Memories act as ghosts haunting the present

By Addie Smith | Sports Editor

Are ghosts real and are they among us? “It only recently occurred to me that one very fine if not exactly intentional purpose for historic preservation is to keep dead people alive,” author Russell Shorto wrote in a recent piece for The New York Times entitled “The Ghosts of Amsterdam.”

At first glance, you are left wondering if Shorto is a little bit crazy when he writes of seeing Winston Churchill at the Grand Hotel, but then as you read on you realize that he is speaking of a Churchill entity as a memory. He is speaking of seeing the past in your present.

It’s an interesting thought, the idea of ghosts. In today’s age, the obsession with the mysyical world is becoming more and more evident with television shows such as Supernatural, Vampire Diaries and American Horror Story. However, what I took away from Shorto’s article is not of the supernatural, but remembering the past and seeing it apply to everyday life.

Later in his piece, Shorto speaks of how he and his daughter were strolling around the house where Anne Frank stayed. While Shorto never sees the ghost of Anne Frank, he does experience a moment of awe when his daughter lists off Oliver Sacks as one of her favorite authors. Shorto describes that he was taken aback by this revelation from his daughter. Just recently, he was told her favorite book was The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.

Suddenly, Shorto realizes that the ghost of Anne Frank has crept upon the situation. Anne’s father, Otto, was the only survivor of the Frank family and when he stumbled upon his daughter’s diary he realized he didn’t know his daughter at all. Shorto explains that he felt the same sensation when walking the streets with his daughter.

The article brings up interesting points and shows us all that there are lessons from the past to be found. Ghosts of memories and former people in your life may help you to become a better person.

Think of someone who impacted you throughout your life. Even if the person is still alive, the ghost of him/her can help you with whatever you’re facing. What would that influential person do at a certain point to help you in a time of need? What would good friend from the past do for in the happiest times of your life?

The word “ghost” gives off a negative connotation and in some ways, it can be a negative entity. There could be one memory that haunts you and yes, that is a ghost. However, you can take this negative ghost and turn it around to a positive. What did you learn from this dark moment? Do you want anyone else to feel like you felt at that time?

Memories are not meant to be negative. They are meant to teach lessons or impact our lives in some way, shape or form. As we can see from Shorto, the story of Anne Frank and her father applied to his life and made him realize that he wanted to learn more about his daughter. He doesn’t want to be like Otto and be shocked by the woman his daughter will eventually become.

When a memory or a multitude of memories manifest into a negative force over your life, sometimes this can be viewed as a positive as well. Negative memories can stop you from doing things you once did in the past. They can become your own cautionary tape to stay out of certain situations. Negative memories can be stronger as they can stop you from becoming the person you don’t want to become. Sometimes they can lead you to wisdom and see what are negative forces in your present.

Even if you don’t believe in ghosts in a supernatural sense, there is a certain truth to their existence. They may not be floating around your house, but there are certain people, certain memories and certain instances that will creep up on you. These people or occurrences may not be ghosts in a supernatural sense, but something about them will ghost over you. Regardless, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to accept them into your mind and your life.

Memories can be whatever we make of them. They are not meant to force us to do one thing or act in a certain way. They can be lessons for us, examples of ways to act and behave. They’re not meant to scare you, unlike the ghosts at haunted houses. They’re meant to be a reflection into the past that can teach. Let these forces teach you and remind you of times in your life, whether they be positive or negative.

You don’t have to believe in the supernatural to believe in ghosts, especially if when reading this article you had a specific person or memory in mind. If you did, you’re a believer in ghosts. But don’t be frightened. Instead, be couragous  when looking into the past.

Addie Smith is a junior Print journalism and Political Science major and can be reached at smitha11@duq.edu.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!