mad in pursuit notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE CROSSROADS

Dragon In The Database: Secrets Revealed!

NewhamLate last night I learned that in 1936 my Grandpa's Uncle Charles Newham left his modest estate to a Francis Smith, who drove a bus in London. A magic spell and a couple of incantations later, I found that Frank was Charlie's grandson, by his only child Frances. The £291 (worth about £17,000 today) had been accumulated from his tailor/carpentry business in the small town of Witham-on-Hill, in the East Midlands of England, where my great grandmother Sarah was born. It was deep in the heart of the Great Depression in England, where some areas had 70% unemployment, but it still meant something to work with your hands.

Earlier last night we watched a dreary show on the Bio channel called "Paranormal." A couple of slobs were haunted by something and the ghostbusters captured lights and growls to prove it. They got all focused on the voodoo doll that the lady slob had carted home from New Orleans. A curse! The ghostbusters did a few incantations and carted the voodoo doll away. Ah! The slobs could go back to their partying ways! Ugh. I like my ghosts better. Like an old seer, when the stars are aligned and I'm in the groove and the database dragon is feeling kindly, I can call up my ghosts from the depths of the Ancestry.com database. I can feel them with me. Wistful. Melancholy. Appreciating the love.

pantheon of Daoist ancestorsThis makes me think of Chinese "ancestor worship."

Ancestor worshipping is not asking for favours, but to fulfil [sic] one’s filial duties. The act is a way to respect, honour and look after ancestors in their afterlives guaranteeing the ancestors’ well-being and positive disposition towards the living, as well as possibly seeking the ancestors’ wisdom, guidance or assistance for their living descendants.¬†One has to pay respect and homage to the ancestors, honour the deeds and memories of the deceased, since the ancestors are the ones having brought the descendants into the world, nourished them and having prepared the conditions under which the descendants grew up, hence ancestor veneration is a pay back of spiritual debts. [Nations Online]

There are few people, if any, who give a hoot about the inheritance of my dad's second cousin Frank Smith, the London bus driver. But my dad would have. Maybe my investigations are a way of chatting with Curly. <Warm feeling. Big sigh. Hi, Dad.> So I like drawing all these uncles and cousins in, to sit at the family table.

American culture makes it clear that we are not ruled by the past, by who our ancestors were. We reinvent ourselves outside of old class systems and suffocating social castes. We are "self-made." Dead people are ghosts, zombies, and vampires -- entities to fear and to exorcise. If you believed everything you watched on Basic Cable, the only good stuff comes from angels or aliens (or some combo of Wall Street and Hollywood). If you do feel comfort with the dead, you must be some kind of devil-worshipping Wiccan, or Sookie Stackhouse.

I could spend all day thinking about this, but duty calls...

Sept 30, 2012