-called “horror” films and such to the so-called rememberings (inaccurate though they be) of things that have been and the interpretations (wild as they may be) of the split-atom of our immediacy and the visions (part brain electricity, part futile hopes, part inspired prophecy) of the future. We talk foolishly about “imaginative” people, as if they world were divided up into two kinds of people: imaginative people and non-imaginative people. In fact, the world is divided up into imaginative people and all the things that haunt us. A person is an imaginative mammal.
Of course, it goes without saying, except in the Ben Camino universe where nothing goes without saying, that the universe is a glorious place. Literally the site of a romance of almost unbearable aching loveliness. How do we keep from breaking down in tears of wonder and gratitude every day, no, every minute of every day? Every breath we breathe, every friendly gesture, every kiss, every flash of sunlight off water, is a haunted miracle precisely because we can imagine not breathing, imagine being friendless, imagine being alone, imagine being lost in the dark. And we know, or think we know, at least in those moments, that there is a meaning (or meanings), a presence (or presences), hovering above, under, around, and within those lovely moments (which were, are, and will be in our imaginations). Willing slaves of these absent presences, we write poetry, sing songs, shape clay, scratch canvas, burn candles, and chant in their honor. As we should.
In his essay Spectres of Marx, Derrida called “haunting the state proper to being as such." This is all a little too technical for an All Hallows’ Eve audience perhaps, but the point seems to be that “being” (and I would say, the past, present, and future of human consciousness) takes shape or becomes self-aware in relation to these ghosts, these hauntings, these absent presences. Consciousness/being is relational. But not just with the so-called living person across the office. The story that we think is the story of us is really a much larger, perhaps scarier, story. My story is for all the saints and from all the saints. And the sinners too. And the wintry drives chasing the sun I think I remember. And the places I return to, not so much to have a “fresh” experience but to soak in, brood on, be gladdened or hurt by the ghost dance always waiting for me there.
When St. Paul was making his defense before Festus and Agrippa, as recorded in the Book of Acts, he said that he had been a fine and dandy citizen until the day he was confronted by the presence of Jesus Christ, who had been haunting him for some time. Festus interrupted him at one point to say "You crazy Paul!" Obviously, Festus thought, you are imagining things. Paul couldn’t really point to the clear evidence. He couldn’t produce the presence which he claimed he met that day. What he could do was say that if one believes in the resurrection of the dead (I realize how big an “if” that is for my Festus-like friends), the universe is a much larger, more haunted place Festus (Horatio, Hume) than you have ever imagined. And, too, there is another kind of evidence.
That's pretty much it, dear readers. There either are or are not presences haunting us, in their absence and perhaps, sometimes, by their intervening presence on roads to (or, these days, from) Damascus. There are or are not “kindly powers silently surrounding us” as Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi prison. There are or are not the kind of malevolent presences Luther sang of in his “Mighty Fortress” hymn (Happy Reformation Day, heretics). What we do know is that the universe, by which I mean human consciousness, is haunted by imagined (I don’t say false) “realities” that shape us, break us, and beckon to us.
In my own long darkness, this All Hallows’ Eve, I share with family (including those I never met), friends (including some of my dearest whom I have only known in books), monsters (of my past and of my nightmares), and the haunting presences of my saints, especially St. Mary Magdalene (patron of those who wonder and wander by the way), Mary (the mother of Jesus), and St. Joseph (her husband and my namesake) this most mysterious pilgrimage of being. And with my sister Missy, who is probably right now dressed up as a zombie. And with you folks. My fit audience though few.
You too, Festus. Yeah, I know I’m a little crazy. Why don’t you write a song about it. Or maybe a gospel. Do something worth imagining.