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What’s Real? By Michael E. Tymn

In her 2007 book, When Ghosts Speak, Mary Ann Winkowski, a Cleveland, Ohio medium who serves as a consultant to the popular television series, Ghost Whisperer, states that many earthbound spirits gather on the studio set for the program. “I’ve come to realize that they, just like some real life fans, have a hard time understanding that Jennifer Love Hewitt is not able to communicate with ghosts the way her character, Melinda, can,” Winkowski writes.  “They have heard that there is someone on the set who can see and talk to earthbound spirits, so they go home with her and with other cast and crew members, hoping to attract notice.  When they realize that the people they’ve followed home can’t see them after all, the ghosts return to the set with them, only to cause more problems.”

Winkowski further explains that anyplace where there is high energy is usually a gathering place for earthbound spirits.  She mentions race tracks as being “loaded” with earthbound spirits, including dead jockeys, grooms, and trainers, as well as gamblers, all still trying to do their old thing.  Other places where earthbound spirits are most likely to be found are hospital emergency rooms, bars, sports arenas, and theaters.  But it is not always a place of high excitement.  Nursing homes are crowded with earthbound spirits.  Winkowski says that the spirits are mostly men waiting for their wives to pass and that she rarely sees women waiting for their husbands.

As Private Dowding communicated (see last blog entry), hell seems to be believing “the unreal to be the real.”  It consists in the lure of the senses without the possibility of gratifying them.”  Understanding what is real and not real all apparently begins in this realm of existence.  

As I see it, the unreal has become the real for most humans.  Not long ago, I was watching a game show on television and a man was winning a lot of money.  He said it was one of the two most exciting experiences of his life - the other one was meeting actor Harrison Ford on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  He described it as if he had met God.  He apparently thought Ford is the exciting character he portrays and was completely in awe of meeting a man who is nothing more than an actor - a person who attempts to act like a real person.  It is this type of thinking - or non-thinking - that clearly has given rise to our celebrity-worshipping society.  As Winkowski suggests, many fans still in the flesh think actress Jennifer Love Hewitt is a real medium.

The same mind-set can be found in sports.  Considering the fact that athletics evolved from practice and conditioning for war, sports might be viewed as “play war.”  Yet, play warriors are much more revered than our true warriors, the guys who are wearing military uniforms.  I recall a scene at the beginning of the Iraq war when baseball pitcher Roger Clemens visited the troops in Kuwait and the troops were lined up to get his autograph.  Think about it - the “real” warriors wanted the autograph of the “play” warrior.  If that is not a role reversal or the unreal becoming the real I don’t know what is.

I observed a more recent example in my home state of Hawaii.  The University of Hawaii football team went undefeated until they made it to the Sugar Bowl and got creamed by Georgia.  Yet, the local fans seem to have been energized by the national television exposure in spite of the defeat.  Being on television made the players instant celebrities and they strated selling their autographs for as much as $20 each upon returning home.  Adoring and gawking adults, buying into the collective psyche, were lined up to pay for these autographs.  Had the school’s tennis team won a national championship, I’m certain that those same people would not have been clamoring for autographs.  They are like the earthbound spirits gathered around the movie studio, believing that the players are real warriors. 
While accompanying a granddaughter to Disney World a year or so ago, I noticed that there seemed to be many adults there without children.  I suspect they were just escaping reality. It is probably only a matter of time before the White House is moved to Disney World.

As I see it, one comes to accept the unreal as being real and the real as being unreal as we become more materialistic and less spiritual. The entertainment industry has been the biggest culprit in this regard, brainwashing the general public with the idea that life is all about having fun.  A few years ago, I was asked to serve as a judge in a contest in which four high school girls were vying for the title of homecoming queen.  Each had to give a 10-minute talk on the subject of “heroes.”  One of the young contestants said her heroes were all those people who helped her “have fun.”  I don’t know if the applause that followed was out of politeness or whether the audience actually agreed with her.  It seems obvious, however, that a majority of today’s young people are more focused on “having fun” than on establishing meaningful goals, much more so than was the case with prior generations.

Two of the other contestants selected movie stars as their heroes while the fourth selected a female soccer player. 

“We look at creation through the eyes of scientists, politicians, businessmen, athletes, journalists, singers, and even writers,” writes psychiatrist Mitchell Earl Gibson in his 2006 book, Your Immortal Body of Light.  “They are our Harry Potter priests that seek to bewitch us.  University research facilities, sports arenas, movie theaters, shopping malls, concert halls, and luxury resort complexes have become our new place of worship.  Research studies, television newscasts, magazine articles, newspapers, and Wall Street spin-doctors have dampened down our ability to think for ourselves. The illuminating ‘numinous’ experience has been consigned to holy men and philosophers - an age long ago - no longer a legitimate goal to seek for oneself in contemporary society.  At least, many ‘fundamentalists’ would have us believe that is the case, but that is not what the Greeks taught in their temples.  These priests chanted: ‘Know Thyself’.” 

In his 1988 commencement address to Cornell University graduates, Dr. Frank Rhodes, then president of Cornell, addressed the problem, pointing out that the reductionist thinking promoted by science has been adopted by academia and has resulted in abstraction, detachment, moral abstention, and depersonalization.  Consequently, he told graduating seniors, setting meaningful goals has become more difficult.

In a 2003 keynote address at a University of Buffalo conference on “Fostering Ultimate Meaning,” Dr. Alexander Astin, Director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that developing a meaningful philosophy of life was the top value for college students in the 1970s, but that students today are more focused on material gain. He attributed the value shift to the growing influence of television.

Popular Christian author Philip Yancey states that the seven deadly sins might be renamed the seven seductive virtues, at least in the United States. The truth of his statement is evident when we stop to recognize how greed and envy drive our economy, how anger fuels terrorism, how lust is openly celebrated on television, how athletes and other entertainers go far beyond pride, arrogantly flaunting their prowess with various forms of exhibitionism.  One has to have his head buried in the sand to not see how gluttony and sloth are rampant in our country. 
As I watched NASA scientists celebrating the Mars landing on television a few years ago, I began pondering the purpose of such space exploration, asking myself whether its benefits are worth the risks and the cost.  When a NASA spokesman jubilantly commented that it was a big step toward the ultimate goal of finding other life in the universe I wondered if science is unwittingly hoping to find a distant intelligence to enlighten us and give us new meaning, purpose, hope, and direction - a substitute for the God it has done its “best” to eliminate.  In effect, science is searching for an “unreal” god.

Clearly, we live in an era of moral decadence, a time of egocentricity, intolerance, hatred, hypocrisy, disorder, flux, strife, chaos, and fear. We have become hedonistic materialists, consumed with the pursuit of pleasure and sensory gratification, making merry with intoxicants and drugs, and reveling in the “Playboy” philosophy. In fact, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Heffner is often portrayed in the media as a great success story, even a hero to many.

Can any thinking person doubt that today’s hedonistic materialism is a result of a loss of spiritual values, especially a lack of belief in the survival of consciousness at death?
There can be only one purpose in life - divine purpose.  All else is human desire. Concomitant with that divine purpose is a belief in an afterlife.  Without such a belief, life can be nothing other than purposeless, even though a humanist approach to living it would have us make the best of what little time we have in an ethical and moral manner.  While the humanist may not be a hedonistic materialist, she or he is a materialist nonetheless.  Moreover, the supposed “courage” of the stoic humanist usually turns to despair, bitterness, and indifference with age.  “It inevitably does break down even in the most stalwart when the organism begins to decay, or when morbid fears invade the mind,” wrote Harvard professor William James, referring to the attitude of what he called the “moralist” - today’s humanist.

Nearly everyone represses thoughts of death, burying it deep in the subconscious. “They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death,” wrote the 16th Century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. “All well and good.  Yet, when death does come - to them, their wives, their children, their friends - catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair!”

The key to living the unrepressed life is having a sense of immortality, a firm belief that our earthly life is part of a much larger and eternal life.  Some pretend to find a sense of immortality in their works of art or in their progeny, but then when they ask, “to which generation full fruition?” or “to what end the progeny?” they begin to realize how short-sighted their approach is.

It is impossible for a thinking person to find true purpose in life without a belief in survival.  Limited, restricted, and temporal purpose, perhaps, but not true purpose.  This belief must go beyond the blind or pseudo-faith of most religious practitioners.  It must take the form of conviction. “Too many indeed hold the solemn verities concerning the hereafter in a sort of half consciousness, believing in them, yet nevertheless not fully realizing them,” wrote Dr. Madison Peters, a Christian author of a century ago.  “They must flame within us, setting our whole moral and intellectual nature on fire, sending a life current of energy though every part of our being, arousing us to impetuous action and to sustained effort born of strong conviction.”

And that need is what this blog is all about.



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Facing the Final Choice by Michael Grosso – The editor of my first book suggested I call it The Final Choice (1985). I thought the title was overdramatic and a bit grandiose. I did in part write the book in response to what seemed like the growing threat of nuclear war. Read here
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