Monday, April 28, 2014

Casper the Friendly Ghost and the Notion of Existence

Casper the Friendly Ghost is that cute little ghost-child who lives with the gluttonous ghostly trio (Stretch, Stinky, and Fatso) who enjoy scaring the living. Casper, however, is a pacifist, a nonconformist among ghosts: he prefers to make friends with people. 

There are a number of stories as to how Casper became a ghost (he went sledding all day and caught pneumonia or he was born to ghost parents), but one thing that is consistent is that Casper is, indeed, a good-natured, friendly ghost. 

Casper is thoughtful. He tries to understand others, is open-minded, and has a sense of connection with everyone. Casper is open to new ideas, believes that what he needs comes to him, considers everyone to be his teachers, and is guided by an inner wisdom: love. 

Western civilization is founded on the belief system that spirit and matter are separate and distinct. The Earth is treated as an inanimate object to use at our own discretion, science examines the world rationally and methodically, and corporations are built to enhance their economic prowess.

Just as Casper, who enjoys interacting with the living, exists on the fringes of the spiritual world, so, too, do people who give spirituality a high priority exist on the fringe of society. While some attitudes, such as Casper's, can lead to unity or wholeness (between the spirit and material worlds), other attitudes can lead to a contradiction steeped in dualistic thinking: material existence is here, spiritual existence is there.

All existence lies everywhere, irrespective the form it takes. What Casper teaches us is that wherever we are at any given moment in space-time-location, we exist ... and what best to do with our existence than spend it creating, enjoying the company of others, and learning about both our inner and outer worlds as much as we can. 

The petty concerns that occupy the bulk of our waking life need not distract us from the notion that we exist, plain and simple. Self-identity (our careers, our physical appearance, our attainment of wealth, knowledge, or privilege), as we see with Casper's example, persists beyond the material world, it can drive us to scare the living or interact with them in harmony and from a place of good-will. 

The Ghostly Trio, like many of the living, focus on the mythos of separation that supports the belief that we are disconnected from the source from which we came, that between us and the origin of our existence is an great big emptiness, delegating our existence to the ordinary rather than extraordinary. The mere fact that we exist - that anything exists - is what is extraordinary. 

Considering existence as a whole rather than separate parts according to our tendency to compartmentalize existence makes existing easier. This concept has nothing to do with the notion known as "spirituality" nor does it advocate any given "religious" doctrine, it is merely a logical, rational thought stemming from the act of observation. 

How can a flower bloom without roots? Who planted the seeds? Perhaps the answer to these and similar questions is that there is nothing but existence. 

Whatever the answer, an aspect of our present existence is sensory awareness. This awareness allows us to perceive of our own existence. In this perception, we can choose to hold onto notions of separation and division so that we can put everything, including ourselves, into nice little boxes, independent of one another and/or grouped together by likeness, or we can simply acknowledge that we all exist, that all of "this" exists, and that existence, irrespective the form, is all there is. 

There is a nourishing aspect to this conclusion that connects us to the entirety of existence rather than to the ground (i.e., our bodies, our lifestyle, our hopes, aspirations, talents, needs, desires, etc.). It isn't about renouncing all worldly pursuits in order to pursue or obtain enlightenment, we need not cloister ourselves off from the world to be closer to the world (i.e., the notion of a creator), we need not seek to transcend the body and become nothing but light (though, admittedly, that possibility exists in a world of seemingly endless existence possibilities), all we need do is allow ourselves to be ... and from that, explore existence. 

Psychologically speaking, there are challenges associated with the notion of being connected to everything and everyone. In this vein, the burdens of others instantly become our own and the happiness of others is no longer something envied ... it is celebrated. 

We need not find or invent a creator, we need not seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe (as our ability to do so is limited by human perception), and we need not limit our minds to the particular energetic or material combination that makes up our own very existence. All we need do is be

To be or not to be is indeed, as Shakespeare wrote for Hamlet to contemplate, the question. Whether we can not be in a world where everything is ... is an interesting question upon which to philosophize, but even in not being we somehow exist, even if only conceptually. 

Each day people think of those who are "no longer with us" ... each day people conceive of creators (who go by different names) ... each day people conceive of cartoon characters (Casper, for example) ... none of these things exist until they are in our minds, in our perceptions, in our own inner realities. 

Whether the so-called spiritual world is empty or full, purposeful or existing without purpose or direction, all we can know is that we exist, and in that existence we can see what we choose: connection or negation, ghosts, Pokémon, angels, fairies, scientific insights, etc. 

Becoming aware of our own existence reminds us that we all exist in a world of existence. There is no here or there, there is only existence.

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