SOAPBOX

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WE ARE ALREADY GHOSTS

By Mike Hembury

We are already ghosts.

All already ghosts.

We carry the line of all our past ghosts within us, all our forebears who brought us to where we are today, at this very moment.

And what we will pass on, in the blinking of a millennial eye, will be ourselves, as ghosts.

You are your own ghost, right here, right now.

And what we pass on, will be what people remember of us, and what they don’t.

I have plenty of ghosts, remembered and unremembered.

My mother, my father, my grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

But plenty of unremembered ghosts, who I know nothing about.

Except that they existed, except that they brought me here.

Daughters and sons of the soil. Workers, miners, cooks, servants, poor people.

I don’t need to know them all to honour them. I know they had to work hard and struggle to survive, and lived at the rough end of a brutal system of class and inherited, expropriated wealth, and rough justice.

And I don’t need to know them all to honour them, because the ones I did know were good people, who did their best for their own and for others in a hard, sick world that they nevertheless sometimes saw the beauty of.

I bear my ghosts in me with pride, in the knowledge that one day I’ll join their ranks in a more explicit fashion.

And then it will be me, whispering down the generations.

But I won’t be alone.

In the blinking of a millennial eye, I know you’ll be with me.

We’ll be co-ghosts, together.

* * *

These days though, things are getting pretty crowded in the world of ghosts.

You think ghostliness is like a procession, a demonstration marching down a one-way street with you at the head.

It ain’t like that at all.

It’s not even a two-way street. It’s more like a multidimensional information superhighway.

Open your eyes, ears, and heart to the multiverse of ghosts.

Holocaust ghosts, slavery ghosts, ghosts of slaughtered indigenous peoples. Witch-burning ghosts and the ghosts of two world wars and their concomitant dictatorships.

This is the time of year to let those ghosts talk once more.

But it’s not just the people ghosts that talk.

Listen to the ghosts of the Sixth Extinction. Hear the ghosts of the natural world. Of the no longer quite so natural world. Feel the ghosts of the unnecessarily slaughtered. Watch the ghosts of the shredded chicks, de-finned sharks, the rhinos killed for their horns, if you can stand to. The whales killed in the Grind. The tree ghosts of the Amazon.

Allow the ghost of a once-pristine planet to take possession of your soul for a moment, just a second, and in that moment know. Know that we are all already ghosts.

Ghosts of what we might have been.

Of what this world might have been.

There’s plenty of sadness, and tragedy, and despair, in those ghost stories. Terrible things, horror even.

But that’s what has brought us here.

There’s plenty of joy, and heroism, and hope, in those ghost stories. Great things, sublime things even.

But that’s what has brought us here.

But of all the different types of ghosts, the ancestor ghosts, and the bad scary ghosts, and the ghosts of the natural world, the scariest by far are the future ghosts.

The ghosts that look back at us from a blighted, depleted world and say “You knew”.

The future unborn who point a finger and say “You let it happen.”

And the ghosts of the future dead, the climate refugees and the crop failure victims and the drowned and the fire-blasted who say “You let them put profit over our lives.”

But I’m not guilt-tripping myself here, and I’m certainly not guilt-tripping you.

I’m just saying there were times we could ignore such ghosts. Times when they seemed very far away, and spoke very faintly.

Those times are gone now.

Now is a time when all the future ghosts are up front, pressing at the invisible barrier to the tangible realm, and are analyzing our every move, in this time of this ever-shrinking window of opportunity.

The time when we still had a chance to stop climate change from becoming a runaway, unstoppable, catastrophic, ecocidal, genocidal phenomenon.

Those future ghosts, they’re in our faces now.

Staring us down, waiting for an answer.

Our answer.

But we, the corporeal ghosts, may think we have no choice.

No hope.

But hopelessness itself just makes our lives all the ghostlier.

And loneliness itself just makes our lives all the ghostlier.

For a ghost alone is a wispy, intangible, hopeless thing.

A mind, a breath, embodied now, then later just a distant tremor in the fabric of being.

At best just an intention to be passed on.

A spirit perhaps. A soul. A word.

A spark of humanity in a world ruled by the cold machine logic of money and profit.

A ghost alone is but a wraith.

We ghosts sit alone at our computer terminals, our cash desks, our steering wheels. Or stand or flit and run at the behest of others.

And we know we must be ghosts because this is not living.

We are once, twice, a thousand times removed from our potential selves and others.

Fed on images of complacency and prosperity as the world around us dies.

A ghost alone is but a wraith.

But a ghost conjoined is a mighty thing.

A ghostly host can flicker into being. Start to become real.

Become a hope of ghosts. Tear through the veil. Fulfil our ghostly oaths to past and future ghosts.

Manifest ourselves.

Use our fleeting embodiment to move things in the physical world.

Use this brief moment given to us to unghost ourselves, become real, do the right thing.

And pass it on.

Mike Hembury is an Anglo-Berliner originally from Portland, England.  He’s a writer, translator, musician, coder, sailor, environmentalist and guitar nerd in no particular order.  His debut novel New Clone City, was recently chosen as one of Exberliner’s Hot Berlin Reads. You can follow Mike on Twitter here: twitter.com/schnappz

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1 Comment

  1. David

    I really enjoyed the emotionally stirring prose of Mike Hembury.
    Made me hold my breath , gave me a chill , and left me wanting more .

    Reply

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