I used to live in a concrete world where everything fit neatly into its place and had a pat explanation. To tell you the truth, it was a pretty easy universe to inhabit. It started with nothing – and then we lived – and then there was nothing again after we died. Humans didn’t have souls. Science explained everything – even Celine Dion.
College was the last time that I believed this way. For me, it was a simple black and white existence. If there were weird things out there, they could always be explained neatly by science and packed on a shelf. Religion and faith were the opiate of the masses. If they worked for other people, then that was great – but they weren’t for me. After all, if someone tried to come forward and claim that they were a virgin who was carrying the son of God in 1985, we’d all have dismissed her as a crazy big-haired valley girl who was just too afraid to like, y’know, let daddy know she’d done it with her boyfriend in the back of his Camaro and now she was knocked up.
I didn’t start out that way. I was raised in the church and as a kid I believed what I was taught. I also had an interest at a young age in all sorts of spooky paranormal phenomena, and I devoured all of the information I could find about it. But there was something about college where it all came to a head. My disillusionment with what I believed I had discovered was the “fairy tale” of religion brought me to this new place where I was more than a skeptic. I was a flat out disbeliever in anything not concrete and logical.
There’s nothing like a stint in a haunted apartment to make one waver from such certainty. I lived there for two years in my early 20s. What followed were two decades of waffling. You heard me. Waffling. After fleeing my apartment in terror, I quickly went back to my know-it-all scientific stance from college. The problem was that my two years in spooky town had poked holes in my certainty. But I did the best I could to shore up the dam and return to my former absolute stance of disbelief. I never wore it quite so comfortably after that.
For the next 20ish years, I could be best described as an agnostic. At the same time, my youthful fascination with ghosts and my childhood brushes with God began to sneak into my psyche once again. Who was I to say what was real and what wasn’t? Who was I to say that God did or didn’t exist? With no empirical evidence all I could do was sit with a fence post up my hind end and waver.
But I did wonder. I wondered a lot. I saw people of belief, and their certitude struck a chord with me. I saw people of disbelief and their absolute certainty also struck a chord. How was it that all of these people could actually know something when I knew nothing?
For years I watched the debate flow around me. God existed. God didn’t exist. The paranormal was out there. The paranormal was just wishful thinking. At that point I didn’t care if I believed or disbelieved, I just wanted the truth. I wanted to finally come down on a side. It was this longing to choose a side that finally led me to chase the extraordinary and to seek out the paranormal.
As many of you know, I’ve had definitive experiences that pushed me over the edge into belief. In the moment, those experiences were crystal clear and knowing washed over me. Twenty years of wondering, however, has left its mark. Because even as I know, I still wonder. It has become a habit. It’s why I continue to seek even after I believe I found what I was looking for. I have this strange type of amnesia where I forget how certain I was in the moment and doubt creeps back in. As soon as that definitive experience has passed, it begins to fade away for me. And so I have to continue to seek it out so that I can have those experiences that remind me again and again.
Maybe someday soon one of those experiences will stick and I will no longer be compelled to seek. Until that moment, I will explore our strange world so that I can be reminded that I do, indeed, know what I know and that it isn’t all just a figment of my imagination. Although I’m still looking for that explanation for Celine Dion.