Confronting Our Ghosts

“What is a ghost? A terrible event, condemned to repeat itself time and time again. An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead that appears for moments to live still. A feeling suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph, like an insect trapped in amber.”—“The Spine of the Devil” (2001).

I’ve never been one for scary movies. The anxiety that comes with sitting alone in a dark room while ominous music echoes in the background as you watch a damsel in distress get frightened by a ghost lurking in the shadows never seems pleasurable. You feel helpless and frightened by a situation bound to happen. That’s why I was not excited to watch a scary movie for my Spanish class one afternoon this week. However, when the movie began, the narrator opened with the above quote. Though it was still chilling, the quote really resonated with me. It made me realize that the ghosts that we sit and watch on the big screens aren’t much different from the fears we carry with us every day. When we are confronted with a painful past, it often feels like we are suspended in time, like an insect trapped in amber. These ghosts are applicable to almost everyone’s life. So why do we hate confronting them?

When we walk around campus, what do we see? We see friendly faces, old residence halls, classrooms with chalkboard dust that covers the ground, and most critically—people or memories that can be painful to see or relive. Sometimes all it takes is one glance, or just one pause, to be taken back to a situation that still haunts us to this day. Ghosts aren’t always the scary phantoms which linger from beneath shadows. They’re living, breathing experiences and memories that follow us through- out the entirety of our lives. And when we are confronted with that fear which settles at the bottom of our stomachs, our first instinct is to flee—to run away from the memories that harbor pain.

However, as this film, “The Spine of the Devil” illustrates eloquently, the only time we can truly find solace in our fears, or ghosts, is to confront them. Granted, this is where I think the true fear resides. Having to acknowledge what scares us reminds us of our fragility. We are not all superhumans immune to our negative experiences. Rather, we are human beings who carry around scars and anguish. These memories aren’t something to run from, but rather, to learn to accept with our maturity.

Coming back to Colgate’s campus after a semester abroad brought back a multitude of ghosts for me. After roaming around through Europe, it’s difficult to come back to an environment that brings suspense into my life. You never know who you might see, places you might stumble upon or memories you may confront. In more ways than one, our own lives can be their own version of a scary movie. However, in confronting these memories, we realize how insubstantial they truly are. Just as ghosts in movies are figments of our own imagination, so are the memories which we continue to play in our minds. When we evaluate what scares us, or provides levels of trepidation within our lives, we can see that the fear stems from ourselves. More often than not, we remain too afraid to deal with what brings us pain. But, when we stumble upon it on Willow Path, Club Case or even in a class- room, we realize that it’s never that bad. We are stronger than our fears, stronger than the painful experiences that come with being a college student and stronger than our ghosts.

Contact Helen Misiewicz at [email protected].