Believing in believing?

Illustration for article titled Believing in believing?

So when you’re a kid, you believe in a lot of really stupid shit. The older you get, the more you realize the metaphysical impossibilities of a fat white guy squeezing down your chimney. I was obsessed with this concept. Our chimney had a metal cap on the top so I was greatly concerned that Santa Claus wouldn’t be able to get down our chimney. My father would always remind me that he would leave the front door unlocked so Santa could get in and out really easy. This, for obvious reasons, made me far more stressed out because, even though there was minimal crime in my area, leaving a door unlocked while a house full of people was clearly the worst idea imaginable. Even if presents were potentially involved.

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Nevertheless, presents were delivered the next morning. I don’t know where these presents came from. One Christmas night, when I was around seven or eight maybe, I spied my mom carrying the GI Joe General mobile base toy. It was a humongous box, in no way carryable by one person. Not the way she was holding it. Someone had to be carrying it on the other end, but everyone was asleep. My dad, brother, sister, everyone. So who was helping her carry that box? I’m serious, who could’ve been helping her?

It had to be Santa Claus. That was the only plausible explanation. Either that, or my mother is the Incredible Hulk. Which is something I can buy far more than the existence of an old white guy giving back to all the good little boys and girls. If history has taught us anything, it’s that old white guys never give back, they take and take and take, so, why would Santa give back? Anyways, this is what I mean about the concept of “believing.”

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Santa Claus, Dracula, the Boogeyman. To a greater extent, ghosts and other amazing cryptozoic creatures borne from imagination and flights of fancy, none of them are real. Even aliens, folks. We’re alone in the universe. We’re at the peak of our intellect at this point in human history and we can’t face the fact that we are as advanced as anything could possibly ever be. How fucked up is that?

I hope I’m wrong. I hope New Year’s Eve happens, aliens land and incorporate us into the United Federation of Planets. It won’t happen, because we’re alone in the universe, but I’d like to believe in the possibility of something like that happening. Just as I’d like to believe that my mom wasn’t carrying that gigantic toy on her own late at night on Christmas Eve. She most likely doesn’t remember that night. But it made such an impression on me that I’ve carried it with me for over twenty years. When I hear jaded children talk about how they don’t believe in Santa (usually while playing with their smartphones), I tell them the story of that fateful Christmas Eve and they go quiet. It’s like that spark of belief reignites in them, if only for a moment.

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I know it sounds crazy to think about something like this, but, what does it mean to believe in something? Is it being hopeful that there’s something on the other side of the veil? Is believing in Santa, aliens or other mythological beings related to believing in heaven (or hell)? Ancient civilizations clearly had a more defined approach to believing. They just did. Monsters, creatures, demons, whatever else, it was important to them that they believed. And while some might say that these beliefs in ghosts and goblins is tied to keeping children in line, that never stopped civilizations from waging war and conquering the world. Is it the growing individual’s place to challenge a belief system ingrained in them?

I’m watching one of those SyFy television shows about ghost hunting. Killer Contact. It’s a neat premise. A team of attractive, charming young people (and a fat guy) go to spooky locations and attempt to make a connection with Jack The Ripper, Dracula or Santa Claus. Okay, not that last one, but you get it. Entertainment is one thing, but do these people legitimately believe in what they’re doing? Is it possible?

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I went ghost-hunting with a group this past summer for a news outlet on Long Island. It was a fascinating experience in piercing the veil between the living and the dead. I walked away with more questions than I had answers, but it made for an okay article. In the end, my editor was pleased and I made a connection with a local ghost-hunting group that was full of sweet-natured folks who genuinely believe in life after death.

M. Night Shyamalan said that he “believes in believing” and that’s one of my favorite quotes. It keeps you open to whatever happens and that’s been my motto in life, for the most part. It creates a wave of calm and relaxation that washes over me. Otherwise, what else is there? Be a cynical atheist? Why? That sounds like the most boring and obnoxious thing to be. Do I just believe without questioning like a dogmatic religious nutjob? I believe there’s a balance.

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There’s no Santa Claus, but my mom is most certainly the Incredible Hulk.

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