Of Ghosts and Superstition

Conversations take interesting
twists, and sometimes it is fun to follow them past the point at which one
should turn back. 

Last weekend, on Sunday evening, a group of paying guests were sitting around a
table in Sela’s Guest House sharing fruit bought at the market. I was of course
one of them, or I would not be reporting this. 

The conversation started
innocently enough on whether one should eat watermelon seeds, a young Aussie volunteer
named Victoria
was saying that the most beneficial nutrients in watermelon were found in the
seeds, and one should crunch them up. 
She ate all fruit seeds, she said, because that is where the nutrition
is, that starts a plant growing. Some truth in that, I thought, but pointed
outs some seeds are toxic, even though other parts of the fruit are not, so as
a general rule one should be careful following her philosophy.  The others, a mixed bunch from various Pacific
islands; Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Pohnpei, Yap, Guam,
encouraged her to eat papaya seeds, as they were a natural malaria
prophylaxis.  I had never heard this, and
wondered about its veracity.  She tried
it, and found them disgusting. 

From there, somehow, the subject
switched to freshness, and how food was always better fresh and unprocessed; fruit,
vegetables, fish, meat… at which point I interjected to point out that the best
meat was not in fact fresh, but had been aged for a time to allow autolytic enzymes
to break down the tissues, and make them both more palatable and tender and
also more easily digested.  I noted at this
point that our fresh food and seed advocate was taking a number of assorted vitamin
pills, washed down with watermelon, and wondered why, without saying anything.  

 I pointed out that processed food
could be better.  Cooked potatoes and many other vegetables were superior
to raw, for example, and much more easily digested.  And cooking in fact
had been one of the evolutionary steps we had made recently that had enabled us
to enhance our brain size and  capacity
for abstract thought.  Meat and fish in particular, but also many root crops were
more easily digested, and the proteins
and other nutrients thus made available, according to science,  had assisted our evolutionary development.  I also pointed out that a lot of plants had
evolved to make their fruits nutritious and palatable, in order to have the
animals that ate them be the means of spreading the seeds.  So it probably made some sense that the fruit
are better for us than the seed.  There
is little point in making a seed so nutritious that the carrier would rather
eat it than spread it.  Most nutritious
seeds such as wheat, rice etc, propagated by other means in natural conditions,
though it could be argued they had evolved (or been bred) to depend on man
sowing of their some seeds in return for eating the rest.   

 This in turn led to one of my Pacific
pals asking if I was therefore one of those people who believe in the theory of
evolution.  Of course I said there was
nothing not to believe. Evolution is a scientific fact. The word theory has the
same meaning in that phrase as it does in “theory of gravity” theory of
mechanics, that is, a proven and demonstrable scientific fact. 

 Did I not believe in God
then?  Normally this is where I will turn
back on the conversational path when with strangers, and I said so. No I do
not, but I don’t wish to offend any deeply held beliefs, nor do I want to have
an argument or debate with any faithful who have deep convictions. 

 But why did I not believe in God,
then, because there is so much evidence….

 Ok, you asked… so I gave them a
potted summary of my philosophy on the subject and my pattern theory of the origin
of superstition.

 What about ghosts then? Do I believe in Ghosts?

 No.  the existence of ghosts makes less sense to
me than religion from the rational point of view but if I was religious in the
Christian sense at least, they should make no sense either.  It was not logical to believe in ghosts.  I did add that I was perfectly willing to
accept there were phenomena that may be difficult to explain, but I felt there
would always, in the end, be a rational explanation. 

 Why should a Christian not
believe in ghosts?   

 Simply because the doctrine is
that after death, one goes to heaven or hell. Why would ghosts be hanging

 Because they were cursed, or had
something to do?

 So suddenly the all powerful
heavenly father is letting people take a third path, of their own volition? 

Not a sparrow shall fall without
your father knowing of it..  A bit of a
misquote, but the point is simple.  Either
your religion covers the facts as you see them, or it doesn’t.  Anyway we did not pursue this line of
reasoning, because at this point, one of my companions recounted his own
personal ghost stories.  Good stories
they were too, about how on two occasions he had seen dead people in
frightening circumstances, while in the company of other people who also saw
the “ghost”.  I have heard similar
stories before.  – It turns out,
according to one of the old folk in the village, that a person just as described
had fallen on his fishing spear and drowned in that very part of the reef…  Now he haunts it….

 That first person telling of the
tale is pretty hard to knock.  Harder than
faith, because now someone is telling of something they claim to have actually
seen themselves. It is easy to find some biblical reference to counter some fatuous
statement, but much harder to argue against a claim such as that.   One
can either politely suggest they are lying, dreaming, or demented, or take the
easy way out, and quote Shakespeare’s ‘more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy’, which seems like a bit of a
capitulation, and was.




About Uisce úr

Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass, And pluck till time and times are done, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.
This entry was posted in Autobiography, Communication and language, Death, Folklore, Handy Hints, Health and wellness, Life, don't talk to me about life!, Lifestyle, Nature, News and politics, opinion, Philosophy, Political Correctness, Religion and Superstition, Science, tall tales, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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