Nope, I haven't gone to the woo side. Bare with me.
Humans fear death, although how we deal with it changes as we age. Heading into late 20's, I largely deal with death by ignoring it. As I age my attitude to death may slowly change. One day I expect to have a sudden crushing realisation that I will die one day. I already know that death is inevitable of course, I have no illusions of immortality, but death still feels far away, or unlikely - as likely to happen to me anytime soon as winning the lottery. I have not yet changed the world, I have not yet left my footprint in history. I have not yet even written a will, i can't possibly die yet. One day, having still not changed the world, left my footprint in history or written a will I'll probably suddenly realise that I am running out of time and decide to buy a motorbike.
We're not wired to understand death. If we did we would never attempt to do anything. What would be the point? Instead we see ourselves as separate from our body. It is not my brain telling my hand what to write, it is me. I am not my mind, I exist separate from my body, but also in it. Of course, logically I know there outside of my body and my brain there is no me. And yet everyday I act as if there is something else. And so do you. This is the way our brains have learnt to program us. It is the most effective way for us to cope with existence. It is also completely a lie.
But having created a lie the brain must validate it. And this, I believe is where ghosts come into it.
We all want to believe. We may scoff at Most Haunted or Ghost Hunters but there is something comforting in the idea of ghosts. They are proof that the spirit exists beyond this mortal coil. The existence of ghosts proves the conceit the brain has constructed. And for this reason I wonder if we are predisposed to see them.
The brain constructs wonderful stories from feelings and sightings from the corner of the eye. Rather than dismissing them, we call these ghosts. We create elaborate stories about ghosts to tell others who agree with us and tell us their own. Almost everyone has some sighting to share, the smell of their grandfathers cigarettes at his funeral, their deceased mothers voice in their ear, the feel of their child's hand holding onto theirs. The stories bond us, and convince us that the spirit will live forever.
This is the brain at it's most amazing. It has not only created an illusion of the spirit, it even seeks evidence of it. We are so keen to avoid death that we seek proof of the afterlife in everything. The brain allows us to create elaborate stories, based on a shadow in the corner, or a smell in a room, and use it to convince ourselves that we are immortal. And with this reassurance, they can carry on in the world. No matter what happens we will live forever.
How incredible is a brain that can do this? Next time someone tells me a ghost story, instead of fighting them I'll respect them instead. They may be mistaken, almost certainly they are, but they simply can't help it. Their story is evidence of brain that needs us to believe we exist outside of our body. And will go to phenomenal extents to make that seem true.