Posts Tagged ‘ghosts’

casper_1995_therapy_session_with_ghosts_part_2Ghost movies are popular this time of year.  And not just “ghost movies” per se, but really anything that deals with a spirit world and its “lines of communication” with the everyday world.

Films such as the 1995 family yarn “Casper,” in which ghosts continue to haunt people and places because of “unfinished business,” come to mind.

HereafterBut films such as Clint Eastwood’s 2010 supernatural thriller “Hereafter,” which involves characters who seek the aid of a psychic (Matt Damon) in order to get in touch with their deceased loved ones, are also pertinent.

I could go on, of course.  From “Ghost” (1990) to “The Sixth Sense” (1999), similarly themed tales abound.

What I gather from these is the central and age-old human question: What is the relationship between the living and the dead?

This is, of course, a matter that tugs quite forcefully at the heartstrings.  It lies pretty near the roots of our deepest longings.  The desire for life in us — not just for ourselves, but for those we love and for the continuation of our relationships beyond the narrow confines of natural life — is very strong; so strong is it, in fact, that death makes us sad, frightened, and alone.

I won’t go into the many expressions this has taken from culture to culture throughout human history.  That information is widely available.  But since I’m writing from a Catholic perspective, I do want to share the doctrine of the Communion of Saints with those unfamiliar with it.

“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified (in purgatory), and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers” (CCC 962) (parentheses mine)

Our merciful, compassionate, loving God knows the communal needs of the human heart — in fact, he created them.

It is not good for … man to be alone (Genesis 2:18)

Jesus Raises Lazarus

In the book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Pope John Paul II made the comment that to believe in the Communion of Saints is to believe in Christ.  Why?  Because Christ is the source of the Communion of Saints, the One in whom it holds together.  He has made it possible just as He has made eternal life possible.

I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live (John 11:25)

What is more, Christ is the very reason both for the Communion of Saints and the desire it meets.  Why do we want eternal life if we don’t have some desire that will take an eternity to be fulfilled?  Similarly, why do we want our relationships with loved ones to continue if not to share in something (namely, singing the praises of the Most Holy Trinity)?

In the midst of our (not always healthy) fascination with the afterlife and the otherworldly, I hope we don’t forget where our hope comes from.

Top image obtained from a Google image search; “Hereafter” image from Wikipedia

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The Sixth Sense (1999)

On Tuesday I shared a link to an article by Meg Kinnard that explores the recent zombie trend in light of society’s overall discontent (if you are interested, here is the link to Kinnard’s article: http://tv.yahoo.com/news/researcher-zombie-fads-peak-society-unhappy-092912860.html).

When I read the article, I immediately thought of another popular breed of supernatural creatures in movies, on television, etc. — ghosts.


An American Haunting (2005)

If you can imagine a hypothetical coin for a moment, picture a zombie head on one side.  Then imagine flipping the coin over to reveal the tail-end of a ghost.

Zombies and ghosts are two sides of the same coin.  A zombie is a body without a soul, and a ghost is a soul without a body.  Both speak to the same fear that lurks deep in every person’s very bones: death.  The separation of the body and the soul is, after all, what death is.

So I got to asking myself whether we have seen any ghost trends in film or television in recent years.  Well, in fact, we have.  With films like “The Sixth Sense” and “The Ring” dominating the box office between 1999 and 2003, and TV shows like “Medium” and “The Ghost Whisperer” taking off in the middle of the last decade, plus the recurrence of cult films about haunted houses and public interest in documentary-style TV shows on the investigation of so-called paranormal activity, we can say that the zombie’s fraternal twin has enjoyed its place at the table.


The Haunting (1999)

But if the zombie fad suggests dissatisfaction with society and how it affects the average person, what — if anything — might be suggested by a ghost fad?

It’s hard to say, but my guess would be that if the zombie craze pertains to a crisis of externals (the floundering economy, high unemployment, etc.), then any mass fascination with ghosts must pertain to crises of a more internal character.


“The Sixth Sense” is most probably the most famous ghost movie of the last 15 years.  This movie came at the end of the 1990s, a decade that I like to call the heyday of postmodernism in popular culture.  And with postmodernism comes a crisis in cultural identity.  Why?  Because postmodernism is a philosophy in which the only certainty is that there are no certainties, and in which the only direction is progress in the knowledge that there is no direction.  I might be painting in broad strokes a little bit, but this is the gist of postmodernism’s implications.

Even though the post-9/11 years have been marked by what many would prefer to call post-postmodernism, many of the societal ills that accompanied postmodernism persist.  Examples include eating disorders, high rates of depression, sexual promiscuity, drug addictions, teen suicides, and other such earmarks of a society that is, so to speak, not comfortable in its own skin.

Ghost movies may not be as popular right now, but I believe that they are part of a larger trend that yet endures.  In my opinion, the search for meaning in the midst of a seemingly meaningless (a.k.a. postmodern) world has married postmodernist angst to produce a general fascination with the supernatural in our culture.

Ghosts are part of that — but ultimately, since human beings are both physical and spiritual creatures, I think the people who are into the supernatural want to satisfy their fascination with something more “fleshy.”  Perhaps this explains the more recent vampire craze…but more on that later.

All images obtained through a Google image search

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