…and Ether

Ghost month has come to an end. I first saw this term in the newspaper: Taipei Times. Some angry people had set some things on fire according to my skimming of the reading. But soon enough I had the opportunity to see a table with food on it, and sticks protruding from it with smoke emanating from them. According to an old myth, the spirits of the dead surface during the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar. They roam the realm of the living for this month, and in order to obtain their blessings, people need to burn food and what they call ghost money, so that the spirits can enjoy them. You don’t open up a business during ghost month. There are other limitations though I don’t know or remember them. The Taipei Times article referred to this as a “vacation” for the spirits from the underworld, though this is a bizarre explanation. But the whole thing is bizarre to me, because are they supposed to believe that the spirits of the dead are eating the ghost food, drinking ghost beer, going into the ghost store to buy ghost video games and then driving to their ghost home on their ghost scooter and smoke ghost cigarettes, before they have to disappear again? Most Taiwanese obviously don’t believe this, and I figure that the symbolic-traditional significance is the point; like the pesky Elmer’s glue that stays stuck to a piece of construction paper even after most of the collage has fallen apart. Sometimes we pretend that the glue was always the point, and not the paper.

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