Monday, January 03, 2011

My baby sees ghosts

According to my wife anyway.

Apparently my boy has been known, for minutes at a time, to stare intently into space, as if looking at someone who can't be seen by anybody else, and often accompany this staring with laughter or happy gurglng sounds.

This behaviour, claims my wife, can readily be explained by the presence of ghosts. She told me that at these times my baby boy is being visited by the spirits of his dead ancestors. Or to put it slightly less shamanistically, by his grandma (on my side) or grandpa (on hers), who are coming to say hello and get to know him. When I asked why she or I couldn't see the ghosts, she told me matter-of-factly that our baby's soul or spirit was still 'pure' and thus able to see spirits of the dead.

Although obviously I have my doubts, it's a remarkably satisfying idea. I would very much like to introduce my child to my absent parents and grandparents. To see them get to know him and contribute in their own way to his upbringing and his experience.

I've come across this idea in various forms in Japan, the belief that a child can be introduced to deceased ancestors, or that those ancestors are physically present in some way. For example, it is common for newborns to be brought to graves and formally introduced in a little speech. And during obon, the festival in summer, spirits of departed ancestors are supposed to visit household altars. I also vividly remember a student who told me she took a radio to her family cemetery on the same day each year, so that her grandfather could listen to the baseball final.

My wife's story, and perhaps some intuition of my own mortality sharpened by the birth of my son, has reminded me of Carl Jung's theory that belief in the Afterlife was necessary for human psychological health after middle age. He was very big on the 'personal journey' that ended in 'individuation' and to him somebody approaching his own death had better believe in the Afterlife if they were to be happy in any way. Makes a kind of sense. If just blackness awaits, seems a bit grim after all.

Don't buy this myself, but.

1 comment:

alexmat said...

You know, I have this problem with my gf too. She will sometimes mention things about ghosts and such in a very straight tone.

I disagree that this should be encouraged. Jung was full of crap. I prefer the other Carl, Sagan: "I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true."

In fact I got my girl a Japanese translation of this book: Now if I can only get her to read it for more than 5 minutes.

As to fulfillment in middle age, "Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense." -Carl Sagan