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The Darkness As a general rule of thumb, as kids begin to mature, they inevitably begin to reflect upon their past

behaviors and thoughts. I personally meditated over a considerable variety of subjects: my embarrassing gaffes, my accomplishments, my disappointments, my expectations and my fears to name a few. I developed numerous depressingly honest reasons why I thoroughly disliked myself. One such reason was that I was a hypocrite. I had set a standard for others that I didn’t adhere to. I expected others to be egalitarian while I was prejudiced; I wanted them to be empathetic and compassionate while I was callous and pitiless (apart from self-pity), and most importantly for me, I expected others to be rational whereas every action I took was dictated by illogical reasoning clouded by emotions. I was able to remember and list so many incidents where I had disappointed myself and not acted as the model of excellence to which I strived, so from then on, I knew that I had to change myself before I changed anyone or anything else. Writers throughout the ages have often used darkness as a metaphor for the wild, immoral, and possibly dangerous aspects of the human mind. For me, however, darkness presented itself as a literal mental obstacle that I had to overcome, and I would later attempt to dispel my fear by directly confronting it. It wasn’t specifically the darkness that scared me; it was the potential for danger to come unexpectedly that caused me to walk past windows as quickly as possible and turn on a room’s lights before I stepped in. This perceived danger was only limited by my imagination. Unfortunately for me, my choices in reading material were not conducive to having a dull mind. As a child, I passionately read fantastic tales of UFO’s, psychics, and ghosts. The minutely detailed pictures, the

eyewitness accounts and “expert” testimonials, and seemingly professional writing styles convinced me of the veracity of these types of books. This era of credulity and gullibility in my life reigned unfettered for many years until I found a book that completely changed my perspective. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that this book would be so fundamentally significant in my life, so my memory has long since disposed of its title. The change in paradigm this book produced, however, still resonates today. This book doused the intensity with which I embraced these fairy tales and smothered my silent anxiety concerning supernatural hauntings with comforting reason and evidence. It showed the errors in logic which previous books had made; it debunked several specific stories with opposing factual evidence devoid of hearsay, and it presented its own counter arguments for the nonexistence of these imaginary entities. While it may seem as though this book brought about some kind of epiphany, it didn’t. This process of shifting towards skepticism occurred extremely slowly, and it wouldn’t be until years later when I considered myself mostly rid of an uncritical mind. The first step in this process was when I realized that while I had no rational reason to believe in ghosts, I believed in them anyway. After spitting toothpaste into the sink, I would be afraid to look up into the mirror for fear of seeing a hellish looking ghost peering over my shoulder. I would always close my bedroom doors at night as a feeble attempt to keep away a wandering spirit. I was even occasionally afraid of opening my eyes at night lest a glowing spirit appear and do something unspeakable to me. I recognized how idiotic and childish this behavior was, so I decided to test myself. One Saturday evening, I set my alarm to go off at 3:00 AM. It reliably woke me up from my shallow sleep, and I was ready.

My plan was to walk around my house in the dark until my fear of everything unknown transformed into pride for having overcome a challenge. The first thing I did was hit the snooze button so that I could have another seven minutes alone with my imagination. I kept reminding myself that apparitions and poltergeists didn’t exist all the while shivering in my bed at the thought them. I slowly braced myself to see people formerly ravaged by fires and hanged by mobs walking around in my house while knowing full well that they wouldn’t be there. Then the time came. I got up and started clumsily walking along the second floor hallway by the scant light of a waning moon. For such a passive activity, my heart was beating unusually fast. I turned left and walked downstairs. I made sure to hesitate and stare out the windows to my backyard that I passed on the way down. Each frame presented an opportunity for a ghost to suddenly enter the house, paralyze my legs, and steal my brain. The trees in the backyard swayed back and forth. There was nothing indicating that anything unusual had occurred; there never was. The spirits had decided to spare my life again. I continued walking on the first floor occasionally bumping into a protruding piece of furniture. The furniture, however, was of no importance relative to the ghosts hiding behind every corner. I would never bump into them; I knew that. They would never show themselves; I knew that too, but I still believed they were there nonetheless. I continued walking, and my heart continued pounding quickly and rhythmically. Every step I took was another chance to see a ghost not previously visible, and even though this frightened me to near the point of paralysis I continued walking and softly whispered to them, “Show yourselves. I’m not afraid of you.”

Nothing happened that night. After about an hour of walking, my heart calmed down, and my imagination was exhausted. I became bored of looking for ghosts because they obviously wouldn’t show themselves. A dark corner was no longer a safe haven for ghosts; it was just a dark corner. A moving shadow wasn’t an ominous sign that a ghost had materialized out of nowhere; it was just a tree blocking the dim moonlight. I felt successful. I no longer relied upon my flawed instinct to fear the dark. As I walked back up to my room (an act I had done fearfully at least five times that night), I looked out the windows again. I no longer felt any invisible eyes staring at me. The ghosts were gone. More importantly, I recognized that the ghosts didn’t just decide to leave; they had never been there in the first place. I jumped back into bed and happily went to sleep, ready to face my next challenge. I used to be a cowardly idiotic pathetic child. The most complex reasoning I had previously cared to submit myself to was simply my intuition and trust in the phantasmal books that I read. I never reflected upon myself for long periods of time because nothing compelled me to do so, and this lack of self-awareness led me to my inevitable fear of the dark. It was only after hours of contemplation stretched over the course of weeks that I finally decided to abandon this hypersensitive and neurotic lifestyle for a more rational and sober philosophy. My brief excursion into the dark was not meant to represent anything abstract or symbolic. It merely served as a precedent for future explorations of my more complex thoughts; I would not allow any emotion to override my intellectual honesty. I still occasionally read books about UFO’s, psychics, and ghosts, but now, these books not only have entertainment value, they serve as reminders to think with criticism, skepticism, and curiosity.