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Ghosts vs. Spirits

A group of us were hanging out recently, and the topic turned to ghosts.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” Leslie asked me.

“No,” I said. “I believe in spirits, but not ghosts.”

That was, as they say, an attention-grabber.

“Aren’t they the same?”

To be perfectly honest, I had not thought about that answer before it came popping out of my mouth. But once it was out, I had a chance to look it over and decided I’d pay the tax & license fees and drive it off the lot. I owned it.

So, okay, what’s the difference between a ghost and a spirit?

As I see it, a ghost is a non-corporeal entity (a former living being) that has an active will and endeavors to make itself known, whether its presence is welcome or not.

Plenty of people claim to have encountered ghosts, but I’m not one of them.

But a spirit is something everyone has, and when we die, it stays behind. It’s not just the memory of the departed. It’s everything they brought to this plane that changed the way things were.

The example I came up with was John Lennon.

Suppose John Lennon had never existed, and one day, out in Nebraska somewhere, a beleaguered parent was listening to his kids argue.

“Hey,” he says, in an effort to restore quiet in his home, “give peace a chance.”

Maybe it worked. And it may well be something that enabled his family, later, to remember him as a gentle, funny guy who wanted people to get along. His descendants may pick up on that phrase and share it with their squabbling kids. It’s a phrase and a mindset, that may not ever existed it if hadn’t been for this one dad. He made a difference.

John Lennon, sadly, is long gone, but his words and ideas remain. “Imagine,” “Instant Karma,” “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,“ “Happy Christmas” [So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Another year over...] “Beautiful Boy” [life is what happens...while you’re busy making other plans] and of course, “Give Peace a Chance.” The words (and music) to those songs changed the way we think and the way we talk to each other, even if we’re not aware of it.

A spirit is here, whether we want it or not, and we often don’t notice it. It’s like the air -- it’s a resource.  The things we remember about those who touched us -- that’s why I believe in spirit(s). Large or small, quiet or loud, they leave their traces, and they leave us changed.

So who needs ghosts?


Break on through to the other side, the Spirit of Jim Morrison and The Doors reunion concert at Fillmore East.

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