Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hereafter

Recently saw the movie, "Hereafter."  Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film delves into the territory of American Spiritualism--a movement that has a history spanning well over a hundred and fifty years. 

The film itself was only okay.  Some interesting ideas, obviously, but ultimately, it drew the same, old, familiar conclusions.  Yes, the dead are still with us, but no one knows why or for how long or where they are, exactly. 

And in the end, it doesn't really matter because eventually we'll all find true love or reunite with a happy family (once mom finally kicks heroin), and then we won't care so much anymore.

I actually went to see the film because I'm in the process of reading a book called Talking to the Dead, about Maggie and Kate Fox.  As teenagers, the Fox sisters claimed, in 1848, that they could communicate with spirits. 

Living in a series of rental homes in Western New York State with their parents and/or various friends and family members, including their older sister, Leah (who also developed "the gift"-- coincidentally right around the time it became clear that it might bring them all a lot of money and fame), the girls claimed that spirits were rapping (as in, knocking, not as in Snoop Dogg) answers to their various questions. 

Apparently, all kinds of people heard this rapping, unless of course, you asked questions that the spirits didn't feel like answering, at which point, they'd rap out the equivalent of "Leave me the hell alone, already." 

Furniture went flying, tables levitated, and there were all kinds of crazy antics, including slappings, quakings, and gyratings.  People almost had seizures.

Sounds like an episode of "Real Housewives."

In 1888, after years of fame and fortune and no telling how many seances, Maggie Fox stepped on stage and claimed that they had made it all up.  A few years later, she claimed that no, they hadn't made it up.  This time, she claimed that they had been pressured by forces within the spiritualist community (in the form of jealous, flesh-and-blood mortals) to admit publicly that it was all a hoax.

Clearly, the Fox sisters and all who have followed in their wake have struck a collective American chord.  We want to believe.

I'll share my own hereafter story.  Several months after my dad died, a friend was staying at my house.  She had been in a serious car accident and was confined to a wheelchair for several months.  My house had the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom all on the first floor, so she roomed with me for a while.

One morning, she told me that, the night before, she had wheeled herself out onto the porch and her father, who had died about six years previously, was sitting there waiting for her. 

He told her that he knew what had happened to her and that he had wanted to come by and see how she was doing.  She invited him in and told him, "I want you to meet my friend--you never had a chance to meet her," and apparently he said, "Oh, I know her.  I've heard a lot about her.  You'll both be just fine." 

And then she woke up.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."