Sunday, January 22, 2012

Matter Over Mind

"Heathcliff, don't you know that it's me, it's Cathy, I've come home
I'm so cold, let me in-a-your window"

Wuthering Heights (2007) by The Puppini Sisters

I never liked the original Kate Bush version.

Yesterday, I was on-call in the Female Surgical Ward and I had to take leave of my post at 4:30 AM to retrieve some blood from the blood bank. I was on the seventh floor with a cooler under one arm, waiting for the elevator when a nursing sister old enough to be someone's grandmother popped out of the neighboring Male Surgical Ward with a clipboard. I smiled. I frequently and deliberately smile at strangers because I like the effect it has on people. The complex neurological cascade it triggers in the highly-socialised primate brains of human beings is evolutionarily hardwired and crosses all cultures. Smile at a two-month-old infant and it will smile back automatically. The kick I get out of smiling randomly at strangers (and setting off their socio-emotional reflex) is not dissimilar to some kid ringing doorbells and then running away for fun.

"Waiting for the elevator?" she asked in Malay laced with that Sarawakian accent I am growing increasingly familiar with over the past six months.

"Yeah," I answered dejectedly, giving the cooler a shake. The sister understood.

Instead of stopping and waiting for the elevator with me, she headed for the stairwell. My face must have conveyed my bewilderment because she automatically offered an explanation. It's amazing how much communication occurs beyond the words that spill out of that defect in our faces.

"I don't like riding the elevator at night, especially when I'm alone." She talked as if she was admiring my guts for attempting something that was, in her mind, oh-so perilous. "I'm afraid of getting stuck alone in one and it goes all dark. There are 'things' haunting this hospital."

I was about to tell her that I don't believe in ghosts, spirits, poltergeists, goblins, vampires or any other mix-bag of imaginary 'things' she cares to shake at me, but it was terribly early in the morning so I decided to be nice and simply said: "I wish I'd get stuck in the elevator. Then, I can stop being on-call and go to sleep."

Ghost of the Mind
It's all in your head.

As I grew older, I also grew out of my childish fears of things that go bumpity-bump in the night - and I had assumed that everyone would undergo the same process and eventually achieve the age of reason. Not so. I used to think that my father's superstitious attitude was more playful than earnest, but I was disappointed. In fact, I feel that same pang of disappointment whenever anyone above the age of twenty reveals their fear of spoooooky entities to me. Just the other night, I heard about a house officer who was on-call in the Neurosurgical ward who thought she saw a shadow flashing by after she exits the shower. She actually needed another house officer to go to where she was (from a whole other building quite some distance away) to reassure her that it was just a figment of her traitorous imagination.

When a colleague of mine just moved here to Kuching and was lodging in a spare room at her boyfriend's place, she thought she heard voices emanating from seemingly nowhere and immediately assumed that the place was haunted. They even went as far as to invite a Protestant pastor and a prayer circle to come over and exorcise the residence. I would later lodge in that same room when I first relocated here in Kuching, and realised on the first night that the disembodied "voices" were just the neighbours' trickling through the thin walls. I guess the price of taking things on faith and believing in things without the validation of evidence is that one would occasionally appear like a complete tit. And this is why I can't stand priests and other assorted holy-men - they are often the biggest tits of all.

I just don't understand how anyone can live entire lives being terrified by things that aren't real and and then act upon those irrational, baseless fears as if they are. It's such a waste of life. I was gossiping about the incident of the girl and her supposed encounter in the Neurosurgical ward with a fellow sceptic when another house officer within earshot blurted, "Don't talk about these things! I'm on-call there tonight!"

I walked right up to her, looked her in the eye and said, as I've said many times to so many others before: "There is no such things as ghosts. Stop scaring yourself."

The real Ghostbuster
k0k s3n w4i


Anonymous said...

tell me about it. i've lived most of my live with social anxiety - fearing humans. and i know full well that it's irrational but it haunts me everyday.

yuhhui said...

you drew that? Damn nice right.. =)

k0k s3n w4i said...

Anonymous: at least you know your fears are irrational. most people think that it's perfectly okay to be afraid of ghosts.

yuhhui: yes, i did. i wouldn't stick my blog url on it if i didn't.